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Speech by Bob Burr to the Bellingham City Council
on May 18, 2009
Good Evening. I am here tonight to urge you to do two things: one, pass the gun store restrictions you are considering and, two, sponsor a town hall type meeting to discuss making Bellingham a Sanctuary City for Soldiers of Conscience. Your typical long-term AWOL soldier is either a Soldier of Conscience, a victim of the trauma of past deployments, or both.
Now, I understand that Sanctuary is a controversial issue—a political hot potato. One has only to read the Herald blogs to see that it is a vitriolic one as well. A Town Hall would allow those passionate on both sides of the issue to be heard.
When it comes to Soldiers of Conscience or simply messed-up soldiers, I have several wishes to share tonight.
I wish that the Sergeant who just killed 5 fellow Americans in Iraq due to the accumulated damage inflicted on him by three tours had gone AWOL instead.
I wish today’s military made multiple tours the exception rather than the rule. Except for the Navy, that was the case in Viet Nam.
I wish that each of the record and rising number of soldiers who have committed suicide in this war had gone AWOL instead. Many were Soldiers of Conscience—less afraid of dying than of killing or watching others get killed.
I wish that Bellingham’s own Corporal Santos and the 4974 other US soldiers who have died in vain in Iraq and Afghanistan had all gone AWOL instead.
I wish that all the Guardsmen who never dreamed they would be deployed to an illegal war on foreign soil had been told that this was a possibility.
I wish that recruiters would tell recruits that contained deeply in the contractual fine print is the right for the army to "stop loss" and keep you well beyond your contracted enlistment period.
I wish it were possible to be a Conscientious Objector to a particular war rather than to war in general.
I wish that conditions in the military were not so bad that there are so many AWOL soldiers that the MPs don't go after them.
I wish that Bellingham’s traffic cops would not enforce AWOL warrants when making routine traffic stops. It is a voluntary thing. No law requires them to.
Finally, I wish that each of you will become a Councilperson of Conscience and, at the least, co-sponsor a forum on Soldiers of Conscience.
City Settles with Peace Activist for Unlawful Arrest
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2009
Marie Marchand, Executive Director
Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
(360) 734-0217 (office)
A successful mediation between lifelong peace activist Ellen Murphy and The City of Bellingham was announced Friday, June 19, 2009, in what is being heralded as a model for positive conflict resolution between a citizen, law enforcement, and city government which places civil and constitutional rights in the forefront.
On October 20, 2006, Ellen and four other women arrived in the hallway outside of U.S. Congressman Larsen’s office to read the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. One week prior, Ellen had received a two month ban from Larsen’s Suite #206. Even though the two month ban was for Suite #206 only, Larsen’s staff called the police on October 20, 2006, and requested that she be arrested and banned from the entire Federal Building for life. The Bellingham Police arrested her. She was charged with trespassing for October 20th and banned from the building for life.
After a few months of not being able to enter the Federal Building, which also housed the Social Security office and the post office, a judge granted a request from Ellen’s attorney Joseph Pemberton to dismiss the charge. Shortly thereafter, the lifetime ban was lifted. Therefore, the court acknowledged the October 20th arrest as unjust. It was dismissed and never went to trial.
A civil claim for damages was lodged with the City of Bellingham. This is a prerequisite to a possible lawsuit. Ellen Murphy and The City of Bellingham desired mediation. Congressman Larsen chose not to participate in mediation or any effort toward remediation, and he never apologized to Ellen Murphy. Two years later, the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center was engaged to facilitate mediation of their dispute.
“It is the congressman’s loss because all parties had a transformative experience for the good of the community at large,” said Ellen.
“The terms of the four terms of agreement demonstrate the extent of the cooperation and spirit of mutual respect that was in the room throughout the entire mediation,” Ellen commented. “The representatives of the City of Bellingham, the mediator, my Counsel, and I embraced our discussions in a non-defensive, collaborative, and non-judgmental way.”
“The real victory,” Ellen shared, “is this spirit that we continue to embody as we begin to plan the citizen-law enforcement dialogue.”
The Terms of Agreement include: a) an improvement of trespass forms and procedures to help avoid further injury; b) joint coordination of a forum to discuss activism and law enforcement issues; c) support for Ellen to be able to return to Congressman Rick Larsen’s office to complete the reading of the names of the dead, which was interrupted by the arrest; d) a monetary amount of $10,500.
At the time of her arrests, Ellen was participating in an affinity group that was encouraging Congressman Larsen to sign The Declaration of Peace. All events were documented. You can read personal accounts written by participants of the campaign at www.freelarsen.org, where you can also see a photo album.
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Activist combat veterans to receive the 2009 Howard Harris Lifetime Peacemaker Award
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2009
Marie Marchand, Executive Director
Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
(360) 734-0217; WhatcomPJC@fidalgo.net
The Board of Directors of the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2009 Howard Harris Lifetime Peacemaker Award.
