Monday, Jul. 22, 2019

Hope Is More Powerful Than Fear: Peacebuilding Matters at the CA Dem Convention

By Nancy Merritt · March 19, 2018

DoP & SD4GVP Tabling <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span>

DoP & SD4GVP Tabling


DoP & Kids 4 Peace Tabling <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span> 4 Kids 4 Peace General Session <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span> Dolores Huerta, Cynthia, Nancy <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span>

The only thing more powerful than fear is hope.”  That was the message from Betty Yee, CA Controller to almost 3,000 delegates, numerous candidates and many other attendees at the CA Democratic Party convention (CDP) in San Diego from February 23- 25, 2018.  The CA Peace Alliance/ Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding (DoP) amplified that message by submitting peacebuilding language and ideas, which were incorporated into the CDP 2018 Platform, partnering at our booth with other violence prevention groups and advocating for peacebuilding measures with our convention actions.

Our message was that peacebuilding matters and violence prevention – including gun violence prevention – is a matter of life and death. As of 2/15/18, an ongoing Washington Post analysis found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.  According to statistics by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, every day, 46 children and teens are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.  Every day, 318 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.  On average, in one year, 17,102 American children and teens are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention.  This is unacceptable.  This is preventable

These issues and facts were part of the convention dialogue where attendees voted on candidate endorsements, finalized the CDP 2018 Platform, endorsed legislation and resolutions, and revised CDP rules.  In addition to these standing committee meetings, 19 caucuses met, there were many hospitality events and many issue or candidate exhibitor booths.

I.  ACCOMPLISHMENTS SUMMARY

Our accomplishments included:

  • CDP 2018 Platform.  During the platform and amendment submission process, we submitted and/or preserved peacebuilding language in 16 of the 23 planks, including new 2018 language in 12 planks and preserved 2012/ 2014/ 2016 language in 9 planks.  (For more details, see Building Peace into the CA Dem 2018 Platform  https://peacealliance.kontribune.com/articles/8581 )
  • Tabling Partners.  We are stronger together. At our booth, we partnered with San Diego Kids 4 Peace/ Partners 4 Peace International and San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP).
  • Actions.  The three tabling partners distributed a joint action sheet.  The DoP group actions included asking attendees to contact ten CA members of Congress to urge them to cosponsor DoP legislation (HR 1111) during this Season for Nonviolence (1/30 – 4/4) and collecting petition signatures for the DoP co-sponsorship.  The Kids 4 Peace created postcard pictures in support of a DoP and urged attendees to write DoP support letters to Congress.  The SD4GVP educated and advocated for multiple facets of gun violence prevention.
  • DoP Endorsements.  We received new organizational and prominent individual endorsements of DoP legislation from the San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP), United Farm Workers activist Dolores Huerta, and CA Lt. Governor Candidate Cameron Gharabiklou.
  • Volunteers.  Over 40 volunteers collaborated for building peace at our joint booth and participated in preparation for our convention activities, including at least 10 from the CA DoP Campaign, 10 from Kids 4 Peace and 22 from SD4GVP.
  • Networking.  We talked with numerous delegates, group representatives, caucus members and others about our peacebuilding work and the DoP – including a San Diego teacher of the year, representatives of the Rotary Club, UC students, and legislators who are interested and/or working with Restorative Justice/ Restorative Practice initiatives.
  • Seeds.  We planted seeds and will be following up on connections with activist and interested individuals throughout the state of CA and with CA/ HI members of Congress to make peace a priority in this nation.

II.  CDP 2018 PLATFORM

Since 2012, the CA Department of Peacebuilding Campaign has successfully submitted language for inclusion in the CDP Platforms.

