Sunday, November 28, 2010


We don't hear this every day from the media
Defense Spending Will Ruin Us!

Move Bush's Book Where It Belongs!

Waging Nonviolence has called on people around the world to move George W. Bush's book "where it really belongs" - the Crime section (or the Fantasy, Horror, or Science Fiction sections).

Inspired by a movement in Britain to move Tony Blair's memoir, the group started a Facebook page where people can upload photos of the relocated book.

Here are some of my favorites:

from Zara Maria Zimbardo

from Erik William Shelley

from Erik William Shelley

from Erik Haywood via Twitter

from Melissa Hill

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Most Afghans haven't heard of 9/11 attacks!

KABUL — Most people in two key Afghan provinces that are witnessing the fiercest fighting between foreign forces and the Taliban have not heard of the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to a new survey.

Research conducted in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar last month suggested 92 percent of the 1,000 respondents were unaware of the attacks on Washington and New York that prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The findings, published late Friday by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) think tank, come as NATO leaders met in Lisbon to determine the transition of responsibility for security to Afghan forces.

But ICOS suggested that even after nine years of conflict, with military and civilian casualties at their highest, NATO still needs to do more to convince ordinary Afghans that their presence in the country is beneficial.

"We need to explain to the Afghan people why we are here and both show and convince them that their future is better with us than with the Taliban," ICOS president Norine MacDonald said in a statement.

A total of 42 percent of a further 500 men questioned in northern Parwan and Panjshir provinces were unable to name positive aspects of democracy.

The survey suggested that 40 percent of respondents in the south believe foreign troops are intent on destroying Islam or want to occupy or destroy the country.

A majority (61 percent) in Helmand and Kandahar were also pessimistic about the ability of the Afghan police and military to provide security after the transition.

And 81 percent said they believed Al-Qaeda -- which claimed responsibility for 9/11 from Afghanistan under Taliban protection -- would return if the militants regained power and would use Afghanistan to attack the West.

MacDonald said grassroots support was "critical" to the handover of powers.

"The international community must build an effective strategic collaboration with the local population that supports the military operation if we are to achieve a successful transition," she added.

"This would not only reformulate the security landscape but respects the sacrifices that Afghan people are making in the war."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The War Economy is Not Working for Me, and It's Probably Not Working for You

Courtesy of VP Nicole's blog, Musings on Activism

TAX SUPPORTED MILITARY SPENDING ($9-10 trillion in 2010)

•The United States spends more than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined.
•The United States accounts for 46.5 percent of the world’s total military spending.
•The United States spends on its military 7 times more than China, 13.3 times more than Russia, and 73 times more than Iran.
•The United States and its strongest allies (NATO, Japan, South Korea and Australia) spend close to $1.1 trillion on their militaries combined, representing 72 percent of the world’s total.
•The potential “enemies,” Iran, Russia, and China together account for about $169 billion or 24% of the US military budget.

A war economy is one built on the premise of perpetual war, making things that wear out and blow up, providing short-term employment – as opposed to a peace-time economy that devotes it resources to making things that people can actually use to better their lives, thereby perpetuating employment and prosperity rather than destruction.

Will fighting terrorists “over there” by invasion and occupation and the inevitable “collateral damage” succeed?
General McChrystal called it “insurgent math, for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.”

Non-military spending produces far more bang for the buck:
•Each billion dollars of tax revenue allocated to tax cuts for personal consumption generates approximately 10,800 jobs.
•Investing the same amount in the military creates 8,500 jobs.
•Investing it in health care yields 12,900 jobs; in education, 17,700 jobs; in mass transit, 19,800 jobs; and in construction for home weatherization and infrastructure, 12,800 jobs.

People dropping the banner at the 2010 Veterans For Peace Convention in Portland Maine

Monday, November 15, 2010

This week with

This week we are drawing attention to the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign, as well as VFP's How Is The War Economy Working For You? campaign.

We will be tabling and offering people the chance to sign postcards to President Obama telling him that the war economy is NOT working for them, as well as creating a photo project started by Vice President, Nicole Moreau.

On Thursday, is inviting Will Hopkins, executive director of New Hampshire Peace Action, and Lisa Savage, Maine's CODE PINK co-ordinator, to the UMF campus to speak on these campaigns and tell their stories.