Bill Distler and James Gillies are combat veterans of the Vietnam War who have turned their experiences of war into service for peace and justice for over 30 years. Their front-line efforts in the anti-war movement take a special sort of courage. Their personal battles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have not stopped them from being leaders for social change. Rather, these struggles have strengthened their drive and resolve to make a positive difference in the world. Their peace activism and tireless work on behalf of other veterans is extraordinary.
During the 1980s, Bill and James advocated for victims of the Central American wars. James raised money for generators for Nicaraguan hospitals. Bill spent time in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua working on peaceful projects. The two veterans met in 1990 while being interviewed for a film about Vietnam.
James was active in the Veterans Speakers Alliance in San Francisco during the 1980s when many vets’ services had been shut down by the government. He helped build an active support network at the grassroots level, working to prevent veterans from falling through the cracks. Once in Bellingham, James devoted his time to working at the local Vets Center helping vets through the maze of paperwork to get deserved health care and financial assistance. Later, he was instrumental in the founding of the Bellingham Veterans for Peace Cpl. Jonathan Santos Memorial Chapter 111.
Bill also helped get VFP 111 established. He and James have helped every year with Arlington Northwest, the memorial for fallen GI's and Iraqi civilians on Memorial Day at Peace Arch Park. Bill is an avid reader and voracious researcher, and puts his information to good use in brilliant writing, submitting editorials and letters far and wide. His writing has appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Tikkun Magazine, and The Bellingham Herald. In the last congressional election, Bill ran as a write-in candidate against Rick Larsen, effectively bringing vital progressive issues to the forefront of community dialogue. He regularly attends the historic Friday Afternoon Peace Vigil.
Bill and James have spoken in dozens of college and high school classrooms and assemblies, making regular visits to Mark Galvin’s classroom at Squalicum High School.
The award ceremony will take place at the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center’s 6th Annual International Day of Peace on Monday, September 21st, at First Congregational Church, 2401 Cornwall Avenue, at 7:00 PM. It is an inspiring family event featuring Keynote Speaker Rev. John Dear, Musician Swil Kanim as Master of Ceremonies, The Kulshan Chorus, and a simultaneous Children’s Peace Art Program. It will be preceded by a half-mile peace march which gathers at Maritime Heritage Park at 6:15pm.
Honored guest John Dear, S.J., is an author and lifelong peacemaker recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by
BELLINGHAM VETERAN ARRESTED IN D.C. PROTEST
Local veterans stand in solidarity
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, December 16 2010
It was a snowy, cloudy day in Washington, DC on Thursday, but that didn't deter Bellingham Veterans For Peace Chapter #111 member Gene Marx from his mission: to get arrested at the White House, along with 130 other veterans and peace activists.
Among the hundreds of protesters at the event, which was organized by Veterans for Peace, were such figures as Daniel Ellsberg, the man responsible for leaking the Top Secret Pentagon Papers to the New York Times almost 40 years ago; Chris Hedges, former war correspondent and best-selling author; Ray McGovern, a former CIA intelligence specialist and founder of Intelligence Professionals For Sanity; Dr. Margaret Flowers, leader of Physicians For A National Health Program; and Mike Ferner, Veterans For Peace national president. Bellingham resident and lifelong Quaker Annelise Pysanky was also among those arrested.
The protesters, angry about the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, sent a letter to President Obama last month asking for a meeting to discuss their concerns, but were not given any hearing. So instead of a meeting inside the White House, they decided to hold a rally in Lafayette Park in downtown Washington, D.C., and then march to the White House in silence. They were met by police, barricades, and Secret Service, but many jumped over the barricades and chained themselves to the White House fence. Marx was among the first to climb the barricades: "We went in with the idea that we needed to be as close to Obama as possible," he said.
Marx, who served in the Vietnam War and later in the Federal Aviation Administration, and whose son Benjamin served as an Army officer in Iraq, said that the reason he decided to be arrested was his opposition to the killing of the children in Afghanistan. “I couldn't take it anymore,” he said. “I'll do it for my grandkids."
Marx's wife, Victoria, and several other local Veterans For Peace members stood in solidarity Thursday, holding banners for several hours on the I-5 overpass and in Bellingham’s Veterans' Memorial Park. Marx, according to Whatcom Peace and Justice Center director Marie Marchand, "has been an outstanding witness for peace and resistance in our community." Marchand went on to say, "Yes we can and yes we will continue to resist these unjust wars with the help of leaders like Gene Marx."
Marx was released late Thursday night, after spending most of the day locked in a cell with both Daniel Ellsberg and Chris Hedges. "It was fun being in there with those great guys" he said. As to the legal repercussions of the action, Marx expects to be fined a small amount, about $100, and cited for disobeying a police order. Overall, he feels that the experience was "a win, because it is breeding a movement."
Marx hopes that he can be back in Bellingham by Saturday to continue working with the local chapter of VFP. "It is about ending war once and for all, and we are creating a movement to do that. " he said.