Friday, August 28, 2015

Let It Shine: Stop U.S. Militarised Violence; Peace and Civil Disobedience in Wisconsin/Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field

Published on Portside (

Let It Shine: Stop U.S. Militarised Violence; Peace and Civil Disobedience in Wisconsin

Kathy Kelly

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


     "This little light of mine, I'm gonna' let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

Imagine children lustily singing the above lines which eventually became a civil rights anthem. Their innocence and happy resolve enlightens us. Yes! In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine. Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, #Enough! They write the word, in Dari, on the palms of their hands and show it to cameras, wanting to shout out their desire to abolish all wars.

    This past summer, collaborating with Wisconsin activists [1], we decided to feature this refrain on signs and announcements for a 90-mile walk campaigning to end targeted drone assassinations abroad, and the similarly racist impunity granted to an increasingly militarized police force when they kill brown and black people within the U.S.

Walking through small cities and towns in Wisconsin, participants distributed leaflets and held teach-ins encouraging people to demand accountability from local police, and an end to the "Shadow Drone" program operated by the U.S. Air National Guard out of Wisconsin's own Volk Field. Our friend Maya Evans traveled the furthest to join the walk: she coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence in the UK. Alice Gerard, from Grand Isle, NY, is our most consistent long-distance traveler, on her sixth antiwar walk with VCNV.
Photo credit:  Maya Evans

     Brian Terrell noted what mothers speaking to Code Pink, as part of the Mothers Against Police Brutality campaign, had also noted: that surprisingly many of the officers charged with killing their children were veterans of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He recalled past national events, such as the NATO summit in Chicago, in 2012, whose organizers tried to recruit temporary security officers from amongst U.S. veterans. Former soldiers, already traumatized by war, need support, healthcare and vocational training but instead are offered temp jobs to aim weapons at other people in predictably tense settings.

   The walk was instructive. Salek Khalid, a friend of Voices, shared "Creating a Hell on Earth: U.S. Drone Strikes Abroad," his own in-depth presentation about the development of drone warfare. Tyler Sheafer, joining us from the Progressive Alliance near Independence, MO, stressed the independence of living simply, off the grid and consuming crops grown only within a 150 mile radius of one's home, while hosts in Mauston, WI welcomed Joe Kruse to talk about fracking and our collective need to change patterns of energy consumption. The ability to withhold our money and our labor is an important way to compel governments to restrain their violent domestic and international power.

    We weren't alone. We walked in solidarity with villagers in Gangjeong, South Korea, who'd welcomed many of us to join in their campaign to stop militarization of their beautiful Jeju Island. Seeking inter-island solidarity and recognizing how closely they share the plight of Afghans burdened by the U.S. "Asia Pivot," our friends in Okinawa, Japan will host a walk from the north to the south of the island, protesting construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko. Rather than provoke a new cold war, we want to shine light on our common cares and concerns, finding security in extended hands of friendship.

   On August 26th, some of the walkers will commit nonviolent civil resistance at Volk Field, carrying the messages about drone warfare and racial profiling into courts of law and public opinion.

    Too often we imagine that a life swaddled in everyday comforts and routines is the only life possible, while half a world away, to provide those comforts to us, helpless others are made to shiver with inescapable cold or fear. It's been instructive on these walks to uncoddle ourselves a little, and see how our light shines, unhidden, on the road through neighboring towns, singing words we've heard from children learning to be as adult as they can be; attempting to learn that same lesson. The lyric [2] goes "I'm not going to make it shine:  I'm just going to _let_ it shine." We hope that by releasing the truth that's already in us we can encourage others to live theirs, shining a more humane light on the violent abuses, both at home and abroad, of dark systems that perpetuate violence. On walks like this we've been fortunate to imagine a better life, sharing moments of purpose and sanity with the many we've met along the road.

This article first appeared on ZMag [5]

Thanks to the author for sending her article to Portside.


Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field

Joy First    August 26, 2015

    Voices for Creative Nonviolence engaged with a number of Wisconsin peace groups to organize an 8-day 90-mile walk across southwest Wisconsin from August 18-25.  The purpose of the walk was to call attention and make connections between the militarized police violence at home and the military using violence abroad through drone warfare and by other means.  In both cases the victims are people of color, which forces us to reflect on the systemic racism of our society.

