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