SPC in Action

From the July-August 2012 PNL #816

compiled by Andy Mager

Aly Wane “Comes Out” of the Shadows
On June 25, SPC activist Aly Wane “came out” as an undocumented immigrant. A front page Post Standard article told his story. Born in Senegal, Aly has lived over half his life in the US and calls this home. He hasn’t been to Senegal since he was seven, entered the US legally and has been here ever since. (see article)

Aly speaks with Fred Daley at his “Coming Out of the Shadows” party, which followed the news conference. Photo: Carol BaumAly speaks with Fred Daley at his “Coming Out of the Shadows” party, which followed the news conference. Photo: Carol BaumAly chose to announce his immigration status as an act of political resistance, after years of work to change US immigration policy. A news conference at All Saints Church was well attended by reporters and over 200 supporters. It was followed by a party celebrating Aly as a loved and valued member of our community. Food, music, talk and a ritual of connection closed the evening.

SPC’s statement on immigration was printed in the Post Standard. See peacecouncil.net/noneillegal.

Great progress has already been made toward Aly’s goal of promoting open discussion on immigration issues in Central New York. He is happy to write articles, speak to groups and engage in conversation. Contact aly@peacecouncil.net.

Staff Transition
SPC is in a time of transition following a decade of remarkable staff stability. Longtime staffperson Jessica Maxwell has accepted her “dream job” co-coordinating the Southside Community Farm (see Activist Appreciation). At press time we are reviewing applications for a new staffperson. In addition, Andy Mager is in transition, devoting more of his time to NOON’s Two Row Wampum Campaign . Ursula Rozum has taken on some of Andy’s hours and that transition will continue if sufficient funds are raised for Andy to focus more, or all of his time, on the Two Row.

Activist Appreciation: Jessica Maxwell
Just 10 short years ago Jessica Maxwell came into the SPC office on Burnet Ave. asking how she could get involved in our work. We quickly realized that Jessica was a smart, skillful organizer. She helped coordinate the Hiroshima Commemoration that summer, and in the fall, as the drumbeats for war against Iraq grew, she stepped up and was hired as a temporary anti-war organizer. She’s been on staff ever since.

Jessica founded SPC’s Bikes for Peace program, one of her many contributions over the past decade. Photo: Stasya EricksonJessica founded SPC’s Bikes for Peace program, one of her many contributions over the past decade. Photo: Stasya EricksonJessica has contributed to SPC’s growth and development in so many ways since then. Jessica is leaving her staff position  to pursue her passions for social justice and agriculture at the Southside Community Farm. We are so happy for her, but we’re sure going to miss her on staff!

Jessica is a keen thinker, a hard worker and a quick study. Over the years she has led SPC’s Youth and Militarism work, building valuable connections with young people. She developed the summer Bikes for Peace program and has taken leadership on a variety of environmental concerns, including nuclear power and public power. In recent years she has laid out the Peace Newsletter and represented SPC on various coalitions. When discussions were difficult or tense, Jessica’s even keel helped us to stay focused. She’s a skilled facilitator and passionate public speaker.

Space prevents us from honoring all her talents. Suffice it to say that SPC is a stronger, more effective organization for her many contributions. We’re delighted that she’ll continue to connect with SPC’s work. Thank you Jessica.

Summer Picnic Thank You Jessica!
SPC’s annual summer picnic will double as a thank you and appreciation party for Jessica Maxwell. Join us on Friday, August 3 from 5:30-9 pm at Gypsy Bay on the south shore of Cazenovia Lake (directly across Rt. 20 from the Lorenzo Historic Site). Bring food to share, swimming gear, etc. Raindate is Friday, August 10 same time. Contact Gavin.    

March for a Nuclear Free Future
On Monday, August 6, SPC and Peace Action will host our annual commemoration of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and August 9, 1945). Featuring giant puppets and colorful banners and flags, our March for a Nuclear Free Future often causes passersby to stop in their tracks to observe our message of peace and clean energy. We hope you’ll join in this amazing event. The line up is at 11:30 am behind the City Hall Commons (E. Washington St. between Montgomery and Warren Streets). We kick off promptly at noon, marching through busy areas of downtown and ending a little over a mile later on the lawn of the MOST in Armory Square. We need at least 50 people to carry all our props. A brief reflection and program will follow the procession.