    The walk began at the City/County/Jail complex in Madison on August 18.  Dane County has one of the highest rates of racial disparity of any county in the country on many issues, including when it comes to incarceration - hence starting the walk at the jail.  In fact, in order to make the prison population match the general population in Dane County, we would need to release 350 Black people.  This is horrific, especially when we understand that so many people of color are in jail for nonviolent crimes and crimes of poverty that could better be solved by more positive interventions.  It is up to all of us to stand up with our brothers and sisters and proclaim that “Black Lives Matter!”

There were about 15-20 walkers each day as we went through the beautiful Wisconsin countryside - Waunakee, Lodi, across the Merrimac ferry, camping at Devil’s Lake State Park and Rocky Arbor, up through Mauston and New Lisbon, and ending at Volk Field.  It was eight nights of sleeping in the homes of supporters, in tents, and in church basements.

   The walk participants kept going through inclement weather that is not typical for Wisconsin in August.  There was rain, heavy wind, and very cool temperatures during the walk.  The cooler temperatures were better than walking in 90 degree weather, but it still made for a difficult walk.  However, they kept going 12-15 miles each day, persistent and determined.

     What kept us going like this for eight days?  People choose to be involved with the walk, knowing it would be difficult and push them to their limits, but also knowing that the militarized violence, both abroad and at home, is causing grave suffering to many innocent people and we must do something about it.  We must speak out, raise awareness, share our concerns, and most importantly call for change.  And that is what we did all along the route as we built bonds of friendship and connection with each other, and provided outreach and education along the way.  We called for change in front of the City/County/Jail complex in Madison at the beginning of the walk, and we called for change at Volk Field at the end of the walk, as well as all along the route.

   The walk came to an end at a beautiful rest area next to a noisy freeway near Volk Field.  Volk Field is a Wisconsin Air National Guard Base near the village of Camp Douglas, WI.  One of the jobs there is to train personnel to operate Shadow drones.  Though the Shadow drones do not carry weapons (at least that is what we are told),  they carry a camera that is used for target acquisition, surveillance, and assessment, and they are part of the bigger program of drone warfare in this country.  The Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars has been vigiling at the gates of Volk Field for 3 ½ years – with three actions of nonviolent civil resistance during that time.

    After a picnic lunch we formed our final circle to discuss details for both the vigil and risk arrest action, we read the nonviolence guidelines, and we shared a poem.  Then we were ready to process to the gates of Volk Field.  We walked slowly and solemnly to the gates with a drum beat and a lone voice singing a mournful chant.  We walked to the gates with heavy hearts, remembering those who have died in drone strikes and as a result of police violence.  Some of the signs we carried were pictures of children who have been killed by drones, stating, “U.S. Drone Warfare is Terrorism”.

The Juneau County sheriff was at the gate with several of his deputies when we arrived.  There was also a police dog, which they have never used with us in the past. 

   We stood, as we always do, on the grass under a big beautiful tree.  Buddy and Xan began to sing the names of victims of militarized violence, going back and forth between the name of a drone victim, and then the name of Black woman who was killed by the police in this country.  After each name the crowd responded by singing, “We remember you” and a single drum beat.

   After listening to the names for a few minutes, those of us who were going to risk arrest stepped off the curb and onto the road.  We slowly walked towards the gate feeling the pain of living under a government that could commit these acts in our name.  We took one step onto the base and were immediately taken into custody, handcuffed, and put into a police car.

   We were handcuffed in front, given a bag of food once we got to the jail, processed and released within about four hours.  We were arrested for disorderly conduct and also given a citation for trespassing.  We have a court date on September 30.  The arrestees were Bonnie Block, Cassandra Dixon, Joyce Ellwanger, Joy First, Jim Murphy, Phil Runkel, Mary Beth Schlagheck, Tyler Shiffer, and Don Timmerman.

   Even though it was one of the easiest arrests I have been through, it nonetheless felt like a powerful action.  The whole eight days built up to this action where we were able to really make the connection between militarized violence at home and abroad.  It is time for real action and real change in polices regarding drone warfare and police violence.  We cannot, we will not rest until we have peace and justice.  Let it shine!  And let’s keep working.

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