Peace Activist Speakers On Campus!!
Will Hopkins and Lisa Savage
of NH Peace Action and CODEPINK Maine

7 p.m.
CR-123 in the Olsen Student Center

Here's Will at the VFP 25th Annual Convention in Portland, ME in August 2010:

Here's Lisa speaking at the rally on the final day of the same convention:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jade's Armistice Day Editorial

Turns out that Maine VFP were allowed to participate in the Veterans Day Parade in Portland, so long as they had no signs other than their identifying flag.

Happy Veterans Day. Now Go Wage Peace, Not War.
Jade Forester

As Veterans Day approaches, I am feeling increasingly reflective – or perhaps argumentative is more accurate – about issues that are close to my heart year-round, and acutely aware of the wave of patriotic remembrance that sweeps this country around November 11.
The history of Veterans Day stretches back to the end of World War I, known at the time as “The Great War.” Though the war officially ended on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the bloody, drawn-out military engagements that constituted the war actually ceased seven months before the signing, when an armistice went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. This date became known as Armistice Day, and was remembered as the “end of the war to end all wars.”
In 1938 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law an act marking November 11 of each year as Armistice Day, a legal holiday dedicated “to the cause of world peace” according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
A day dedicated to the cause of world peace? I haven’t seen much of that in Novembers past. The most ironic part of this little history lesson, in my opinion at least, is in the change of name for the holiday: in the United States, November 11 was renamed Veterans Day on June 1, 1954, after the Korean War ended.
1954: that’s after World War II, which required “the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history.” That’s after the Korean War, where US deployment exceeded 300,000 and at least 36,600 members of the US military were killed in action. That’s after 44 incidents of US military operations in countries around the world, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Palestine and Panama. That’s a mere 15 months before Vietnam War began.
That’s a lot of military action in the 35 years following “the war to end all wars.”
Now here we are, nine years into the War in Afghanistan, seven years into the War in Iraq, and apparently we haven’t learned much at all from history.
Starting on November 3, Veterans for Peace held a peace walk through the state called the Maine Walk for Peace, Human Needs and Veterans Care. The walk, designed to raise awareness of the growing strain on the US as a result of these wars, ended on Veterans Day in Portland, and passed through 43 towns en route.
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have cost the people of these 43 Maine towns approximately $640 million over the past nine years. The peace walk hopes to encourage Maine citizens to imagine how those funds could have been used across our state for education, health care, job creation, fixing roads and bridges, and more.
Since 2001, the citizens of Maine have paid more than $2.94 billion for war: where would YOU have wanted to see that money go?
I don’t know about you guys, but I can think of a dozen things that money could have gone to – and I’m pretty sure I’m not smarter than Congress – as well as a dozen reasons why such an inconceivable amount of money should NOT have gone to the Department of Defense, which isn’t as defense-oriented as its name would suggest.
So why the addiction to spending our money on the military? The US spends more on its military – $663.8 billion for the 2010 fiscal year – than any other country in the world. The US spends 46.5% of the world’s military spending; China comes in second, with 6.6%
The important thing to remember is this: No matter which political party controls Congress, the war spending rages on. If you want that to change, get out there and make your voice heard. Tell people to bring our war dollars home. Honor Veterans Day the way it was intended, by dedicating yourself to the cause of world peace and voting for those who want to keep our tax dollars here, on US domestic issues, where they belong.

Walk for Peace: Happy Armistice Day


WWI Battle of Verdun

Remains from the WWI Battle of Verdun

November 11 is a cause for mixed emotions among those former members of the military who wish to permanently halt the horror of war. 

A holiday in our name is indeed an honor, as was our service itself, but “Armistice” somehow still sounds more suitable.  That word refers to the end of a conflict, the end of the killing, the maiming, the destruction, the inhumanity, the erosion of civilized personal behaviors that have taken centuries to mold.  While “Armistice” does not connote lasting peace, at least it does connote a chance for societies to grasp hold of themselves and, if able, to pull back from the abyss.

Veterans For Peace, while grateful for the parades recognizing our duty and the ultimate sacrifice of our fallen comrades, would prefer a time of reexamination of the jaded justifications and obscene outcomes of the military causes we served.  All too frequently those justifications have been morally insufficient to vindicate the malevolent international conflicts to which they gave such ignoble birth.

For these reasons Veterans For Peace gratefully acknowledges the heartfelt recognition which our nation solemnly offers us today.  But we fervently urge that tomorrow our great nation devote its equally heartfelt and solemn attention and talents to the cessation of existing wars and to the prevention of similar calamities in the decades to come.

Kurt Vonnegut, the internationally acclaimed author from our country and a POW in Dresden during the Allied firebombing of that city in WWII, gives us something to think about on this day of remembrance. 

