Co-ordinator Trip Report - California, Minesota & Rhode Island

28 July - 10 August, 2004

From: Bruce Gagnon

This report covers the period of July 28 - August 10 and covers three states -- California, Minnesota, and Rhode Island.
On July 28 I flew to Los Angeles to begin several days of speaking events.  The initial invitation to make the trip came from Jeff Dietrich at the L.A. Catholic Worker community. Global Network members Randy Ziglar and Cris Gutierrez organized several other events in the region for me while there.
Before I left I did three radio interviews to promote the trip.  One was on Pacifica station KPFK in L.A., another a college station in Orange County and then one in the Santa Barbara area.  Immediately after arriving six of us viewed a new documentary video being produced by GN advisory board member MacGregor Eddy about Vandenberg AFB where George W. Bush intends to deploy "missile defense" interceptors prior to the up-coming election.  The video, called A Space 4 Peace, was put together by a young budding filmmaker by the name of Dan Reilly and features GN board member Loring Wirbel, Helen Caldicott and former Clinton Pentagon official  Phillip Coyle.  (The video will be available for sale very soon and we will send out sales info.)
Over the next two days I spoke to groups in Anaheim, at the Catholic Worker House, and to a packed "salon" inside a beautifully magical house in L.A. organized by Jonathan Parfrey of Physicians for Social Responsibility.  The house, made of used beams from sailing ships, had the grounds and atmosphere from a Tolkien movie. 
On July 31 Cris Gutirrez and I headed north to Santa Barbara where we had a breakfast meeting with local organizers to discuss the up-coming September 25 - October 2 Keep Space for Peace Week of activities.  An action will be held on Sept 25 at nearby Vandenberg AFB that will feature Dr. Helen Caldicott. They were already building for the event.  The Santa Barbara Independent newspaper sent a reporter to this meeting to interview me.  From there Cris and I drove another hour north for a mid-day rally at the front gates of Vandenberg AFB.  About 30 people assembled, surrounded by military police on horses, in off the road vehicles, on foot with video cameras filming our every move, and with a military helicopter circling overhead.  I spoke at a short rally about the importance of getting people out for the September action.  I told the assembled that I thought the real purpose for the over abundance of military personnel at the gate was not really out of fear of us protestors.  They were really putting on a show for those driving along the busy highway outside the base.  The message to the public was -- STAY AWAY FROM THESE PROTESTS.  THEY ARE DANGEROUS AND YOU MIGHT GET CAUGHT UP IN A FRACAS.  The "militarization of protest" is now about creating fear to be associated with otherwise peaceful people.  From Vandenberg, Cris and I made a speedy return three hours south back to Santa Monica because I was to speak at the Greens organized event that evening.
After coming back home for a couple of days I headed out to Minnesota on August 7.  Here I was wonderfully hosted by Leslie Reindl & Marie Braun who work with the group called WAMM (Women Against Military Madness).  Leslie has a cable TV show and immediately took me to the studio to tape a one-hour interview.  As soon as I finished that, Chris Spotted Eagle who hosts a local Native American radio show called Indian Uprising came in to interview me for his show.  Leslie, and her husband Wilhelm, then proceeded to video tape the radio interview and said they'd put it on their cable show as well.  The interview with Chris Spotted Eagle was quite lovely as we spent alot of time talking about the need for a spiritual reconnection withthe Earth as a key element to our changing the politics in the U.S.  As I began talking about a book I had read many years ago, called Lame Deer Seeker of Visions, Chris told me he had taken the cover photo for the book.  A wonderful sharing with a sweet and gentle man.
That evening Leslie and Marie had organized a pot luck and talk for me at a local church that was well attended.  Several leaders from the local Veterans for Peace chapter, the largest in the country, were there.  They had hosted me in Minnesota on two previous trips so it was great to see them again. 
On Sunday, August 8, I had the surprise of my life.  Marie attends the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis and had arranged for me to deliver the homily at the 9am and 11am services.  As I entered the church sanctuary, set inside a gymnasium, there was a sea of people gathering.  When I asked how many were there I was told more than 800.  It's a slow time in the summer, Marie said, normally there are about 1,000 at each of the two services.  This was the most beautiful and progressive service that I had ever witnessed, an excellent band playing Imagine by John Lennon and other great music.  For one of the readings, they read from my article in the latest Space Alert newsletter. When it came my turn to deliver the homily I was deeply moved by the reception as I talked about the fabric of America being one of violence and war.  Beginning with the genocide of Native Americans, the introduction of slavery, the taking of vast lands from Mexico, and then expansion and wars ever since.  I asked them what it said about America's soul when our number one industrial export was weapons.  And I concluded with the statement that we will never end war until we deal with the jobs issue.  We must convert the weapons industry if we ever hope to end our national addiction to war and violence.  In Minneapolis they understand about weapons production.  Alliant Tech (where DU munitions are made) and Lockheed Martin are located in the community.  When I arrived at the local airport Lockheed Martin had a huge sign at the entrance to baggage claim that read We Know Who We Work For.  I bet they do!  Following the two services I was surprised to see about 100 people come to hear me speak at the church's Adult Education class.
My last stop on the trip was to Rhode Island where the Quakers were holding their annual Northeast Yearly Meeting at Bryant College.  I was hosted by Francis Crowe and Marguerite Hasbrouck and showed our new Arsenal of Hypocrisy video twice on August 9 during workshop sessions. 
In virtually each event I spoke at during this recent round of trips I was asked one thing over and again.  The question was "What will John Kerry do about Star Wars?"  I answered by saying that Kerry has long supported research & development spending for Star Wars and still pledges to continue to do so.  While Bush wants to rush "missile defense" deployments, Kerry and the majority of the Democratic Party are in no hurry to deploy -- considering that the testing phase has not even concluded or shown terrific success.  But in the end, I responded, Kerry and the Democrats are in full agreement with the Republicans on the expansion of the U.S. military and economic empire.  The main point of contention is implementation of the plan.  George W. Bush, the tin-horn dictator on a horse, wants to go it alone while Kerry and the Democrats think we have to give the "allies" a piece of the action and thus the Dems contend they will do a "better job" of Homeland Security, the war on terrorism, and military transformation because they will have the "support" of the allies.  No real differences between the parties exist on the U.S. "controlling and dominating" space or the U.S. having 14 new bases in Iraq so that we can control the region's oil more effectively. 
Many thanks to all my wonderful hosts and once again, while tired after the grueling schedule, I am mentally refreshed to know that good people are working hard all over the country to reach people with our message of sanity, conversion of both our hearts and the military industrial complex.

Home Page