Friday, September 30, 2011

From A Georgia Jail to a Tennessee Courtroom: One Truthteller's Story

Catholic sister Mary Dennis Lentsch is persistent and unrepentant in her resistance to the crime of nuclear weapons production at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

She stood before judge Bruce Guyton in Federal court . on September 21 to be sentenced for her nonviolent civil resistance at the Y12 bomb plant in July of 2010. According to Ralph Hutchinson of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, the courtroom was full of supporters as Mary Dennis was brought in in shackles; she had been in custody since mid-June in a private jail in Ocilla, Georgia. She was surprised to hear the Judge's sentence of "Time Served," after enduring nearly four months in jail  for peacefully stepping through a three-strand barbed wire fence and joining a circle of 12 others  in a prayer for an end to nuclear weapons.
At her sentencing, over one year later, she stood in shackles as she addressed the courtroom:

 “...I bow to the sacred in everyone. I bow to the sacred in the plants and animals. I bow to the sacred in all creation....In order to protect all the sacred gifts of creation, I feel called to do whatever is necessary to abolish nuclear weapons."

From a letter to friends, September 28, 2011:
My travel from the Ocilla jail [in Georgia] to Knoxville for the sentencing was quite an experience.   On September 20, at 12:30 am I was told to pack up for transport.   It took me about 20 minutes to pack and then I waited until 2:30 until they came to get me from my cell and take me down for the exit processing.   During the processing we were given a bag lunch breakfast and finally at 4:30 we were loaded into the van.    Doris and I were the only women and there were 7 men.  I had heard stories that there were no bathroom stops during the 7 hour drive so I had curtailed my liquid intake.  It was true there were no bathroom stops.   I had also heard that it was freezing and wore two long sleeve thermal shirts—this was also true.   I was skeptical when I heard they drove 80-90 miles per hour.   Well, I sat right behind the driver and kept looking over his shoulder and sure enough this was true.    I could not believe when we maintained this speed in a construction zone that said 55-60.   I’m hoping this is a “once in a lifetime” trip for me.
Of course, we were completely shackled for this trip.

When we arrived in Knoxville Doris and I were placed in a federal holding cell in the Federal Court House.  The Ocilla chains were removed and we put on the court house chains and sat in freezing temperature from 11:00 am-3:00 pm.    Then they came and transported us to the Knox County Jail where they removed the court house chains and put on the KCJ chains.  Then we were transported in a paddy wagon to the Knox County Penal Farm where we would be booked.

We arrived at the Penal Farm at 4:15 pm and sat, chained, in a variety of holding pens until our processing was completed at 3:30 am.   I was in my cell and slept from 3:30 am to 6:30 am when
I was awaked to eat my sack lunch breakfast.     Eventually a guard came to me and said, “The U.S. Marshals couldn’t find you.   It is late now so a special car will rush you to court.”    Again,
chains needed to be put on.   I was relieved to arrive at the court room about 5 minutes before the  9:30 court session...
   Mary Dennis Lentsch  
1936 Liberty Hill Road     Washburn  TN  37888
We Must Abolish Nuclear Weapons!!

To learn about the other 12 who served and are still serving jail time, click here.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

#10 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

Communications with a Wider Audience
#10. Newspapers and journals

Two early examples of  the power of the press to bring social change include The Masses (1911-1917) and The Liberator (1918-1924)

(Two contemporary local newspapers are The Global Report  (formerly The Asheville Global Report)  and The War Crimes Times.

 The Masses"...A revolutionary and not a reform magazine: a magazine with a sense of humour and no respect for the respectable: frank, arrogant, impertinent, searching for true causes: a magazine directed against rigidity and dogma wherever it is found: printing what is too naked or true for a money-making press: a magazine whose final policy is to do as it pleases and conciliate nobody, not even its readers." - Max Eastman

The August 1915 cover of The Masses is particularly relevant today with the execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia, despite more than reasonable doubt as to his guilt. 

In July 1913, The Masses published Art Young's cartoon 'Poisoned at the Source,' which depicted the Associated Press' president, Frank B. Noyes, poisoning a well labeled 'The News' with lies, suppressed facts, slander, and prejudice. The cartoon was a response to the lack of national news coverage on the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912 in Kanawha County, West Virginia. The strike had lasted more than a year, and was characterized by deadly clashes between miners and militia hired by the coal companies.The coal wars continue today with mountaintop removal coal mining and the

The Masses was followed by The Liberator that published from 1918 - 1924.
Here is excerpt from Helen Keller's article in the first issue: 

The Liberator, New York, NY, 1918, March, Issue (Whole) No. 1, page 13.,

" Down through the long, weary years the will of the ruling class has been to suppress either the man or his message when they antagonized its interests. From the execution of the propagandist and the burning of books, down through the various degrees of censorship and expurgation to the highly civilized legal indictment and winking at mob crime by constituted authorities, the cry has ever been “crucify him!” The ideas and activities of minorities are misunderstood and misrepresented. It is easier to condemn than to investigate. It takes courage to steer one’s course through a storm of abuse and ignominy. But I believe that discussion of even the most bitterly controverted matters is demanded by our love of justice, by our sense of fairness and an honest desire to understand the problems that are rending society."  read more