"…November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy all the people of all the nations which fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I've talked to old men who were on the battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veteran's Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veteran's Day is not…Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things."

Walk for Peace: Day Eight

Freeport to Portland: the final leg of the journey.
Tomorrow, the Veterans Day Parade in Portland. Should be interesting... Maine VFP have been told by the american Legion organizers of the Portland Veterans Day Parade that they cannot take part in the parade (sent by Jacqui Deveneau of Peace Action Maine)

Veterans for Peace Observes Armistice Day
    Maine Veterans for Peace will be present at the Veterans Day, more historically correct, Armistice Day, parade in Portland, on Thursday.
    The veterans will be there,not to participate in the parade, but to solemnly observe the anniversary as a time to end the inhumanity of war.  For the past several years VFP members and supporters have participated in the November 11th event with mixed emotions as solemnity and an occasion of sacred remembrance too often has given way to celebration of militarism.
    In 2009, members of the Maine Chapter unfurled an "Out of Afghanistan" at the conclusion of the parade at City Hall.  This call for cessation of hostilities provoked the American Legion organizers who have refused to permit the chapter to participate in this year's parade Veterans for Peace are inviting friends and supporters to join them as they will respectfully call for the end of our present occupations and wars.  
    Coinciding with the Armistice Day event, the group will be welcoming the Maine Walk for Peace, organized by VFP and led by Buddhist monks and nuns from the Nipponzan Myohoji order, as they complete their 150 mile journey through central and coastal Maine.
    That event has been dedicated to engaging the public on the need to end war in Afghanistan, to addressing human needs, and to the care of returning veterans.  Walkers began their journey in Farmington on November 2nd and passed through Skowhegan and Waterville on their way to Bangor and then down the coast to arrive in Portland on the eve of Armistice Day.
    Veterans, the walkers, and their supporters will gather at City Hall at 10:00am.  They will not be participating in the parade, but will be distributing information relating to the cost of war and the impact here at home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Walk for Peace: Day Seven

This morning the walkers began their day with a vigil outside Bath Iron Works before walking to Freeport. I've had family who have worked at BIW for years; I wonder what their take on the vigil was.

March message focuses on the cost of warPeace Activists march along the Sagadahoc Bridge into Bath on Monday.
(Troy R. Bennett / The Times Record)
By Seth Koenig

BATH — For the city of Bath, the total is $20.8 million.
    Maine Veterans for Peace marchers in the midst of a 10-day trek from Farmington to Portland are carrying with them a list of dollar amounts. The numbers represent each town or city’s share of the country’s cost, so far, to fight the ongoing war in Afghanistan since 2001. The cost for the state of Maine over that time is $2.9 billion.
    Bruce Gagnon, a longtime peace advocate who helped lead the walkers into his hometown of Bath on Monday afternoon, has been among those trying to draw attention to those figures through various events and activities for months. The number of marchers trekking from Farmington to Portland has fluctuated along the way, Gagnon said, but Monday’s contingent was around 40 people.
    “We’re talking about the cost of war and going through 43 Maine communities,” he told a reporter from The Times Record as the group paused along the way in Woolwich. “We’re trying to get people to connect the dots between these wars and the economic problems this country is facing.