During the 2018 platform and amendment process, we submitted and/or preserved peacebuilding language in 16 of the 23 CDP 2018 Platform planks, including new 2018 language in 12 planks and preserved 2012/ 2014/ 2016 language in 9 planks:

  • Preamble
  • Business and Economy
  • Children, Young Adults and Their Families
  • Criminal Justice
  • Culture and the Arts
  • Disabilities
  • Education
  • Energy and Environment
  • Immigration
  • Internet and Free Speech
  • National Security
  • Seniors
  • Sustainable Communities
  • Veterans and Military Families
  • Women
  • World Peace and International Relations

For example, we successfully advocated to newly include “peace” in the preamble.   We preserved in the Children, Young Adults and Their Families plank our 2012 language: “To help children and young adults reach their full potential, California Democrats will …: Support agencies that are responsible for the health and well-being of families in need and promote policies to provide mental health services, domestic violence prevention, marriage/domestic partner counseling, gang prevention, anti-bullying programs, substance abuse prevention, parenting skills, and other social services without regard to the gender of the parent.”  (For more details and exact CDP 2018 Platform language, see Building Peace into the CA Dem 2018 Platform  https://peacealliance.kontribune.com/articles/8581 )

Brian Gibbs, Maggi Koren, Nancy Merritt, Josh Roebuck and Jerilyn Stapleton contributed peacebuilding language to the Platform Committee on behalf of the CA DoP Campaign.

III.  TABLING PARTNERS & ACTIONS

We are stronger together.  At our booth, the CA Department of Peacebuilding Campaign partnered with San Diego Kids 4 Peace/ Partners 4 Peace International and San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP). The SD4GVP coalition includes Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (www.bradycampaign.org), Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (www.momsdemandaction.org), Charity Apostolic Church, Survivors Empowered and Sandy Hook Promise.

We advocated together for a safe and peaceful world. 

As part of the DoP legislation mission, HR 1111 includes reducing and preventing violence, taking proactive approaches to develop policies that promote national and international conflict prevention and cultivating peace and peacebuilding as a strategic national policy objective.  Among the DoP Domestic responsibilities and duties are “analyzing existing policies, employing successful, field-tested programs, and developing new approaches for dealing with the tools of violence, including handguns and assault weapons, especially among youth.”  (HR 1111Sec. 102(b)(4))

According to HR 1111, “Every year 300,000 people are killed by gun violence around the world. In the United States, 100,000 people are shot each year in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, accidents, and police actions. Approximately 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide. Over 33,000 people die each year of gunshot wounds, 12,000 of whom are murdered. Every day, 50 children are shot, eight of whom are fatally shot, and each gun injury and fatality results in trauma to family members and loved ones. More people have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in United States history.” (HR 1111, Sec. 2/ Finding #5) 

            A. Department of Peacebuilding Campaign

Peacebuilding and gun violence prevention were key topics at our booth.  In addition to working with our partner groups, the DoP group promoted our Season for Nonviolence initiative, gathered petition signatures urging members of Congress to cosponsor HR 1111 and asked legislators to cosponsor Restricting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 (HR 669, S 200).

The Season for Nonviolence (SNV) is the period between the deaths of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  (1/30 to 4/4). To honor these and other proponents of nonviolence, the DoP Campaign advocates during SNV for members of Congress to cosponsor legislation to create a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding Act (DoP/ HR 1111).  During the convention we asked attendees to contact ten specified CA members of Congress to request they join 39 current cosponsors (as of 3/15/18) to support HR 1111.  Ten CA members of Congress currently sponsor or cosponsor, including: Nanette Barragan (CA-44), Karen Bass (CA-37), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Judy Chu (CA-27), Susan Davis (CA-53), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), John Garamendi (CA-3), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Maxine Waters (CA-43).

To promote our actions, we not only talked with people who stopped at the booth, we also went out into the crowd and distributed 700-800 action flyers and other materials.  CA DoP Campaign volunteer Kendra Mon said she was surprised how many attendees knew the members of Congress on our list and how many agreed to call them to cosponsor DoP.   

We talked with many, many delegates, attendees, representative of candidate campaigns, representative of issue campaigns and others.  We talked with Danielle Grimm, a cofounder of Kids 4 Peace.  We talked with a San Diego teacher of the year, UC students, representatives of the Rotary Club, legislators who are interested and/or working with Restorative Justice/ Restorative Practices.

During discussions at our booth, “One SD4GVP volunteer told me she calls one of her legislators every day to ask what they have done that day to make the world safer for our children.  When they cannot answer, she tells them not to worry, she will call them back the next day.  Another SD4GVP volunteer is the grandmother of a student whose class barricaded against the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.  That shooter killed 17 individuals,” said Nancy Merritt, CA DoP Campaign volunteer.