Friday, September 9, 2011

Organizing for Effective Social Change

Organizing for Effective Social Change - ASHEVILLE
Mike Ferner, VFP National President & Labor Union Organizer
September 23 & 24, 2011
Grieving about dashed hopes for change? Don’t mourn—Organize!
Friday evening 6:30-9pm North Asheville Library
1030 Merrimon Ave, Asheville - Presentation, Discussion
Saturday 10am-4pm
Battery Park Apartments—Rooftop Garden

1 Battle Square, Asheville Workshop I, Lunch, Workshop II
Reserve your spot
Contact: Clare Hanrahan
828-242-5610 email:
(No set fee—but donations are encouraged)

Presented by VFP Chapter 099’s Center for Peace Education & Training and the New South Network of War Resisters

If you advocate for change, this event is for you whether your issue is peace, social justice, the environment, the economy, human rights…whatever.
What can we do to: stop these wars; save the planet; distribute wealth equitably; end racism…???

Mike says: “There may be more ways than one to get there, but this much is certain: we, the relative handful of committed believers, aren't going to get there on our own. Gleanings from history and my own experience tell me the best way is still found in Joe Hill‟s last words: „Don't mourn for me, organize!‟

“We must do more than fix the wrongs. We must make the rules, define the terms, run the show—in a word: govern ourselves…

It is precisely when we learn how to gain the power to govern our-selves--not just the power to fix the wrongs—-that we will be able to reorder these systems to serve the common interest and create a better life. And not coincidentally, it is when we begin to take organizing seriously that we will begin this journey.

As Asheville goes, so goes the nation—or at least the movement! I am so looking forward to working with you on the most time-tested (and unfortunately these days, seldom used) method for social change.

Warning: Numerous times through this process you will say to yourself, „What?? (or possibly even “WTF”) I know that!‟ or „Huh? We're already doing that.‟ You will be right. We will be teaching each other. It will be exciting, tedious, frustrating, great fun...and revolutionary.”

Recommended reading (whether you attend the event or not) : Introduction to
THE POPULIST MOMENT: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America by Lawrence Goodwyn

* Mike Ferner is a writer and activist from Ohio who served two years as the national president and is currently interim director of Veterans For Peace. He was elected twice to Toledo City Council, organized for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) for 5 years, worked as communications director for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee the first three years of the Mt. Olive Co. boycott and worked as Communications Director for the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy. Mike also worked as a volunteer on the FLOC Campbell Soup Co. boycott through the 1980′s. In the 70′s, organized two local anti-nuclear power groups in northern Ohio.

Mike traveled to Iraq twice, with a Voices in the Wilderness delegation just prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003, returning in 2004 for two months as an independent journalist. His book about those trips, Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq, was published by Praeger in 2006.

His activism includes several arrests for “disturbing the war,” including disrupting a session of Congress. During the Vietnam War he served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman, took care of hundreds of wounded sol-diers and was discharged as a conscientious objector. Mike wrote the “Veterans For Peace Case for Impeach-ment and Prosecution.”

His main interest is in learning more about how the Populists organized the largest mass democratic movement in U.S. history and what that might mean today for popular uprisings looking for a better life.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

#9 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

Christoph Probst,(l)  Sophie Scholl,(center)  her brother Hans.(r.
Communications with a Wider Audience
#9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books

Members of the White Rose, a German anti-Nazi student group, beheaded for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. 
 Do these courageous young people the honor of reading these stirring words addressed to the German people in the midst of the Nazi atrocities. There are lessons for all of us today.
 From a White Rose leaflet, a German anti-Nazi student movement.
"Now the end is at hand. Now it is our task to find one another again, to spread information from person to person, to keep a steady purpose, and to allow ourselves no rest until the last man is persuaded of the urgent need of his struggle against this system. When thus a wave of unrest goes through the land, when "it is in the air", when many join the cause, then in a great final effort this system can be shaken off. After all, and end in terror is preferable to terror without end."
 and from another...
Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets do not see clearly how they can practice an effective opposition. They do not see any avenues open to them. We want to try to show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of this system. It is not possible through solitary withdrawal, in the manner of embittered hermits, to prepare the ground for the overturn of this "government" or bring about the revolution at the earliest possible moment. No, it can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people - people who are agreed as to the means they must use to attain their goal."
Read all the leaflets. White Rose Anti-Nazi Leaflets

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#8 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

Communications with a Wider Audience
#8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications

 The Veterans for Peace took the Newseum in Washington, DC by surprise with a banner drop both inside and outside. Striking, provocative and effective.
Here is a video of the 2010 action. 
See photos from Flickr | See photos from Ellen Davidson

Monday, August 29, 2011

#7 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

Communications with a Wider Audience
#7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols 

"Seed Corn Must Not Be Ground."  
The line, borrowed from the author Goethe, became the title of this  final lithograph of German artist, Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), and shows clearly her belief in the futility of war and the waste of the sacrifice of the young to violence.