    “We’re spending $8 billion a month in Afghanistan today,” he continued. “How can there be any economic recovery if we’re spending that much a month on a war? We’re trying to ask people how their communities might have been able to better spend that money locally.”
    Monday’s portion of the trek brought the peace activists down Route 1 from Rockland to Bath, where they held a vigil outside Bath Iron Works as first shift workers poured out of the yard to go home.
    The wet weather wasn’t as bad as it could have been in the aftermath of Sunday night’s storm. Neither was the response from BIW shipbuilders.
    “I got as many good, positive waves in the last five minutes as I got fingers,” reported Gagnon from Washington Street as shipyard traffic rolled by.
    There were some cat calls and disapproving gestures from some of the passing vehicles, but there were also some honks of approval and waves. The shipbuilders’ response was OK, Gagnon told a reporter on the scene, as was the weather Monday. The aftermath of Sunday night’s storm dampened the marchers to start the day, but by the afternoon, the sun was peaking out.
    “We had some rain this morning,” Gagnon said. “We had some concerns because it was so windy overnight in Rockland, but the wind let up and it was just rain today. We’ve faced worse, actually. We’ve walked in gales before.”
Simple message    The message of the walk is simple: That the United States is spending money on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of its own domestic economy.
    Many marchers held signs calling for defense contractors like BIW to be converted to produce components of public transit or renewable energy systems.
    “We need to convert to truly clean and green technology and stop warring around the world,” said marcher Betty Adams of Leverett, Mass., who called the Pentagon and its network of contractors the “largest polluter in the world.”
    “We would like to see those dollars (currently being spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) spent back in our home communities,” she continued. “We need money for housing, health care, schools and public transportation, not killing people, which is against every religion.”
    Along the route from Farmington to Portland, Veterans for Peace has events scheduled to discuss the costs of the war and domestic needs. Monday night, a pot luck dinner and talk was scheduled in Bath at the Grace Episcopal Church. A similar event is on the agenda for tonight at 6 p.m. at the First Parish Congregational Church in Freeport, as the marchers finish a Day 8 walk that will lead them down Route 1 through West Bath and Brunswick.
    On Wednesday, the dinner program will make an evening stop at the Sacred Heart/St. Dominic Church hall in Portland, and on Thursday, the walkers plan to march in the city’s Veterans Day parade. After the parade, the Veterans for Peace group will gather at the Space Gallery in Portland for a lunch and draw-a-thon.
    Gagnon said that, in addition to the financial information, the marchers are trying to create awareness of the emotional burden the ongoing wars are placing on young soldiers today. He said many are battling post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after tours abroad, and added that in 2009, more soldiers died of suicide than were killed in Afghanistan.
    Gagnon said by sending military personnel back to the combat zones for several tours of duty, “people’s psyches are being stretched like a rubber band.”
    “Families are being destroyed,” he said. “Communities are being destroyed."

Walk for Peace: Day Six

From Bruce Gagnon's blog "Organizing Notes":

    We arrived in Bath at 3:30 pm today just as the workers at Bath Iron Works were leaving work. We vigiled for a half-hour and people were surprised afterwards that it was not as negative a response from the workers as they had expected. Our signs were very positive making the call for conversion of the Navy shipyard that now builds Aegis destroyers which are outfitted with "missile offense" systems. It is clear that many people who work there would like to build wind turbines, rail systems or civilian ships.
    We moved on to a local Episcopal church where I am now writing this post. We'll have a pot luck supper tonight.
    When we left Rockland this morning it was raining after a huge storm passed through Maine during the night. By noon the storm had quieted and we finally saw the sun appear after several days of clouds and rain. We had a great lunch break at the home of Steve Burke who is a leader of the peace group in the Rockland area. His old house is right on Highway 1 in Warren so we were able to walk right up to his door.
    Just beyond Rockland we walked through Thomaston where a local Episcopal church opened their doors to us for a break. They clanged the bells as we arrived at the church and served us coffee, tea, and snacks. They were so kind and had planned to come out and greet us as we walked past their church but our support people had stumbled onto the church by accident and knocked on their door to see if we could take a break there. So a nice coincidence for us.
    We go back to Bath Iron Works at 8:00 am for a half-hour vigil before walking to Freeport. I notice that there is a 30% chance of rain tomorrow so maybe we will get lucky and avoid more water.

ROCKLAND — As rain fell on Rockland, Monday morning Nov. 8, a group of slicker-clad men and women stepped outside of the First Universalist Church in Rockland and, to the thrumming cadence of Buddhist drums, stepped along the Broadway sidewalk to continue a journey that began Nov. 2 in Farmington and will end in Portland on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
    Bob Dale of Brunswick served in the military during World War II. He and his wife split the more than 150-mile route planned for Veterans for Peace members and supporters. "I think we have to wake people up to the situation," Dale said at the start of the walk's seventh day.
    "Everyone's complaining about not enough money for schools and other necessities, and here we are spending billions on the military every month," he said.
    According to the website at, the war in Afghanistan has cost more than $360 billion since it began. That translates to more than $9,000 per household. The combined cost of both the Afghan and Iraq wars totals more than $1.1 trillion to date.
Peace walkers have varied reasons
    South Thomaston artist Lyn Snow was walking on behalf of her husband, a World War II pilot. She said she wanted to promote the idea of people putting energy into peaceful activities such as farming and teaching.
    Alex Valente of Windham is a freshman at the University of Maine at Farmington, where she studies cultural economics, a discipline that uses knowledge of people's cultures to develop working economic systems. More than 20 other UMF students participated in the walk's first day and many have continued to check in for parts of the event.
    "If I can walk, and it's the only thing I can do to promote peace, I'll walk," Valente said as she prepared to join about 16 others on the rainy Warren-to-Brunswick leg of the journey. Vietnam veteran and Peace Walk organizer Bruce Gagnon said Valente had been doing homework as she walked.
    The night before leaving from Rockland, about 20 walkers were hosted in 12 local homes.
    "You come prepared to sleep on a floor with a sleeping bag and a pillow, but that's not all you get," Valente said. "There's a bond with the families. We exchange e-mail addresses."
    "This experience teaches you so much about humanity," she said. "People want to do their part. They're loving and giving. It's an incredible experience."

