Fear, hate and nuclear weapons threaten to rewrite facts under the Trump administration as we are guided to endless wars and endless military spending under a President who had to ask why we do not use Nuclear Weapons.
Together, we can resist the politics of fear and hate of the new Administration, and create communities that work for all of us, guiding U.S. foreign policy away from war, and towards sustainable peace. Sign up now to volunteer with Peace Action New York State:
Yes, I want to start a Peace Action New York State chapter!
PEACE ACTION STATEMENT, JULY 7, 2016
By Kevin Martin, President
Jon Rainwater, Executive Director
Once again, we are horrified by sight of tragic police killings, this time in Louisiana and Minnesota. Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and we stand in solidarity with their communities in mourning and outrage.
Mr. Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, has called this “a silent war against African American people.” That is a sadly accurate indictment of U.S. society, from police murders of African Americans to the obscene level of incarceration of people of color to the astonishing wealth gap between whites and people of color to institutionalized racism in its many insidious forms.
As a peace and social justice organization, we recall the Triple Evils of American society enunciated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – racism, militarism and extreme materialism. As a people, we must urgently address these sicknesses, and develop concrete policies and actions to transform and overcome them in order to build the Beloved Community.
This work includes not only creating racial harmony and justice but at the same time working in a targeted way to dismantle all forms of institutional racism in our criminal justice system. It also means ending the militarization of policing with weapons of war provided by the Pentagon to local police agencies.
Today, we join with Americans from all communities in sorrow, anger and determination for racial justice, for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and all victims of violence and racism.
One action we can take immediately is to make our solidarity visible in communities across the country. This evening and in the coming days there will be many protest actions in cities from coast to coast and our physical presence together can speak volumes as we say NO to a continuation of this type of violence. The more of us who mobilize, and the more sustained our activism is, the larger that statement will be.
As we protest for justice and peace we also have the opportunity to push for specific changes that can bring about real justice. This fight for justice will take a nationwide movement of political organizers pushing for specific policy changes that can take down the walls of institutional racism brick by brick. Many of our local Peace Action chapters are active in the criminal justice reform movement. You can be too.
Our current criminal justice system is built up through local, state and federal level policies and practices. All of us can take action at whatever levels we see fit to push for positive changes that can transform policies in ways that can save lives. We can all pick up the phone and call our City Council members. We can ask them: “Are you active in pushing for criminal justice reform?” We can do the same thing with our state legislators and Members of Congress. We can get to know what policies are in place in our communities to hold police departments accountable and prevent police violence – and push for what is missing. We can demand that those who want our votes address these issues – or we can even run for office ourselves.
Here is a list of potential changes communities can make. It isn’t meant to be exhaustive, and you may not agree with everything on the list, but it gives some examples of concrete changes we can personally push for:
Ensure Community Oversight
The justice system must serve the community and not the other way around. To make that a reality, civilian oversight measures can both prevent problems and aid in accountability if there are violations of people’s civil rights. Oversight mechanisms can include technological measures such as body cameras and structural governance measures such as all-civilian oversight boards that are formed for by and of the community independent from the police department.
Make Lethal Force the Enemy, and De-Escalation the Focus of Policing in Tense Situations
Strong standards and policies need to be in place to prevent the egregious use of lethal force. Policies should ensure the use of minimal force so situations do not escalate and should hold police accountable for decisions that involve the use of force, especially lethal force. Significant increases in training in de-escalation are needed. Currently police receive much more training time in the use of firearms than they do in de-escalating tense situations.
Put in Place Rigorous Policies to Fight Racism & Protect Against “Implicit Bias”
Blatant racism in police departments exists far too often and needs to be rooted out by firing or disciplining offending officers. But racial prejudice isn’t always conscious. Studies show that unconscious racism impacts police behavior including whether a specific type of target is likely to be shot in a tense situation. Many criminal justice reform advocates believe training about implicit bias is needed for police leaders as well as for the rank and file. But training is only the start. Solid policies like those suggested by the National Center for State Courts need to be in place to protect against deep seated biases even after training.
End the “Broken Windows” Approach to Policing
Policing based on profiling and a focus on minor infractions can lead to escalations with deadly consequences. How many times has a broken taillight, or a person selling CDs or cigarettes senselessly escalated into a tragedy where a family loses their beloved brother, sister, father or mother? There is no evidence this popular style of policing with an aggressive focus on “quality-of-life” crimes has reduced more serious crimes. We need police departments to train police with a new less aggressive approach.