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action compiled by Dr. Gene Sharp and first published in his 1973 book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Vol. 2: The Methods of Nonviolent Action. (Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 1973). The book outlines each method and gives information about its historical use. You may also download this list of methods.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

#6 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

Formal Statements
#6. Group or mass petitions

Political and social activists have a lot of choices these days when launching a petition campaign. But not all petition sites are created equal.  Read More

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action compiled by Dr. Gene Sharp and first published in his 1973 book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Vol. 2: The Methods of Nonviolent Action. (Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 1973). The book outlines each method and gives information about its historical use. You may also download this list of methods.

Friday, August 26, 2011

#5 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

  Formal Statements
#5. Declarations of Indictment and Intention 
Click above for a general explanation of #5  from blogger Michael Olschimke

Since its earliest use in the U.S. Constitution indicting King George III for his  "repeated injuries and usurpations" of the Americans' rights and liberties," various groups have made Declarations of  indictment seeking accountability for the crimes of government.  In recent years, Declarations of Indictment have been drafted against George W. Bush and his administration by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark and by The Center for Constitutional Rights, 
and other International groups.

 The US Court of Appeals ruled on Aug. 9, 2011,  that two U.S. citizens who worked for a private security firm in Iraq can proceed to take Donald Rumsfeld to trial for the torture they assert they endured during months of imprisonment in 2006 in a prison set up by the Pentagon at a military base near Baghdad's airport.
Read report here on Indict

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action were compiled by Dr. Gene Sharp and first published in his 1973 book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Vol. 2: The Methods of Nonviolent Action. (Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 1973). The book outlines each method and gives information about its historical use. You may also download this list of methods.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

#4 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

Formal Statements
#4- Signed Public Statements
SPC Katherine Jashinski, the
first woman in the military to publicly declare resistance to participation in the war:
"My name is Katherine Jashinski. I am a SPC in the Texas Army National Guard. I was born in Milwaukee, WI and I am 22 years old. When I graduated high school I moved to Austin, TX to attend college. At age 19 I enlisted in the Guard as a cook because I wanted to experience military life. When I enlisted I believed that killing was immoral, but also that war was an inevitable part of life and therefore, an exception to the rule.

After enlisting I began the slow transformation into adulthood. Like many teenagers who leave their home for the first time, I went through a period of growth and soul searching. I encountered many new people and ideas that broadly expanded my narrow experiences. After reading essays by Bertrand Russel and traveling to the South Pacific and talking to people from all over the world, my beliefs about humanity and its relation to war changed. I began to see a bigger picture of the world and I started to reevaluate everything that I had been taught about war as a child. I developed the belief that taking human life was wrong and war was no exception. I was then able to clarify who I am and what it is that I stand for.

The thing that I revere most in this world is life, and I will never take another person's life.

Just as others have faith in God, I have faith in humanity I have a deeply held belief that people must solve all conflicts through peaceful diplomacy and without the use of violence. Violence only begets more violence.

Because I believe so strongly in non-violence, I cannot perform any role in the military. Any person doing any job in the Army, contributes in some way to the planning, preparation or implementation of war.

For eighteen months, while my CO status was pending, I have honored my commitment to the Army and done everything that they asked of me. However, I was ordered to Ft. Benning last Sunday to complete weapons training in preparation to deploy for war.

Now I have come to the point where I am forced to choose between my legal obligation to the Army and my deepest moral values. I want to make it clear that I will not compromise my beliefs for any reason. I have a moral obligation not only to myself but to the world as a whole, and this is more important than any contract.

I have come to my beliefs through personal, intense, reflection and study. They are everything that I am and all that I stand for. After much thought and contemplation about the effect my decision will have on my future, my family, the possibility of prison, and the inevitable scorn and ridicule that I will face, I am completely resolute.
I will exercise my every legal right not pick up a weapon, and to participate in war effort. I am determined to be discharged as a CO, and while undergoing the appeals process; I will continue to follow orders that do not conflict with my conscience until my status has been resolved. I am prepared to accept the consequences of adhering to my beliefs.

What characterizes a conscientious objector is their willingness to face adversity and uphold their values at any cost. We do this not because it is easy or popular, but because we are unable to do otherwise. thank you.
Statement made at Ft. Benning, GA on November 17, 2005
In court on May 23, 2006, Katherine was acquitted of the more serious charge of missing movement by design, but pleaded guilty to refusal to obey a legal order. She received a bad conduct discharge and was sentenced to 120 days confinement, with credit for 53 days already served (at Fort Benning), and 20 days off for good behavior. Katherine was released from custody on July 9, 2006.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

#3 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

Formal Statements
# 3. Declarations by organizations and institutions

On September 21st, the International Day of Peace, a proclamation was signed by Mayor Terri Bellamy and presented by Councilwoman Robin Cape ...See 2 minute Video: Asheville Declaration of Peace with Women in Black - YouTube

On Sept. 21, 2011, Peacetown Asheville will present a petition at the Asheville International Day of Peace gathering calling on President Obama to BRING OUR WAR DOLLARS HOME.