            B. San Diego Kids 4 Peace/ Partners 4 Peace International

San Diego kids, ages 8-17, joined us at our booth, spread their message of “Kids 4 Peace, We are Family,” and participated in other convention activities.  Cynthia Gilliam and Anne Anderson brought the kids to the convention.  The kids drew postcards about peace, talked with convention attendees, walked through the crowds with Department of Peacebuilding signs, and attended part of the Saturday general session when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi happened to be speaking.  NBC San Diego interviewed them.  One of the kids was very happy to encounter a guide dog at the convention.  They entered the convention as “regular” kids and left donning buttons for creation of a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding, “Our Lives Matter, Our Votes Count,” “No Guns in School,” and “Disarm Hate.”

Cynthia Gilliam said the kids, who were there to help and to learn, really enjoyed themselves.  As they created their postcards and drawings, they learned that art tells a story.  Their messages included:

  • A globe encircled with kids in many colors and entitled “Kids 4 Peace, We are Family”
  • “He Ping” and “ Wo ai ni” (“Peace” and “I love you” in Chinese)
  • “Kids for Peace” with teddy bear stickers
  • Peace flowers, stars, animals

In addition to creating postcards, San Diego Kids 4 Peace/ Partners 4 Peace advocated for attendees to write letters to Congress about the urgency of violence prevention & creating a DoP.

Brian Gibbs, CA DoP Campaign volunteer, bought lunch for all the kids. It was a joy to be with the kids and their adult supporters at the convention.  (See also Kids Take Peace to the CA Dem Convention – More Photos.   https://peacealliance.kontribune.com/articles/8580 )

            C.  San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention

Vicki Chin, San Diego Brady Group and SD4GVP, oversaw the SD4GVP volunteer efforts.  She said, “Twenty-two members of the San Diego Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and San Diego Moms Demand Action (now working together in a new coalition, San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention) were pleased to join the CA Peace Alliance/ DoP Campaign at their exhibit booth.  Working side by side the two groups talked with candidates, delegates and visitors about peacebuilding and the role of gun violence prevention in making the country a safer, more peaceful place.”

“The shooting at a Parkland (FL) high school had occurred the week before so there was a lot of consternation about the current epidemic of gun violence in the US and lots of people stopped by to discuss the scope of the problem and how to prevent it.  Especially notable were the number of teachers who stopped by to share their stories of lockdowns and their concerns about kids and guns,” Vicki Chin said.  "During the time I tabled, many teachers stopped by the booth.  All said arming teachers is a terrible idea,” said Nancy Merritt.

“Needless to say, at the Democratic Convention essentially all candidates and their representatives were supportive of responsible and commonsense gun legislation, and vowed to make efforts to institute safety measures to protect our citizenry while upholding the second amendment.  SD4GVP enjoyed working with the experienced conventioneers, peacebuilders, and were happy to offer them SD4GVP’s official support for their Alliance, “ Vicki Chin said.

SD4GVP actions included:

  • Call CA Senators Dianne Feinstein (202-224-3841) & Kamala Harris (202-224-3553) to thank them for opposing the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (S. 446) and for cosponsoring S. 2009 which would also expand background checks.  Ask them to urge their colleagues to follow suit on both bills.
  • Call your Representative to request co-sponsorship of HR 4240 or thank them for cosponsoring.  HR 4240 will expand the Brady background check law to cover commercial firearm sales, including at gun shows and over the internet.
  • Call your CA State Assembly member to support AB 2103 Live Fire Training requirement for a license to carry concealed weapon
  • Support gun violence restraining orders when a loved one is in crisis and at risk of harming him/herself or others with a firearm.  (Visit www.speakforsafety.org)
  • Get involved locally:  Contact sandiego@bradymail.org to join monthly meetings & learn what you can do.  Join Moms Demand Action: act.everytown.org/signup/Join-Moms/ or text READY to 64433 & follow San Diego Moms on Facebook.

IV.  DoP ENDORSEMENTS

Going into the CDP Convention, 120 groups and prominent individuals endorsed the DoP legislation.  At the convention, we received new organizational and prominent individual endorsements of DoP legislation from San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP), United Farm Workers activist Dolores Huerta and CA Lt. Governor Candidate Cameron Gharabiklou, who came to the DoP booth to remind Kendra Mon he had met her at the CDP Executive Board meeting in 11/17 and that he supports DoP legislation. 