Two weeks earlier, on Sunday, July 22, we’ll host a Peace Picnic at Thornden Park (near the Lily Pond) from 3-5 pm featuring family-friendly activities, including the story of Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes. We’ll fold paper cranes to give out during the procession. Contact Claire.

Demo Condemns Obama’s Kill List
On June 28, SPC’s Ground the Drones Committee protested President Obama’s “Kill List,” a list of individuals that the President decides to assassinate with Reaper Drones. Since Reapers are piloted from Hancock Airbase, it was particularly relevant to demonstrate at the Syracuse Federal Building. The demonstration of about 40 people included a tableau of a drone strike with activists acting as dead civilians, a mother holding a dead child, a drone operator, Uncle Sam holding a kill list and a model Reaper.

Earlier in the week, activists walked through downtown Syracuse with a large model Reaper Drone and a costumed Grim Reaper, handing out leaflets along the way. We will continue leafleting throughout the summer. To help, contact Claire Bach at SPC. Many thanks to our terrific interns Claire Bach, Rachel Cary and Gavin Caster for organizing the demonstration.
– Gavin Caster

Hot Activism in Ground the Drones, End the Wars
Civil Resistance at Hancock. At the same time as the “Kill List” protest, 15 members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars were arrested for “trespass” at Hancock. SPC activists Rae Kramer and Ed Kinane were among those reading aloud a citizens’ indictment for war crimes and blockading Hancock’s main entrance for over two hours with two large, beautiful banners (kudos to Ithaca artist, Dan Burgevin). Amy Goodman cited the event on “Democracy Now,” using footage from John Amidon’s 15-minute YouTube video of the blockade. Hancock is home to the robotic Reaper drone, notorious for killing civilians in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Hancock 33 Peacewalkers case dismissed. On April 22, Onondaga County Sheriffs  pre-emptively arrested 33 upstate New Yorkers, charging us with “parading without a permit” as we walked, solemnly, silently and single file on the shoulder of the road to Hancock Air Base. On June 14 in DeWitt Town Court the charges were dropped “in the interest of justice.”

Permits, permits, permits. The Hancock 33 case led to a constructive meeting with the Town of DeWitt Police Chief about the town permit ordinance. (We believe the 33 had been exercising First Amendment rights and needed no permit.) The upshot of the meeting was that SPC now has a permit for our twice-monthly demos outside Hancock’s main gate, and the Police Chief raised the issue of the vague ordinance at a DeWitt Town meeting. Several Peace Council members also testified at that meeting. The Town is now looking into rewriting its permit requirements.

Meanwhile, a 30-day notice period for permits has been instituted at the Federal Building, effectively making emergency response protests impossible. The permit for our “Kill List” demonstration was expedited and we are looking to change the 30-day policy.

Thanks to Barrie Gewanter of the NYCLU for her assistance.

PeaceSongsCNY Available Online
In addition to being available at various stores in Syracuse and Ithaca, PeaceSongsCNY is now available on CDBaby.com, iTunes and more (search for Syracuse Peace Council). The multi-genre CD features 18 songs from local artists singing the praises of peace, social justice and preservation of the Earth. You can also buy it at our office for only $10. Full details at peacecouncil.net/songs.

Palestine-South Africa Parallels
Rabbi Brian Walt spoke to a packed house at ArtRage Gallery on June 20, drawing rave reviews for the eloquent description of his personal journey from liberal Zionist to supporter of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine. A native South African, Brian drew from his youthful involvement in the anti-apartheid movement to understand the oppression of the Palestinians and look for effective strategies for liberation. Check out SPC’s YouTube channel for part of his presentation. His powerful words have spurred CNY Working for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel to begin developing a local BDS campaign. Consider joining our efforts to educate our community and change US policy. Contact Andy.

Diverse Support Builds for Two Row Campaign
Progress continues in many areas for Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation’s (NOON) 2013 campaign to “Honor Native Treaties and Protect the Earth.” The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign, a partnership with the Onondaga Nation, will bring attention to the 400th anniversary of this original treaty.

The list of co-sponsors has reached 25 educational institutions, environmental and social justice organizations and faith communities. Onondaga County Executive Joanne Mahoney and American Indian Movement activist and longtime political prisoner Leonard Peltier have both joined the Honorary Advisory Committee. Our outreach booths have been well received in New York City, the Hudson Valley and the Mohawk Valley, with upcoming booths planned at festivals in Tuscarora and Seneca territory as well as in Syracuse.