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action compiled by Dr. Gene Sharp and first published in his 1973 book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Vol. 2: The Methods of Nonviolent Action. (Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 1973). The book outlines each method and gives information about its historical use.
You may also download this list of methods.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

#2 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

Formal Statements
#2. Letters of opposition or support
"...I am writing you today, not asking for forgiveness for what I decided to do, but to give you an idea of what brought me to that decision to leave the Army and speak out against the Occupation...." James Circello, Iraq Veterans Against The War 
Read More: Open Letter to the Government from an AWOL Soldier

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action
These methods were compiled by Dr. Gene Sharp and first published in his 1973 book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Vol. 2: The Methods of Nonviolent Action. (Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 1973). The book outlines each method and gives information about its historical use.

Monday, August 22, 2011

# 1 of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Direct Action

Nonviolent Protest & Persuasion  (Categorized by Gene Sharp of Albert Einstein Institute
   Formal Statements:  #1 - Public Speeches 
"The calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak"  MLK, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1967 Riverside Church Speech: A Time to Break Silence


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"We Did the Unthinkable..." Hiroshima-Nagasaki

Ralph Hutchison & Libby Johnson at Y-12 - Remembering those who perished. Photo: Jim Toren
"Today in this place, we stand against death. Against the unconscionable idea of a $7.5 billion dollar bomb plant in Oak Ridge. Against the immoral and illegal production of nuclear weapons at this bomb plant... Against the threat of nuclear destruction at every map coordinate toward which these warheads are aimed.

 "We stand against the death of a thousand cuts -- of dreams unrealized, of  hope crushed, of morality corrupted, of history distorted, of peace denied-- by the Bomb, by the policies that continue the global nuclear arms race, by the diversion of our common treasury to build more and more and more bombs and more and more bomb plants."
Ralph Hutchison, August 6, 2011
Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

Ashes of Hiroshima
 "I hope everyone remembers what we did to Japan. We did the unthinkable, that we don't want done to us. We killed innocent people and that is what war does," 
Laura Sorensen, Asheville, North Carolina, speaking at the birthplace of the Hiroshima bomb in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Reclaim Power! Southeast Action Camp

Reclaim Power Southeast Action Camp
August 18-22 – Western North Carolina
Day of Action August 22, Location TBA-

People working for justice, peace and a sustainable future in the
Southeast are coming together for a long weekend of workshops, trainings,
strategizing, and direct action! Our region faces a range of threats from
coal mining, nuclear waste and rising sea levels to racist anti-immigrant
laws and the military industrial complex. It’s time to come together and
reclaim our power.

We will train and build skills to take effective action on social justice

and peace as well as energy and climate justice campaigns active in our
region. We will work together to hone "tried and true" tactics -- and
maybe dream up new ones to try! On Monday we will put our new skills into
practice with an exciting day of action (location TBA)

The camp will be hosted on a beautiful site with a swimming pond almost on

the state line between the Carolinas, a short 40 minutes South of
Asheville. Camping at the site or accommodations in town are available.

Workshops will include: community organizing, anti-oppression, nonviolent

direct action 101, debunking false solutions to climate change, blockades,
sustainable living systems, action climbing, media, disaster response,
street medic training, fighting nukes and coal, and much more.

ACTION MEDIC TRAINING -- A submersion program -- participants will be part

of camp life, but take a separate "track" of trainings focused expressly
on becoming qualified to serve your community as a medic during
non-violent direct actions. For more info and to register into this
program -- please inquire:

All ages and skill levels welcome. Come for renewal -- or come for your

first activist training and dive in. We welcome both expertise and also
new ideas and perspectives to freshen the stream of action. Everyone has
something to share that others can learn from!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Katauh Earth First! Leads "No Nukes Summer" Day of Action

Taking to the Streets for No Nukes Summer   Photo: Rachel Bliss
With the U.S. Constitution and our First Amendment Right to peaceably assemble as our only permit, organizers with Katuah Earth First! continued the No Nukes Summer Days of Action with a rally, parade and nonviolent direct action in Asheville on July 15.  (Click for Photo video by Jerry Nelson)

Katuah Earth First! collaborated in this effort with organizers from the Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS),  New South Network of War Resisters, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL)Proposition One, WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Mountain Protectors for a Nuclear Free WNC.  We gathered to say:
 Keep high-level radioactive waste at the commercial nuclear power plants where it is made. Do not ship it through Asheville and these mountains to the S.C. Savannah River Site. Do not  recover the weapons grade plutonium, and do not return this deadly, toxic waste to Madison County, N.C. for permanent burial.” 
Big Nasty, a marching band recruited from their busking spot on a nearby corner, led the way with lively drumming, banjo and brass  as we stepped off  nearly one hundred strong from downtown Pritchard Park. It was an empowering  show of resistance to the escalating threat in Atomic Appalachia of the nuclear power, weapons and waste industries.