For the full article, click here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Walk for Peace: Day Five

Today the walkers made their way from Belfast to Rockland, walking a total of 14.7 miles. Here's an update from VFP Maine's Bruce Gagnon, taken from his blog "Organizing Notes":

    The peace walk has arrived in Rockland with about 20 local people joining us the last two miles as we came into town. Earlier in the day a dozen folks from Belfast walked 12 miles with us as far as LincolnvilleBeach. The support we are getting along the way has been wonderful.
     Early this morning Maine Veterans for Peace member Bob Lezer, who was on the walk for the first several days, went to Portland to be on one of the network TV shows for a five-minute live interview about the walk. During one of our breaks this morning a person who worked at a diner we stopped at said she saw Bob on the tube. So the word continues to spread across the state about our effort.
     In the morning we head toward Bath and plan a vigil at Bath Iron Works at 3:30 pm as the workers leave the shipyard. The weather forecasts cold and rain all day so it will be a tough one.
     We've had acupuncturists and/or massage therapists at every evening stop along the way so far. Their help has been an enormous contribution helping us do as well as we have so far.

An aside: Here's some coverage from WCSH 6 featuring an interview with VFP Maine's Bob Lezer: 

Walk for Peace: Day Four

Seventeen miles.
    That's how far we walked today. The funny thing was, I was in much less pain after those 17 miles than I was after the seven miles I walked on Wednesday.
    It was an amazing experience to walk alongside everyone from Bangor to Belfast. Last night's pot luck supper at the Bangor Peace & Justice Center was great - good food, good music from Voices for Peace, and wonderful contributions from the community.
    One gentleman held up a bumper sticker that I had seen in the Hannaford parking lot the day before, which read:
    I loved that. That is why I'm walking. That is why I keep going. That is everything I want for the men and women who have served and are still serving.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Walk for Peace: Day Three

Today the walkers are making their way to Bangor, where I will join them along with Nicole,'s vice president.
    Tonight is going to be special to me because I'll be bringing with me a veteran who is very close to my heart, and who, until pretty recently, did not participate in any veterans' events. His experiences upon coming home from Vietnam was the unpleasant stereotype we see in the movies, and he was treated horribly. Over the last few years, however, he's started talking about his experiences more and wanting to take part in something where he could feel that sense of community with his fellow veterans.
    He'll be coming to the pot luck supper tonight with me, and is considering walking for part of the day tomorrow - I'm really excited to be a part of this process. This is what it's all about, for me. Community. Love. Peace.

UPDATE: I was unfortunately not joined by the gentleman I spoke of in this post. However, I still had a wonderful time at the potluck.

Here's a link to VFP Maine's Bruce Gagnon's blog "Organizing Notes," which features a news clip of the walkers' arrival in Bangor:

    Here's some more coverage of the walk, this time from Bangor Daily News (watch for Alex's quote!!):

