Sunday, January 27, 2013

2012: On The Ground - Action, Collaboration & Training

Hilton Head Activist Jan Gagner with her Iconic 1960s Photo 

2012 was another busy year  of travel, presentations, trainings,  and actions for the New South Network of War Resisters. Here are some highlights.

Field organizers Clare Hanrahan and Coleman Smith have been on the road in the S.E. region presenting  War On The Earth! Environmental Impact:Atomic Appalachia and the Militarized Southeast.”   

This factual  indictment of the environmental impact of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) in the Southeast is a product of our extensive research, as well as our insights as Southern grassroots organizers, Nonviolent Direct Action Trainers and Legal Observers. The presentation is continually improved by critical feedback, local knowledge and clarifying  questions from students and activists in peace and justice organizations, Environmental Justice classes at colleges and universities, and church and civic groups throughout the region.

Mary Sullivan at Hilton Head Weekly Vigil
Throughout 2012 our "War on the Earth!" presentation was used as an outreach activity and organizational tool for various groups, including the Ethical Culture Society of Asheville, Hilton Head Islanders for Peace,  Aiken(S.C.) Peace, (click here for video) and the Alternative New Year gathering at Kings Bay, Georgia, the Atlantic port and support base for the Trident Nuclear Submarine.
Long Haul Peace Warriors at the Alternative New Year
"War on The Earth"  exposes militarisms' toxic legacy  which continues to devastate the people and culture of the Southeast U.S. and the ecological harm from the manufacture and storage of conventional high explosives, production of incapacitating and nerve agents, contamination from rocket fuel, manufacture of weaponized uranium ordnance, thermo-nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power with the resulting massive accumulations of radioactive waste. 

"War On The Earth!"  is also a history lesson on the scope and depth of the MIC’s social, economic, racial and cultural injustices thrust upon the South,  revealing the cumulative impact of the MIC's wasting of an entire region and the resulting social, economic, and cultural accommodations.  "War on The Earth!"  looks beneath the surface of  these societal manipulations of the Southeast region in the name of War, National Sacrifice, and Profiteering by the Global Economic War Machine and stimulates dialog and explores effective action opportunities.  Connect with us to schedule a stop on our Spring 2013 road trip.  

New South Network of War Resisters also collaborate on many fronts where local and regional action,  training and legal observing is called for.
Occupying Nuclear Regulatory Hearing in Gaffney, S.C.
  • Gaffney, S.C. - Exhibit and "Mike Check" Presentation at Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing concerning Duke Energy’s proposed W.S. Lee Nuclear Power Plants I & II. (Jan. 19)

  • Occupy Charlotte, N.C. called on New South Network to facilitate Nonviolent Action Trainings in January.
    Smith with Charlotte Occupiers

Citizen Journalist "Not Guilty!" Lisa, Ben & Sonny

  • Occupy Asheville. Throughout the year we donned the green hats of National Lawyer's Guild Legal Observers to provide ongoing support for various actions, including Occupy Asheville's numerous  court dates. Lisa Landis, a citizen journalist, selected for prosecution, appealed her sentence and prevailed in a jury trial.

Asheville Homeless Network called upon Legal Observers

Lisa Fithian shares a trainer's wisdom in Asheville part of 99% Spring Training

  • New South Network hosts  speakers and workshops in the vintage Battery Park Hotel rooftop room.

  • Western North Carolina War Tax Resisters gathered in April to picket at the post office and provide informational literature. Hanrahan spoke at a Tax Day gathering in Asheville's Pritchard Park.


  • We also joined in the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance's April march and rally to the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons plant.    
  • Stay tuned to Action South for more stories and photos of our local collaborations and travels in the region.  Comments welcome!

Photos & Report by Clare Hanrahan & Coleman Smith.
Thanks to our loyal supporters who help keep us fueled and equipped for the work.
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Occupy Asheville celebrates our Legal Defenders

Steve Norris & Ben Scales celebrate resistance
On the occasion of Occupy Asheville's Thank You celebration for Ben Scales, our tireless pro bono lawyer and rousing singer and songwriter.  Thanks to Rosetta's for the great meal and for once again opening the doors to Occupy Asheville. And to all the folks who helped bring this revival celebration together!