Laura Sorensen and Ray Hearne flank Ole Sorensen holding one of his peace poles.   Photo: Clare Hanrahan

The day was cool, a welcome break from the heat of the previous week.  The streets were filling with a curious crowd of tourists and sidewalk cafes were busy.  We captured the attention of all with well crafted signs and banners. Designer Coleman Smith coordinated days of effort turning recycled cardboard into the colorful messages that we carried along the route.  Multi-colored wooden peace signs on tall poles, crafted by Ole Sorensen, added the historic touch of the symbol for nuclear disarmament.
Monica & Julie at the No Nuke rally.  Photo: Hanrahan
David Ireland, a videographer and coordinator with the  Buncombe County Green Party  helped to document the rally as did Ellen Thomas of Proposition One, and Rachel Bliss, an organizer with Asheville Peacetown. Monica Tilhou snapped photos as her sister Julie handed out information to passersby. 
The giant and prophetic NIRS banner carried our mantra – “Carbon Free/Nuclear Free."
Holding the Banner as the people gather.  Photo:  Ellen Thomas
Our first stop was the Federal Building with the message that President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future is a tragic misnomer. There is no safe future for America if we persist with this nuclear madness. There are safe, clean, and economic alternatives to dangerous, dirty, and expensive nuclear power.

Some of the APD  crew. Photo Ellen Thomas
The Asheville Police  Department, “dedicated to providing public safety and maintaining order; enforcing the laws of North Carolina, upholding the United States Constitution and enhancing national security,” were present on bicycles, on foot, in cars, and vans.

Our police liaison Coleman Smith spoke with the APD at the rally. They  seemed satisfied with our peaceful intent and worked with us as we paraded towards the Federal Building. When APD Sergeant Lance asked, "Will you be going into the Federal offices?" Smith replied "Not today.”  The police behaved with courteous professionalism as they managed the automobile traffic at intersections and generally facilitated our practice of feisty free speech in action. 

Asheville area residents have been active for decades working to protect our mountains from the devastation of the nuclear industry. In recent years a coalition called Common Sense at the Nuclear Crossroads, have provided well-researched reports to educate residents of the threat to Western North Carolina. As of yet, the Asheville City Council has not seen the purpose or rationale to adopt a nuclear non-transport ordinance, similar to the Nevada ordinance,  to keep the predicted 10,000 truckloads of RAD Waste out of our town.

With social media now a large part of the tool box for activists and organizers, an ad hoc group known as Mountain Protectors Action Alliance used Facebook to organize a “flash mob”  in the Pack Square area downtown on the same afternoon.  We extended our parade route from the Federal Building to Vance monument and coordinated via cell phone with drivers Julius Kerr and his relief driver Bill, to reroute BREDL’s mock Nuclear Waste Cask to Pack Square to participate.

BREDL's Mock Nuclear Waste Cask in Asheville. Photo: Ellen Thomas

People on both sides of the street began falling to the sidewalks in a domino effect as the mock radioactive waste cask passed by.
Nuclear Resisters begin die-in.  Photo:  C. Hanrahan
The threat to our ancient mountains and the communities of life that flourish here is real and great. Folks came from throughout the region to stand together. One woman, in an impromptu speech jumped up on the wall and told the crowd:  

“I was born in Western North Carolina. My people have been here a long time.  We love these mountains and we won’t let them be ruined by this nuclear waste.”

Echoing that sentiment was Cherokee-Lakota healer  Amy Walker, who came to Asheville with her nephew Tyson. Elder Walker wanted us to know as we organize resistance to the nuclear threat, that there are allies in the nearby Cherokee nation. There is already evidence of radioactive contamination of the air and water and an increase of cancer on the Eastern Band Cherokee Reservation, they said, which may be from activities at the Oak Ridge, Tenn. Y-12 National Security Complex and Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, Tenn. The Cherokee reservation is about 100 miles downwind of Oak Ridge.

In an impromptu meeting with organizers from Katuah Earth First! the conversation swung to how all affected by this nuclear tragedy could come together. Cherokee Elder Walker stated,  “It is long overdue for our peoples to be working together.”
Katauh Earth First! Road Kill Faction is part of the global radical environmental movement. As a nonviolent direct action and education group KEF! acts as part of nature, believing there can be no compromise in defense of the Earth. KEF! has been acting to defend and  protect these mountains and the Katuah Bio-region for over 20 years.
Andy & Ed of Katuah EF! Photos: E.Thomas
Smith & Hanrahan signmaking
Save the date: August 18 to 22.  
Reclaim Power! Southeast Action Camp  in nearby Zirconia, North Carolina.  In coalition with Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Rising Tide, New South Network of War Resisters, and Katuah Earth First!   Email for information or call: Mary at 828.254.8409