Buddhist monks from the Nipponzan Myohoji order lead a group of veterans from the Paul Bunyan park on Main Street in Bangor to the Peace and Justice Center on Park street on Friday. The Veterans for Peace group's walk was intended to draw attention to soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The statewide peace walk began in Farmington on Wednesday and ends in Portland Nov. 11
By Macey Hall
Special to the Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Veterans for Peace Walk came through Bangor on Friday as part of a 10-day trek across the state to raise awareness about the costs of war.
    A Buddhist monk, the Rev. Gyoway Kato of the Nipponzan Myohoji order, is leading the walk along with Maine Veterans for Peace. The walk began Tuesday in Farmington and will end Nov. 11 in Portland, where participants hope to take part in the Veterans Day parade. So far they have walked 40 miles.
     The group’s stop in Paul Bunyan Park was its third of the 10-stop peace walk. As the walkers gathered in the park gazebo, many held signs with messages such as “Make jobs, not war” and “Bring our war dollars home.” From the park, they walked to the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine on Park Street and gave a presentation at St. John’s Episcopal Church on French Street.
     “War is linked to our failing economy,” said Dud Hendrick, president of Maine Veterans for Peace Chapter 001. “Money is needed so desperately, and it’s being spent on faraway places and not at home.”
     According to the Maine Veterans for Peace website, the walk was organized to promote social progress, raise awareness about the impact the war in Afghanistan is having on the environment, and its cost to returning veterans, whose rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder are high. The group maintains that the war is costly, at more than $8 billion a month, and needs to end.
     Participants walk an average of 16 miles a day, but because of the great distances between towns and cities they are visiting, they take shuttles to make up the difference. About 20 people made the trip Friday from Waterville to Bangor, but ended up walking only eight miles because of the rain.
     There is a core group of 20 who plan to walk every day, but the public is invited to join the walk at any time, Hendrick said.
     “So far, people have been very supportive. There’s been lots of honking of horns in support, and thumbs up,” he said.
    Each evening the participants stay with a host in the towns they walk through and hold a public discussion.
    “They’re very helpful to connect with people and put the conversation out,” Tim Bullock of New England Peace Pagoda, a spiritual group, said of the nightly presentations. “We discuss spending tax dollars, what the war is doing to us and taking from us. As we spend more and more on war, we’re unable to keep police departments fully staffed, teachers employed and schools open.”
     Bullock said he got involved in this week’s event in Maine through Peace Pagoda, which held a walk last year to the United Nations in New York City. Members of Maine Veterans for Peace took part in that walk, so to repay the favor, Peace Pagoda members participated in the walk through Maine, Bullock said.
     “I’m very honored to walk with Veterans for Peace,” the Rev. Gyoway Kato said.
     The group will continue its walk in Belfast today. From there, participants will head to Rockland on Sunday, Bath on Monday, Freeport on Tuesday and Portland on Wednesday to take part in the parade on Thursday. By Thursday, the group expects to have walked a total of 126.8 miles.
     Last year in the Portland Veterans Day parade, the Maine Veterans for Peace held a sign that stated, “Stop war in Afghanistan.” That resulted in their not being invited to participate this year, according to Alex Valente, a University of Maine at Farmington student and walk participant.
     “We’re not doing this as a way of protest or disrespect,” she said. “We’re just doing it because they’re veterans and they should be able to march in the parade, too.”

Walk for Peace: Day Two

Doug Rawlings, founding member of Veterans for Peace and leader of the first leg of the Maine Walk for Peace, sent me an e-mail letting me know that the Skowhegan pot luck supper went wonderfully, with approximately 30 walkers 'going the distance' - which, considering we started with 45, is pretty cool. He also told me he experienced acupuncture for the first time: "First time I've had needles stuck in my ears.  It worked!"
    Speakers from the community included a doctor, two teachers,and a social worker, who spoke of the impact on their community caused by the lack of decent funding and the wars themselves.

Day Two saw the walkers make their way from Skowhegan to Waterville, and I've heard that Alex is still going strong - keep it up, girl!
    Here's a video of the walk today:

Here's a nice write-up of the first day of the walk from the Daily Bulldog, Franklin county's online news source:

I'll keep you all updated as the walk progresses. Peace!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Walk for Peace: Day One

I joined the walkers for the first 7 miles or so before making my way back to the UMF campus for a meeting - what a moving experience. And so simple! Just . . . walking, with my fellow peacemakers by my side, in front of me and behind, making our way across Maine with our boots, our backpacks, and our message.

Last night's pot luck supper was a great success; we easily had over 100 attendees, and a wonderful group of volunteers from and UMF! I showed up at Old South church at around 1 p.m. to start making my pasta salad - and at 8:30 p.m. I walked through my front door, dropped my bags by the door and lay down in the middle of my living room floor, completely spent.

Here's a video from Dan Ellis from the pot luck event:

After an early start this morning, I made my way to campus ready for the 8:30 a.m. gathering of walkers in the Computer Center parking lot. Students, faculty, community members, and the monks and nuns of the Nipponzan Myohoji order all stood in a circle, holding hands as they prepared to begin the 14.4 mile journey to Skowhegan (with shuttling ahead, of course!)
    I was sad to stop walking - even though my hips were aching and my feet were sore (from being on them all afternoon yesterday more than from the walk), I found myself feeling jealous of those who were continuing on as we drove away back toward Farmington.

Keep walking the walk, guys! I'll see you all tomorrow as you make your way from Skowhegan to Waterville!

Footage from this morning:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Maine Walk for Peace begins tomorrow!!