We’re currently working on plans for a trial run of the “symbolic enactment” traveling down the Hudson River in the mid-Hudson Valley from July 31-August 3. To help with that or other aspects of the project, contact Andy.

Protecting Our Precious Water, Air and Land
When Governor Cuomo’s office floated the idea of starting hydrofracking in a five-county “sacrificial zone” along the Pennsylvania border, NOON and other SPC activists joined voices from around the state in strong opposition. We’re also paying more attention to the gas industry’s efforts to develop the infrastructure for fracking since we’ve stopped them from actually drilling… at least so far. Keep your eyes out for future calls to action, including nonviolent direct action. We must remain vigilant to prevent this grave danger from coming our way. Contact Jack at 424-1454.

Bikes 4 Peace
Summer bike repair with youth is in full swing! Our season began with repair clinics at Brady Faith Center and a bike tune-up session with the Onondaga Earth Corps. Upcoming clinics include: July 25 at the Spanish Action League and August 8 and 15 at the Northeast Community Center. We always welcome new bike mechanics to join our team—don’t worry if you are still learning.

Half the fun of Bikes-4Peace is learning and working together. Shout out to Bikes4Peace veteran Jessica Maxwell, master of all trades Kanat Bolazar, Craig Reese for his professional skills and Emma Anderson for her organizational skills! And welcome to our new volunteers: Dave Kashmer, Saleh Karbak and Lana Hijazi. To get involved with Bikes4Peace or to donate bicycles, contact Ursula.

SPC Out and About
Summer is a great time for outreach! SPC will be at the Downtown Arts and Crafts Fair July 26-28 and we’d love for new and old friends to join us. Contact Ursula if you’d like to join our outreach tabling team or if you have ideas for new venues for us.

Youth in Action
The US military has been in Afghanistan for 10 years, since I was in high school. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high, and our collective future is threatened by climate change. The Occupy movement got young people in the streets. In preparation for the school year, we are hosting a special Youth Anti-War Organizing Forum on August 16 at 6:30 pm. Join us for this special meeting to continue the CNY tradition of agitating and organizing for peace. If you can’t make it but would like to be involved, I would love to talk with you!

Peace Council Calling!
Expect a phone call from SPC towards the end of the month. Our annual Phonathon is an important fundraiser, raising about $9,000 last year. It’s also an opportunity for SPC supporters to share your thoughts about our work. The 2012 Phonathon will be on July 25, 26 and 30 from 6-9 pm. We have dinner and then hit the phones! To help with calling or cooking, contact Ursula.

Garden Tour Benefits Center
The Center for Peace & Social Justice invites you to a Garden Tour at Sycamore Hills Gardens on Sunday, July 22, 11 am-4 pm at 2130 Old Seneca Tpk., Marcellus, NY. See exotic and native plants, statuary, hidden alcoves, a pagoda, a bell garden, a children’s garden, ponds, bridges, a geyser and an evergreen maze. Thousands of flowers, trees and shrubs! Musicians will add to the fun, along with a Scavenger Hunt and Face Painting. Bring a blanket and picnic! Proceeds benefit the Center (SPC’s home). Tickets: $10 - $20 at the door (sliding scale), kids under eight free. For more on Sycamore Hill Gardens: www.sycamorehillgardens.com. For more on the Center: www.syracusecenter.org.

Reading Group
The Radical Reading Group will reconvene in the fall to read I Witness, a recently published book about police-community interactions on Syracuse’s Westside. I Witness will be available at Syracuse Cultural Workers and SPC. Contact Ursula.

United As One
This community coalition continues working for accountability in our local criminal “justice” system. This summer we have been scheduling community forums related to city plans to post surveillance cameras in three additional neighborhoods. We continue to press for changes in the Justice Center following Raul Pinet’s death. We meet the first Thursday of each month at 6 pm. Contact the SPC office for the meeting location.

We Are NY Night at the Ballpark
We are NY member groups, including SPC, will have an information table at the Syracuse Chiefs baseball game on Thursday, August 16 at 7 pm. It’s not only a great outreach opportunity for the Peace Council, but we’re also excited to offer free tickets to SPC supporters who’d like to come enjoy the game. Thanks to the Area Labor Federation for coordinating this outreach opportunity. Contact SPC for tickets.

On the organizing front, most We Are NY member groups are focused on voter outreach and education this summer and through the election.

If you’d like to get involved, contact Carol.