Written by Clare Hanrahan & Coleman Smith, lead organizers with New South Network of War Resisters.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Save the Dates: NO NUKES SUMMER

Katuah EarthFirst! Announces: 

A series of events to mobilize action to prevent highly radioactive waste shipments through Western North Carolina, or revival of the old plan to bury the nation’s worst waste in the Granite of the Blue Ridge

CONTACT:  Coleman Smith of New South Network of War Resisters & Katuah Earth First!  828-301-6683

NO NUKE SHOW with ASH DEVINE -- 7 pm Wednesday JULY 6
Firestorm Café and Books – Commerce Street in downtown Asheville
– includes preparation for DAY OF ACTION  - Bring arts materials for making signs and banners – or just a great slogan!

DAY OF ACTION – meet up at 4 pm on Friday July 15 at Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville – bring a sign or find one we made at Firestorm – speakers and (legal) march to the US Federal Building to rally at Otis and Patton Ave
MESSAGE: keep high-level radioactive waste at the nuclear power plants where it is made! Do not ship it to a so-called “temporary site,” do not ship it through these mountains, do not separate the plutonium!

NO NUKES IN WNC EDUCATIONAL WORKSHOP with MARY OLSON, NIRS Southeast -- 6 – 8 pm Wednesday July 27, NIRS House, call for location and directions 828-252-8409

“Katuah EarthFirst was founded to protect these mountains. Our bioregion is the most diverse in the world and the genetic treasury here deserves to be fostered and nurtured, not subjected to ionizing radiation – which effectively randomizes DNA…not only in human bodies – in any body of any plant or animal,” said Coleman Smith, a longtime member of the Katuah faction of the global group known as EarthFirst!

Further information on possible nuclear shipments through this region see or contact:

Mary Olson
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Southeast Office  *  PO Box 7586  Asheville, NC  28802

"Until we know how to safely dispose of the radioactive materials generated by nuclear plants, we should postpone these activities so as not to cause further harm to future generations. To do otherwise is simply an immoral act, and that is my belief, both as a scientist and as a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing."
-- Dr Shoji Sawada

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hundreds Commemorate "Gettysburg of Union Movement" with March To Blair Mountain

Photo of Blair March from Appalachian Voices
Blair Mountain, West Virginia:
The roads were narrow. We sweltered with temperatures in the mid '90s, and took to the ditches as loaded coal trucks passed so close  we could feel the acrid breeze. Weary and blistered from a ten-mile daily trek, we found that campsites for hundreds of marchers, night after night,  were withdrawn under pressure from coal industry powers -"...Sorry ma'am, if you let 'em camp on your property we can't guarantee your husband's job..."
So we called in vehicles & drivers to shuttle back over the mountain to Marmet where we slept ear to ear and toe to toe on a warehouse floor for all but the last night of the arduous and epic five-day, fifty mile march from Marmet to Blair Mountain, WV.

Despite the obstacles, we grew in numbers, in determination and in discipline as a nonviolent battalion of collectively organized activists, young and older, experienced and new to activism, historians and environmentalists.  We sweated and marched for the preservation of the historic Blair Mountain and an end to the devastation and disgrace of mountain top removal coal mining.

Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal own much of the historic Blair Mountain, site of the 1921 battle for union rights, a heroic struggle still remembered by many residents of the coal towns of rural WV.  Descendants of these early UMW union organizers joined the March to Blair to preserve this important part of WV history and indeed their very homes and communities. By the time we ascended Blair Mountain we were over 1,000 strong singing as we climbed.

It is a race against time to suspend the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mining permits that enable the coal companies to "surgically remove"  historic locations on Blair Mountain by blowing up the sites where major labor battles were fought:  No history,  no preservation.

Memorial lettered by Coleman for the Blair Art Build

Arch Coal recently purchased Massey Energy. Massey / Alpha are responsible for the vast majority of Mountain Top Removal coal mining occurring in Appalachia. The company has an an abysmal safety record, and was cited for 3,007 safety violations that led to the explosion in the Upper Big Branch mine, causing the wrongful deaths, some would say murder, of 29 mine workers in April 2010.

At a Subway near the town of Marmet, the young sandwich maker told us that his uncle and two cousins had been found huddled together, arms entwined, inside the Upper Big Branch mine after the fatal blast. With that story, he conveyed the depth of suffering borne by the coal mine workers and their families as he slathered on the mayonnaise and rang up the sale.

Many of the heroes of  this March on Blair are the scores of volunteers who provided essential services under difficult, often changing circumstances as we moved through what can only be termed as hostile territory. Even so, as marchers traveled along the treacherous highway, seven to eight passersby out of every ten gave friendly honks, raised clenched fists, and gestured with peace signs and thumbs up. Some offered water from a garden hose. One man, sitting astride his lawn mower in his driveway, held a thank you sign and a bunch of flowers. As we passed he offered these encouraging words, "There's more of us here than you think."