Peace Walk begins in Farmington Tuesday

FARMINGTON — Maine Veterans for Peace will begin a 10-day peace walk in Farmington with a celebratory potluck meal and program at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Old South First Congregational Church. The public is welcome.
   The Maine Walk for Peace, Human Needs and Veterans Care, starts Wednesday morning when a core group will head for Skowhegan then on to Waterville, Bangor, Belfast, Rockland, Bath, Freeport and Portland to join the Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11.
   Because of the distances between, there will be a shuttle for part of each day, but an average of 18 miles or less will be walked each day, said Bruce Gagnon of Bath, a member of Maine Veterans for Peace.
   People are welcome to join the walk for an hour, a day or the whole trip, he said. A core group of about 20 people intend to make the whole trek. Local groups in each town will host an evening potluck meal and program and provide housing and breakfast for those on the trek.
   Tuesday's first meal in Farmington is a celebratory kickoff with a student peace group from the University of Maine at Farmington helping, he said. UMF President Theodora Kalikow will provide a welcome and Douglas Rawlings from UMF and a founding member of Maine Veterans for Peace, will say a few words. The Nipponzan Myohoji order of Buddhist monks and nuns with the Rev. Gyoway Kato will lead the 128-mile walk, Rawlings said.
   The Buddhist monk order has participated in several walks and conferences around Maine, Gagnon said.
   When the group reaches Skowhegan on Wednesday night, doctors, social workers and teachers will provide a presentation on what they are seeing in life, a decline of social progress, he said.
   Each night's presentation will be different and is intended to start a conversation with community members on their reason for the walk.
   Concerns about war, the cost of the war in Afghanistan and the cost to returning veterans whose rates of suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders are high, were noted as motivators for the walk.
   “Few people know that the cost of the war is more than $8 billion a month ...  with the country spending that much money, there's no money available for much else,” Gagnon said. "We want to shine a light on these deep concerns and create a discussion as we go through."
   Several towns on the route are college towns as the group wants to get students and young people involved. They want to start them talking about the future and the demise of social progress in America.
   A new peace group started on the UMF campus this semester, Peace Activists in Training, or PAINT, is helping with the meal Tuesday, Rawlings said. He is an adviser for the group.
   That the start of the peace walk falls on election night is partially intentional. No matter which party controls Congress, the war goes on, Gagnon said. With massive bases being built there, there's no intent to come home. The group hopes to garner more legislative attention and action.
   Veterans for Peace is a national organization that started in Maine 25 years ago, Gagnon said. There are now 100 chapters comprised of veterans from all wars. This past summer the state group hosted the 25th national convention.
   Veterans for Peace is committed to working on the cost of war and bringing attention to post traumatic stress disorder by offering conferences and education for not only soldiers but also their families, he said.
   Notes and videotapes taken along the peace walk will be posted on its website.
   The public is welcome to walk or attend the evening potlucks and programs. Information on the schedule is posted at

Skowhegan overcomes hurdles for Peace Walk

Bridge vigil goes on as scheduled

SKOWHEGAN -- Nobama. No peace. No permit. No problem.