End For-Profit Policing, Prosecution and Incarceration
A profit oriented culture runs through the U.S. criminal justice system. It’s there in quotas for tickets, in municipal budgets funded by fines, in so-called civil forfeiture laws, and in mega-corporations profiting on mass incarceration. Instead of creating the proper culture of serving and protecting the community, these policies force certain communities to serve the system in a position of submission. The profit motive must be driven out of our criminal justice system.
Demilitarize Police Departments
Peace Action has seen the horrible pain created by an overly aggressive approach to “stability” in war zones the U.S. is engaged in. We don’t need that approach in communities here at home any more than we need them abroad. Peace Action is calling for an end to the Pentagon’s 1033 program (where surplus military gear is given to local police departments). Military or swat-style techniques like no-knock raids and forcibly entering private homes should also be avoided. Our police departments should not look like, or act like, occupying armies.
Create New Independent Investigation and Prosecution Mechanisms in Cases of Police Killings
It is unreasonable to expect local prosecutors to maintain their independence given how close they are to the local police force. There is an inherent conflict of interest. That’s doubly true when police are put in the position of investigating themselves. New mechanisms that allow for independent prosecution need to be built through changes in local practice and in state and federal law.
Finally, here’s one immediate action you can take right now: Please sign the petition by our colleagues at Color of Change calling for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to bring charges in the Alton Sterling case. When we all work together we can make the change needed. Let’s let the sadness in our hearts for the loss suffered by the communities of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile motivate us to make that change.
Black Lives Matter!
Our 20 New York student activists were among the most prepared lobbyists in D.C. After two days of meeting with peace action activists from across the country, they met with their Representatives’ offices to lobby for peace & share their wisdom with our politicians.
Then, they shared their feedback with us…
“First, thank you for making these past few days possible. Jordan and I had an amazing experience learning about the Peace Action national network, meeting other student leaders, learning about the issues, and lobbying on Capitol Hill. We came back from the conference with a lot of fresh ideas and enthusiasm for next year.” – Caleb, Binghamton
“I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in Peace Action National’s annual meeting and discussion, as well as join everyone in lobbying. It was a truly invaluable experience, and I really appreciate the effort you put in to have us there! Everyone from PANYS has been so supportive, and I am grateful to be a part of the PANYS family!” – Michaela, Albany
“It was awesome !! I am so grateful I had this experience and met so many wonderful people.”
– Emilie, Long Island
“I was a little concerned to get involved with Peace work and a humanitarian work because I guess I am a little pessimistic. I’ve taken so many courses on human rights and they don’t discourage people to be a part of humanitarian work, but they do talk about how organizations have not always been successful or conducted themselves well. In this society, everything is about getting an end product, but what I’ve realize now is that human rights work does not always produce an immediate product. One doesn’t get a nuclear-free world from one night to the other. Also, if no one does it now, then when? If not me, then who else will?
After meeting so many students that initiated chapters years ago. I am shocked that Syracuse U didn’t start sooner! A school that prides itself on human rights activists. I just sent Diane an email telling her that I feel more confidant and excited to go back on campus to spread what I have learned in the conference. Its not enough to just learn about humanitarian work, because its not the same when you’re actually in the organization. The movement is also full of so many wonderful and optimistic people that work towards peace despite all the opposition, and that is so inspiring.
Finally, I want to thank you for being there. I think it was Michelle who said that your work is really important and she is right. You are impacting the lives of people and the world! I hope you know how much your students love and care for you. We all appreciate you in so many ways.”
– Whitney, Syracuse
“This was a great experience and I learned a lot and I’m so grateful to have gotten this opportunity!” – Jordan, Binghamton
Peace Action New York State in Washington, D.C.
Peace Action New York State was a force to be reckoned with at the Peace Action national meeting in Washington, D.C. – and in the halls of the House and Senate buildings. We brought 20 student activists and almost a dozen staff and community organizers to DC. Together, we met with the nine Congressional offices and the offices of both Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand.
Our key federal issues were:
SANE ACT (S.831/H.R. 1534) and OPPOSE NUCLEAR WEAPONS MODERNIZATION
The SANE Act would provide flexibility in planning for the future and ensure a bloated nuclear arsenal doesn’t shortchange more pressing priorities. For instance, the SANE Act would:
• cancel the development of the new Air-launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), a highly redundant and unnecessary weapon;
• defer production of new strategic bombers to 2025; and
• defer refurbishment of the ICBM force to 2025.