Yet the deeper we marched into coal country, entire families came out on their porches, lined the roadside or  stood in their yards as we passed. Many held homemade signs and shouted epithets, clearly feeling that we represented a threat to their very livelihood.  "Coal keeps the lights on," was a familiar theme, though much of the metallurgical coal extracted from WV is shipped to China for making steel.

Katuah EF! members and other volunteers worked non-stop to provide water to the marchers,  hauling the trailer over the hazardous roads and setting up fill-up stations & water drops along the way. Others took a turn driving the trailer with the three Porta Johns that serviced us throughout the week.
Randall & Cassie of  Katuah EF! Water Crew
Dave of Katuah Medics

Medic Brian with rolls of duct tape
An intrepid crew of  Street Medics kept our well-being in mind and our blistered feet bandaged in red duct tape so we could continue marching.

Grumbles takes a break from the field kitchen
The Seeds of Peace Collective Chef Grumbles and crew kept us well fed with hearty and versatile meals three times a day to fuel us for the march.

 National Lawyers Guild attorneys Dan and Rachel with team member Jonathan provided guidance to a dozen volunteers who donned the familiar green hat as Legal Observers and took turns practicing neutrality while keeping a keen eye and clear notes observing and reporting the passing scene.

Legal Observers Clare & Linda near Ottawa, WV. Photo by Sophie
Coleman & Dan on NLG  Legal Observers' Team

Coleman arrived early in the week as part of  the Art Build collective, coordinating with a team from around the country who worked for days to provide the messaging, banners and signs that we carried along the way.

Organizers were on the ground in West Virginia for months, even years prior to the March on Blair Mountain building local relationships, working for the larger goal of creating a just and sustainable Appalachia. They remain there even now, after the hundreds of marchers have returned home, working on oral history projects and other means of preserving the history and integrity of the region.

Grace Eliot and Friend on the ground  in W. Va.

In West Virgina, a state where, according to Robert Kennedy,Jr, "every level of Democracy has been subverted,"  the battle continues for dignity, justice, environmental protection and human rights. The 2011 March to Blair Mountain put many feet to the ground in this righteous cause to save Blair Mountain and  "turn back the ascendancy of corporate power."  We will keep on marching forward...

Step by step the longest march
Can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form an arch,
Singly none, singly none.
And by Union what we will
Can be accomplished still.
Drops of water turn a mill,
Singly none, singly none

Special thanks to the  Footprints for Peace crew, Larry, John and Jim, who added considerable experience and guidance from their many global walks for peace over the years.

Story and most Photos by Clare Hanrahan & Coleman Smith
Smith & Hanrahan take a rest at Blair

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Solidarity in Action: Nonviolent Action Trainers' Gathering Strengthens Connections

Trainers, organizers, and facilitators of Nonviolent Direct Action gathered in Asheville, N.C. over the May Day weekend for peer-to-peer exchange, campaign storytelling, tactics and skills swap among Southeast organizers, along with strategical discussions of how to work together more effectively across issues and campaigns in the South.  

Issues that surfaced at the ACTION South Nonviolent Direct Action Trainer’s Gathering were as immediate as Asheville’s Defensa Communitaria police checkpoint vigil campaign in solidarity with Hispanic immigrants, and as far reaching as FBI raids targeting anti-war activists and persons acting to build international relationships. Dissidents caught up in this modern-day Cointelpro State repression are challenging Grand Jury indictments and nonviolent direct action is a tool of the struggle.

Steve Norris of Warren-Wilson College
 Friday night’s meet and greet in the historic Battery Park Hotel rooftop garden included a bird’s- eye view of the “Land of the Sky” and a  sunset view of Asheville’s surrounding mountains. As part of the city-wide YWCA Stand Against Racism events, the Friday discussion centered on the principles and application of nonviolent direct action as used during the historic civil rights struggle. Participants shared personal experiences confronting racism and other persistent injustice using tools of organized nonviolence.

Steve Norris, a professor of Peace Studies and Environmental Justice at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C., led the discussion.

Special guest Oralene Simmons, a nonviolence trainer with  Dr. Bernard Lafayette, and founder of Asheville's 30 year old MLK,Jr. birthday celebration, shared her first-hand experiences with the Asheville Student Committee for Racial Equality during her high-school years. She and other students integrated Asheville's Woolworth lunch counter, the city swimming pools, and public library.

Oralene Simmons greets Asheville City Councilman Gordon Smith at Asheville's Woolworth Sit-In commemoration
In1961 Oralene, a native of Mars Hill, NC, went on to become the first person of African-American heritage admitted to Mars Hill College.  Her story is especially poignant. Her great grandfather Joseph Anderson— a slave who laid the bricks that built the college—was seized by contractors as collateral for a debt on the Mars Hill College building and jailed until the debt was paid. His family is now celebrated along with other founding members of the Baptist College.