"If you've been to jail for justice, I want to shake your hand..."
      Martin Luther King, Jr. understood that “Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application.” 
     Dr. King was arrested and jailed on numerous occasions on a charge of “parading without a permit.”
      On its face an ordinance requiring a parade permit, or a curfew in a public park, even a" No Trespass" sign, may, at times,  be understandable and just, but as the civil rights warriors understood, such laws become unjust when used to curtail or deny 1st Amendment privileges of peaceful assembly and protest.
       “Political demonstrations on public streets and sidewalks are a cornerstone of American democracy,” the State ACLU asserted when challenging Asheville’s “exorbitant” and “unnecessary”  $1,500 demanded for “fees and services” in 2006 for an Immigrant Rights May Day march. ACLU lawyer Frank Goldsmith, stepped forward to challenge this and won.
      Over the years, the persistence and willingness to risk arrest of numerous individuals and groups, including Women in Black and Veterans for Peace have established and sustained a weekly presence in the center of Asheville, helping to keep Vance Monument as a “traditional forum” for free speech and assembly. 
Occupy's eldermen listen to speeches
Every street corner and public square of every U.S. City should be reclaimed and sustained for the people's expression of dissent—“the cornerstone of American Democracy.
     Asserting 1st Amendment rights has been a large part of the Asheville Occupy movement. And it hasn't been without cost.
       We learned early on in occupy, thanks to the advice of Attorney and Occupy volunteer Jenifer Foster, that language is everything when it comes to how we mobilize:  A moving picket, single file and mindful of traffic lights and not impeding pedestrian passage, was and is allowed.
      But stepping out into the street, inconveniencing the orderly movement of automobiles, in a spontaneous  expression of dissent, as Occupy Asheville did on Nov. 2, 2012, can set into motion some disturbing civil liberty violations.
     As the system gets more aggressive in the face of the people’s resistance. As government infiltration  is uncovered, as activists are targeted for reprisals. We need to be smart. We need to support each other. We also need the help of trained legal professionals to advise us and to stand with us when ever anyone of us has to face the system.
Bev & Grace hold the ground
     When we step out of the orderly lines and take to the streets to challenge injustice, the system fights back. A Legal support Team is critical to our movements for change.  And we have the beginnings of a comprehensive team here in Asheville. 
      When the arrests came down in Occupy Asheville, Ben Scales stepped up.
      In November 2, 2011, Occupy Asheville marched  to Vance Monument and stood vigil in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and the excessive force of police violence.
      That night, 24 occupiers stood their ground in a disciplined and moving challenge to the 10 p.m. Curfew.
      On November 11, 4 U.S. veterans also stood up for our 1st Amendment freedoms—freedoms they had sworn to protect.  They were arrested and led off in handcuffs.
     And for weeks after, the arrests continued:
Others, identified from police video, were singled out and  picked up on warrants with bogus charges of
     “Resisting public officers, impeding traffic, unlawful assembly.”
Susan, James, TJ and others at Rosettas
     Sometimes the charges we face bear no resemblance to the actions we have taken.  It is important to know our rights and weigh the risks.
     A National Lawyers' Guild trainer speaking at a Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining demonstration last year in West Virginia advised us:
     “This is your Know Your Rights Training: You have none.  End of Training.”
     To this he added:  “Don't snitch. Cops Lie. Shut Up. Get a lawyer.”
     When Occupy Asheville's arrests came down, aren't we glad Ben Scales stepped up!
     At many Occupy Asheville and other public demonstrations over the past year, National Lawyers' Guild Legal Observers have been present—trained by another lawyer who stepped forward:  WNC ACLU president Curry First.  Legal Observers are part of a comprehensive legal support network designed to enable people to express political views as fully as possible, without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the government and with the least possible consequences from the criminal justice system.
     And when, one after the other, Occupy Asheville participants had our day in court,  Legal Observers were there, and some of us were called to the stand as witnesses.
     Ben Scales, serving without pay as our attorney of record, helped defend us in court and advise those of us who opted to serve as our own attorney for our Pro Se defense.  Together we challenged the system. Together we learned a little bit more about the fundamental injustices that persist.
     On Valentines Day 2012 City Council voted 6-1, to extend the boundaries of Pack Square Park to cover the patch of land once filled with the tents of Occupy Asheville campers. Council designated that area and the one in front of Vance Monument "public forums" exempt from the park's 10 p.m. curfew. Under the new rules, protesters can now demonstrate 24/7 at both spots, but they can't camp.
Lindsey & Milton
     Every street corner and public square of every U.S. City should be reclaimed and sustained for the people's expression of dissent—“the cornerstone of American Democracy.”
     Another City Ordinance essentially further criminalized homelessness, banning camping and storage of personal property on city land.
      Our work is not over.  But tonight, we gather to say Thank you to Ben Scales for standing with us, and to all the others who came forward and took a stand.  We gather tonight to encourage one another and to say again that solidarity is critical in these movements for change. 
      As Tolstoy, that great Russian anarchist wrote:  “Standing up for your rights as a rational and free person, and defending them …without any concessions and compromises, is the only way in which moral and human dignity can be defended.”

“Only people who have something which they will on no account and under no circumstances yield can resist a government and curb it.  To have power to resist you must stand on firm ground.”

Our 1st Amendment Rights to free speech and to peacefully assemble and petition government for redress of grievance are our Constitutionally protected firm ground. We must not yield.

Get up. Stand Up. Stand up for your rights. And remember:  “Don't snitch. Cops Lie. Shut Up. Get a lawyer.”

Remarks at Occupy Asheville gathering and celebration of our pro bono legal counsel, Ben Scales.

January 20, 2013  By Clare Hanrahan, Occupy Asheville Nonviolent Direct Action Trainers Group