We also asked Members of Congress and the Senator to OPPOSE the Long Range Stand Off weapons and President Obama’s proposal to modernize our nuclear weapons arsenal with $1T USD over the next 30 years.
RESTRICT ARMS SALES TO SAUDI ARABIA (S.J.Res.32/H.J.Res. 90)
The U.S. must restrict arms sales to Saudi Arabia because the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is consistently failing to differentiate between civilian and military targets. The coalition was put on a list of child rights abusers by the UN because their reckless destruction in Yemen has left children as regular victims of their war. They then blackmailed the UN to be taken off of the list.
The day after our lobby day, the US halted the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia – a significant victory for peace. This may also pave the way for the U.S. to join the 119-country strong ban on cluster munitions.
You can still take action to support this bill! Click Here to tell your Representative to restrict U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
REDUCE DEFENSE SPENDING AND MOVE THE MONEY
We asked our Representatives in the Senate and House to hold the Defense Industry accountable for its reckless spending and to support legislation to audit the pentagon, to end the overseas contingency operations account, and we suggested a number of cuts to make to the defense budget, as agreed upon by a broad coalition of organizations.
And – we won a key victory in this long fight! The Senate blocked a proposal to give 18 million more to the Pentagon. Find out how your Senator voted: Click Here.
State Lobbying: Protecting Student Peace Activism and First Amendment Rights
The New York State Legislature has recently considered sweeping legislation that would infringe upon our protected rights to boycott and protest – and one bill targeted student activism.
S. 8017: New York Senate Passes Legislation to Punish Student Groups that Organize Activities that “Cast Disrepute Upon” Any Allied Nation
The New York Senate, near the end of the legislative session, passed S.8017 that would make student groups ineligible for funding if they organized any activity that would “cast disrepute upon” any allied nation or corporation operating within an allied nation. Under this legislation, 56 countries and the corporations operating within them would be shielded from criticism. This legislation was drafted to punish the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement to economically pressure Israel to end the occupation and human rights abuses of Palestinian people. That alone is an infringement of our rights – but this bill would go much further, punishing student groups for criticizing the treatment of refugees by European allies, or discussing human rights violations at the US – Mexico Border. Thankfully, this legislation did not make it through the Assembly and was defeated this session.
Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order: “If You Boycott Israel, New York Will Boycott You”
On June 5, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to create a blacklist of entities that support the BDS movement for Palestinian rights and remove New York State funds from any “institution or company” determined to advocate for or participate in the BDS movement.
Boycotts are a constitutionally protected form of speech, association and assembly, as determined by the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886 (1982) and affirmed in Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138 (1983).
And, boycotts have a long history of being used to successfully apply economic pressure to address great injustices. As activists, we divested from South Africa during apartheid. We boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We threw British tea into the Boston Harbor!
We are continuing to work in coalition groups to oppose Cuomo’s Executive Order and all restrictions to our rights to protest, boycott – and to raise hell defending peace and human rights.
U.S. Conference of Mayors Unanimously Adopts Resolution “Calling on the Next U.S. President to Pursue Diplomacy with Other Nuclear-Armed States; Participate in Negotiations for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons; Cut Nuclear Weapons Spending and Redirect Funds to Meet the Needs of Cities
Sponsors include NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola
Indianapolis – At the close of its 84rd Annual Meeting yesterday, the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), for the 11th consecutive year, adopted a strong resolution in support of Mayors for Peace, warning that “the nuclear-armed countries are edging ever closer to direct military confrontation in conflict zones around the world,” and calling on the next President of the United States “to pursue new diplomatic initiatives to lower tensions with Russia and China and to dramatically reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.”
Cautioning that “more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, most orders of magnitude more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, 94% held by the United States and Russia, continue to pose an intolerable threat to cities and humanity,” and that “the largest NATO war games in decades, involving 14,000 U.S. troops, and activation of U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe are fueling growing tensions between nuclear-armed giants,” the USCM “calls on the next President of the United States, in good faith, to participate in or initiate… multilateral negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons as required by the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.”
The resolution commends President Obama for visiting Hiroshima and concluding negotiations with Iran, but notes that “the Obama Administration has laid the groundwork for the United States to spend one trillion dollars over the next three decades to maintain and modernize its nuclear bombs and warheads, production facilities, delivery systems, and command and control,” and that “federal funds are desperately needed in our communities to build affordable housing, create jobs with livable wages, improve public transit, and develop sustainable energy sources.” The USCM “calls on the next President and Congress of the United States to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement, and to redirect those funds to address the urgent needs of cities and rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.”