Panelists Steve Magin, RedMoonSong, Emily Rhyne & Joe Rhinehart
Discussion continued Saturday at Asheville’s Unitarian Universalist Church with panel presentations as varied as Emily Rhyne of Asheville's Defensa Comunitaria,  and Red Moon Song of Earth Haven Eco Village, who spoke of her lifelong practice of “radical simplicity” and “fierce peace,” in her work to end militarism and war. Other panelists included long-time war tax resister Steve Magin, of Madison County, N.C. and Joe Rhinehart, of Asheville’s worker-owned Firestorm Café and Books, who focused on connecting cooperatives with social movements.

Sarah Buchner of UNC-A's SDS gave an update on local efforts in support of FBI-targeted peace activists, and Patrick O'Neill, a cofounder of the Father Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker House in Garner, N.C., told of the recent creative action where he dressed as an ICE officer and arrested Lady Liberty to demonstrate concerns for immigrant rights. Patrick’s activist daughters Bernadette and Moira also attended, adding greatly to the richness of the day as they conveyed their experiences as outspoken college and high school students immersed in traditional educational settings.

Patrick O'Neill with daughters Bernadette & Moira
Kim Carlyle, War Crimes Times!
 War Crimes Times! Editor Kim Carlyle shared some VFP experiences in “taking back” the media and the Veterans' creative methods at the Newsuem to distribute copies of the quarterly newspaper.

Mary Olsen at the Nonviolent Action Trainers' Gathering in Asheville
 Ralph Hutchinson, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, rounded off the diverse group of panelists. He provided a “long haul” overview of OREPA’s nearly 30 year campaign to halt production of nuclear weapons at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee Y-12 National Security Complex.

Facilitators included Mary Olsen, regional coordinator of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and Betsy Crites, Director of N.C. Peace Action, along with Coleman Smith and Clare Hanrahan of the New South Network of War Resisters.  In addition of facilitation help, RedMoonSong and Jim Stockwell headed up the kitchen crew that provided the delicious vegetarian fare.

Participants were active in a variety of local and regional peace efforts, including Pax Christi, NC Stop Torture Now! Katuah Earth First! National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, VFP, Peacetown Asheville, N.C. Peace Action, WRL Asheville and New South Network of War Resisters (conveners), Asheville Freeskool, Nuestro Centro's Defensa Communitaria, Firestorm Cafe' and Books, Communnity of the Beloved  the YWCA's Stand Against Racism, NIRS, Proposition One, VFP TV, and more.

The event was deepened with the participation of numerous elders, including feminist scholar and Asheville native Antigua George, and Brad Lyttle of Chicago, both sharing experiences in direct action going back more than half a century. Lyttle, who was arrested for civil resistance at the Y-12 plant in July 2010, made a last minute detour to be at the ACTION South Gathering prior to his federal trial in Knoxville, Tenn.
May Day Chorus at Asheville's Firestorm Cafe & Books

Sunday participants gathered at Firestorm Café’ and Books after being fortified and inspired there the night before by the May Day Chorus and a rousing round of  labor movement songs and stories from the coalfields.

We spent much of our time Sunday going over some of Gene Sharp’s 198 methods of nonviolent action. The group moved through the list, commenting on their familiarity with and the relevance of the nonviolent methods.  The list provided the framework for hours of good discussion as participants offered personal accounts of how they have seen and participated in these methods in action.

Local organizer, David Clover, with the Asheville Freeskool, said Sunday’s discussion “exceeded my expectations.”  We all agreed that we wanted further opportunities to engage in-depth discussions with more diverse participants. The discussion was videotaped by Kasha Baxter, a producer with VFP-TV and Ellen Thomas, of  the anti-nuclear effort, Proposition One.

"Many thanks for your extraordinary organizing and leadership!” said John Heuer board member of NC Peace Action and member of the Eisenhower Chapter of the VFP, ‘Thanks for all your hard work organizing this event.”

Mothers Against Family Separation march in Asheville
At the close of the Trainers' Gathering, many participants joined Defensa Communitaria activists and allies to participate with “Mothers Against Family Separation," a public demonstration against the deportations of immigrants in Western North Carolina.

Collaboration, we all agreed, is vital to the success of our movements, and organizers plan to gather again soon to review the weekend with the aim of making the next gathering of S.E. regional trainers' even more dynamic and inclusive.

"I found my time well spent and rewarding. I met good people and made good connections. The venues worked well, the food was great, and the sessions were well-facilitated. There is much more to be done, but this is a great step forward." Kim Carlyle, VFP 099
"Come you discontented ones and give a helping hand..."

Report by Clare Hanrahan & Coleman Smith 
Support for the gathering came from a grant of redirected war taxes from the Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia, with additional support from local activists, allies, and donors,  including our dear friends Judith,  Antigua , &  Monica. Special appreciation to  NC Peace Action for encouragement and participation. Passing the hat for sliding-scale donations was critical, as were the  hundreds of hours of in-kind contributions from organizers and supporters. Thanks to everyone!