Mark Roman speaks out against funding the wars the United States government is involved in while he and others, including Lisa Savage, left, Lynne Harwood and Abby Shahn, carried signs on the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge in Skowhegan on Sunday. The group has protested for years.
   A silent vigil to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan went on Sunday on the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge, just as vigils have since 2002.
   A loose assembly of anti-war protesters, some affiliated with Waterville Area Bridges for Peace and Justice, others with Code Pink, others with no affiliation at all, displayed placards to bring war funding home Sunday.
   They met without a permit, despite the possibility raised last week by the town manager of Skowhegan who said they might need one, or face possible police action. It was to be a small, quiet assembly to draw attention to the war, but also to highlight the rights of free speech and free assembly, organizer Mark Roman, of Solon, said.
   "I hope it won't be a problem," Roman said from the bridge Sunday. "It hasn't been for the past eight years."
   Roman met with the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen and Town Manager John Doucette Jr. last week to secure a permit for another event, a peace march on Nov. 4, when the matter of Sunday vigil permits was raised.
   Roman obtained the parade permit for the march, but balked when he was told he might need one for the bridge vigils.
   Doucette said he would contact the town attorney for a reading of Skowhegan's ordinance for groups assembling. He said the town was not trying to limit free speech, but simply to legitimize it for public safety.
   Roman disagreed, saying it was a constitutional right to peacefully assemble.
   "This bridge is named after Margaret Chase Smith, who stood up to Joe McCarthy when he was saying things that were just ridiculous and said let's just speak common sense," Roman said. "All we are doing is being a voice for what we represent, for peace. There's so many reasons we need peace.
   "Free speech does have something to do with this, and free assembly. It's not trying to be in anyone's face. We seem to get a lot of support, though, from people driving by so far."
   In the end Sunday, there were no police and no violations.
   Doucette said Kenneth Lexier, the town's attorney, examined the ordinance and said the assembly did not need a permit, after all.
   "The lawyer agrees, the ordinance doesn't apply," Doucette said. "They don't need a permit. He said they don't need it, based on what he's reading in the ordinance. It's over with as far as we're concerned. The ordinance does not stop them from gathering; we don't have anything for gathering in there. It's marching and parades, which are moving and hindering traffic."
   Roman said he and others are still out on the bridge every Sunday, even with a liberal Democrat in the White House, because nothing really has changed with President Barack Obama.
   "The policy on the war has not changed one iota -- in fact, he's escalated the war, especially in Afghanistan," Roman said. "There are way more drone strikes, the killing of civilians; it hasn't changed. This is a nonpartisan issue -- this is war."
   On the matter of free speech, one vigil participant said constitutional rights already have been eroded in America.
   "Mark is kind of naive -- nothing's free, even free speech," said James Fangbone, who carried a sign condemning the use of depleted uranium in the wars.
   "You've got to pay for speech; why do you think they open up all this cash so people could run these political ads -- ads are speech and obviously it's not free."
Doug Harlow -- 474-9534
Staff photo by David Leaming

Skowhegan faces hurdles for Peace Walk

Skowhegan peace vigil will happen, without permit

Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN -- A peace vigil Sunday on the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge will go on, just as silent vigils have in Skowhegan since 2002.
   This Sunday, however, it might be a little different.
   Selectmen Tuesday night were about to grant a permit to a member of Waterville Area Bridges for Peace and Justice to hold the vigils, when the member stood and abruptly withdrew the request.
   The member, Mark Roman, of Solon, told selectmen that the group and it's sister organization, Code Pink, should not need a permit to quietly meet, display anti-war placards and talk about peace.
   Roman said it was a matter of free speech and free assembly.
   Selectmen Tuesday night granted another permit for a Veterans for Peace march through town on Nov. 4, which Roman also is a part.
   This Sunday, Roman said, the groups will assemble on the bridge, even without a permit.
   "I would rather leave it be and see what happens," Roman said. "I have no intention of pushing any big deal because it hasn't been a big deal for the last eight years. I don't want to antagonize; that's not what we're there for."
   Roman said he has received support from people who normally do not attend the silent vigils. He said more people than the usual 6-8 participants have expressed interest in showing up Sunday to reinforce his call for free speech.
   For Skowhegan Town Manager John Doucette Jr., the matter is not about free speech or free assembly. "It was going to get approved. It's not a violation of the right to assemble, it's giving them the right to assemble," he said.
   Now, without a permit for the Sunday peace vigil, the town is in an awkward position, he said.
   "Nothing is going to happen on Sunday; we're not going out there on Sunday because the bridge issue is being looked at by the town attorney," Doucette said Thursday. "He's got the ordinance; he's looking at the ordinance to ensure that we are within our rights.
   "We are not trying to stop free speech at all. This ordinance was voted on by the people to protect the people who are doing the silent vigil, and it's also to protect all the other residents and taxpayers in the town that want to cross there."
   Doucette said there is a rule on the books and it must be followed if for no other reason that the liability to the town if there was a problem of any kind on the bridge.
   Doucette said the groups meeting on the bridge should have had an annual assembly permit all along, he just didn't know who was holding the vigils. He said once the application for the Veterans for Peace march was submitted, he finally knew who to contact -- Mark Roman.
   "Hospice has to come and get (a permit) for their Christmas lighting, no problem; we required Brian Hale to come in and get one for his hay ride; we required Bart Hughes to get one when he did his walk for cancer," Doucette said. "Because it wasn't done in the past, doesn't make it right now."
   He said if the town attorney, Kenneth Lexier, determines that the vigils for peace need a permit, then the matter will be turned over to Skowhegan Police Chief Michael Emmons. From there, the district attorney will be advised of the situation and asked to support any action taken by police.
   "It states in there that there's a fine," Doucette said. "It's a $200 fine per person per day. This could have been avoided."

Doug Harlow -- 474-9534
Tax Day 2010 on the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge, Skowhegan