The USCM also “commends Mayor Denise Simmons and the Cambridge City Council for demonstrating bold leadership at the municipal level by unanimously deciding on April 2, 2016, to divest their one-billion-dollar city pension fund from all companies involved in production of nuclear weapons systems and in entities investing in such companies,” and “congratulates Des Moines and its Mayor T.M. Franklin Cownie on Des Moines’ appointment as Lead City for the U.S. section of Mayors for Peace.”
Mayors for Peace, an international organization, founded in 1982 and led by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, aims through its 2020 Vision Campaign to achieve the global elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020. Mayors for Peace membership has grown by more than ten fold since 2003, as of June 1, 2016 counting 7,063 cities in 161 countries and regions including 207 U.S. members, representing some one billion people, one-seventh of the world’s population. On June 22 in Des Moines, Mayor Frank Cownie formally agreed to serve as Lead City for the U.S. section of Mayors for Peace.
Addressing the USCM International Affairs Committee on June 25, Mr. Yasuyoshi Komizo, Secretary-General of Mayors for Peace, explained:
“One common challenge we face is that many countries continue to maintain that their national security depends on nuclear deterrence. Yet nuclear deterrence is based on mutual distrust and attempts to maintain peace through the threat of indiscriminate mass killings. Such a system cannot be sustainable. We must also note that nuclear weapons cannot offer any effective solutions to the global security challenges of the 21st century. They also consume budgetary and technological resources needed for economic development, including the welfare of the world’s cities.”
The USCM is the nonpartisan association of American cities with populations over 30,000. Resolutions adopted at annual meetings become its official policy. This year, for the first time, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser added their names as co-sponsors of the Mayors for Peace resolution.
The full text of the resolution and list of 23 sponsors is posted at http://wslfweb.org/docs/MfP-USCM-res2016.pdf
Official version: http://usmayors.org/resolutions/84th_Conference/proposedcommittee-review.asp?committee=InternationalAffairs
The 2016 Mayors for Peace USCM resolution was sponsored by:
T. M. Franklin Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa
Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton, Ohio
Joy Cooper, Mayor of Hallandale Beach, Florida
John Dickert, Mayor of Racine, Wisconsin
Roy Buol, Mayor of Dubuque, Iowa
Mark Stodola, Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas
Marcus Muhammad, Mayor of Benton Harbor, Michigan
Alex Morse, Mayor of Holyoke, Massachusettes
Kitty Piercy, Mayor of Eugene, Oregon
Chris Koos, Mayor of Normal, Illinois
Laurel Lunt Prussing, Mayor of Urbana, Illinois
Salvatore J. Panto, Jr., Mayor of Easton, Pennsylvania
Geraldine Muoio, Mayor of West Palm Beach, Florida
Frank Ortis, Mayor of Pembroke Pines, Florida
Ardell F. Brede, Mayor of Rochester, Minnesota
Muriel Bowser, Mayor of the District of Columbia
Christopher L. Cabaldon, Mayor of West Sacramento, California
Miguel A. Pulido, Mayor of Santa Ana, California
Charlie Hales, Mayor of Portland, Oregon
Patrick L. Wojahn, Mayor of College Park, Maryland
Paul Soglin, Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin
Denny Doyle, Mayor of Beaverton, Oregon
Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, New York
Student Activism is Under Attack: New York State Senate Considering Legislation to Penalize Students Tackling Human Rights, Peace Issues
The New York State Senate is considering legislation that would make our student groups at SUNY colleges INELIGIBLE FOR FUNDING from their universities.
(and don’t you think it is intentional that this legislation was introduced while students are on summer break?)
Under Senate Bill S8017, student groups would be ineligible for funding from student fees if they do any activities that promote, encourage or permit the boycott of an “allied nation”. Boycott is defined as:
“to engage in any activity, or to promote or encourage others to engage in any activity, that will result in any person abstaining from commercial, social or political relations, with any allied nation, or companies based in an allied nation or in territories controlled by an allied nation, with the intent to penalize, inflict, cause harm to or otherwise promote or cast disrepute upon, such allied nation, its people, or its commercial products.”
Under this law, and its definition of “allied nation”, you would be ineligible for funding from a SUNY school if you did any public education to criticize the practice(s) of any of the following countries – or of any corporation operation in any of the following 56 countries:
Albania, Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, the United Kingdom or Uruguay.
17 of these countries, by the way, practice forced and/or child labor, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor.
HOW IT AFFECTS PEACE ACTION NEW YORK STATE
This legislation would have SWEEPING impacts on our Student Network. Under this legislation, these types of campaigns would make a SUNY Peace Action chapter ineligible for school funding:
- Refugee awareness campaigns that discuss how refugees are discriminated against/poorly treated by allied European nations
- Support for the BDS movement/criticism of Israel
- Fair Trade/Free Trade campaigns
- Campaigns against child/forced labor products
- Media freedom campaigns/events that criticize any allied nation (including notorious nations like Italy re: media freedom)
- Opposition to imprisoning/excessive violence against political dissidents, as practiced in any allied nation (common in: Argentina, Albania, Thailand, and many other nations)
- Protests/public education events against violence against women that criticize any allied nation
- Indigenous persons education events that discuss human rights violations by allied nations (common in: Canada, Australia, New Zealand)
- Calling attention to the rejection of rights of ethnic minorities in allied nations (common in: Dominican Republic, France, and many other nations)
- Public education around public health reasons to not travel to allied nations (i.e. Zika virus in South American allied nations)
- Any campaign that casts a negative light on ANY practice – past, present or future – of an “allied nation”, as defined in this legislation.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Send us a comment about how this legislation would impact you, a student group you work with and/or your community – or how this would have impacted you when you were a student. Send comments to: email@example.com
2. Message and Call Your NY State Senator’s Office and Ask Them to OPPOSE S8017.
Find Your Senator: Click Here. You can email them AND call them.
(Please Note: It is, currently, likely that this will pass the Senate. But, we MUST put up a fight & ask our Senators to strongly oppose this bill)
3. Call Your NY State Assembly Member’s Office and WARN THEM that This Legislation is in the Senate and Ask Them to OPPOSE Any Similar Legislation That May Be Introduced In The Assembly.
4. SHARE THIS MESSAGE WITH YOUR MEMBERS, OTHER STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS & OTHER STUDENTS AND ASK THEM TO TAKE ACTION
Remind Governor Cuomo: You Cannot Revoke Our Constitutional Rights Because You Disagree With Our Message
On Sunday, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order to strip activists in the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement of their right to protest.
The Executive Order mandates that State government agencies divest themselves of companies and organizations aligned with the BDS movement, and the NY State government will use public funds to create a “black list” of organizations and companies supporting the BDS campaign.
The BDS campaign aims to pressure Israel economically over its treatment of Palestinians and the illegal occupation of Palestine. Although the campaign is designed to promote human rights, people who disagree with BDS call its campaigners anti-semitic. This accusation ignores the many Jewish individuals and organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, who support the BDS movement. And, critically important: libelous accusations & slander should never be a basis to restrict or monitor political activism.
Governor Cuomo’s executive order strips activists in the BDS movement of essential, democratic rights. Boycotts are a constitutionally protected form of speech, association and assembly, as determined by the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886 (1982) and affirmed in Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138 (1983). And, boycotts have a long history of being used to successfully apply economic pressure to address great injustices. As activists, we divested from South Africa during apartheid. We boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We threw British tea into the Boston Harbor. Our right to boycott is protected, and Governor Cuomo must be reminded that he cannot revoke a constitutional right because he disagrees with the protestors employing it.
Kate Alexander, PANYS Director of Policy and Outreach
Boycotts are a constitutionally protected form of speech, association and assembly – and they have a long history of being used successfully to address gross injustices. And, the denial of public contracts and public investment in order to punish speech violates the First Amendment.
But, Governor Cuomo said, “If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you.” We must stand together and oppose this extreme denial of our first amendment rights. Here’s what you can do:
- TODAY: Write a Letter to the Editor to the New York Times in response to this article about Governor Cuomo’s executive order, which will put institutions and companies that engage in BDS on a blacklist? Letters should be 175 words or less and submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org within the next 24 hours.
- Please consider sending letters to other newspapers covering this story as well. Guidelines for writing and submission can usually be found in the newspaper’s opinion section on their website.
Talking points can include:
- This is a McCarthyite attack on a movement for justice and human rights.
- Boycotts have long been a tactic to achieve social change and the movement for Palestinian freedom should not be singled out. In fact, Gov. Cuomo supported the boycott of North Carolina in response to their “bathroom” legislation.
- This move seeks to silence the growing numbers of Americans who support BDS/economic tactics to put pressure on Israel to respect Palestinian human rights, and is part of a larger legal campaign being waged against BDS in the US.
- Governor Cuomo should rescind this un-democratic order immediately.