V.  VOLUNTEERS

Peacebuilding matters.  Peacebuilding means evaluating the root causes of violence and acting upon the root causes of peace.  It means nonviolence, diversity, inclusion, compassion, rule of law.  It takes hard work by determined individuals.  Over 40 volunteers collaborated for peace in preparation for our convention activities and at our booth, including at least 10 from the CA DoP Campaign, 10 from San Diego Kids 4 Peace and 22 from SD4GVP. 

DoP folks who prepared for the convention, crafted peacebuilding 2018 Platform submissions, donated to the booth fee or supplies and/or volunteered at the convention include:  Brian Gibbs, Maggi Koren, Lily Marie, Amy McQuillan, Doug Merritt, Nancy Merritt, Kendra Mon, Josh Roebuck, Yvette Stanley and Jerilyn Stapleton.  We thank Kids 4 Peace and Cynthia Gilliam and Ann Anderson for bring Kids 4 Peace to the convention.  And we thank Vicki Chin and the many SD4GVP volunteers.

DoP Campaign volunteer Yvette Stanley said, “I had a very good experience.  This was my first time at a political convention and volunteering for the Peace Alliance.  Everyone at the booth was very friendly and very knowledgeable about the bill. I was a little intimidated at first but because of everyone's enthusiasm, it was short lived (being intimidated).”

SD4GVP volunteer Vicki Chin said, “Thanks more than words can ever say for making it possible for 22 of us to be a part of and see the workings of a state convention.  I personally enjoyed every minute of it and found it fascinating.  And the peacebuilders could not have been more welcoming and were such an easy crew to work with, from sharing badges each morning, to providing a great descriptions of our efforts in your blue print out, to the kids’ participation Saturday morning (most of which I missed sorry to say), and finally just being kind, loving inclusive individuals.  We had a GREAT time - fascinating and fun,  Thank you.”

We thank everyone on this collaborative crew.

VI.  OTHER BOOTHS & WHAT IT FEELS LIKE

In addition to its own booth, Planned Parenthood sponsored an exhibit entitled “This Is What It Feels Like,” where individuals don headphone, go into a dark area, look in the mirror and listen to catcalls and abusive insults toward women.  The was a gut-wrenching and very powerful statement about our culture and what women endure.

The exhibit sign said, “This exhibit is an examination into our patriarchal society and the ways in which oppression of women affects the daily lives of all members of society.  All are encouraged to experience this exhibit, however, it is intended for a male audience and may be traumatic for some women.  What you will hear inside is taken verbatim from brave women who chose to share their experiences.”

Kendra Mon said visiting this exhibit was both a sad and empowering moment for her.  At the booth “People went in one at a time, were asked to stand facing a mirror, and given headphones with the suggestion that we spend at least a minute listening to a bombardment of different men's voices catcalling women -- sometimes in one ear, sometimes in both ears and sometimes soft and wheedling up through harsh and angry.  I don't think I made it to a minute and was crying softly as I added my words about the experience to a big sheet they had outside the booth for that purpose.  This gives the lie to the old expression ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’  The experience was definitely a downer and yet encouraging as well.  I asked what men had said after the experience and was told that some men said they had participated in such catcalling and would definitely never do it again.”

Belgium has adopted a law against catcalling, or sexist verbal abuse.  One man has been convicted and faces a fine.  France is considering adopting a similar law proposed by that country's Gender Equality Minister.

Organizers plan to take “This is What It Feels Like” to major cities throughout North America.  (See http://www.metronews.ca/news/edmonton/201I)

VI.  NETWORKING, CAUCUSES & STANDING COMMITTEES

In addition to our discussions with CDP convention attendees, we attended and networked at many of the caucus meetings including: African-American caucus, Labor caucus, Progressive caucus, Senior caucus, Veteran’s caucus and the Women’s caucus

At the African-American Caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters “Reclaimed Her Time,” urged impeachment of Donald Trump and told attendees to expect their elected officials to listen, “You have power.  Use it.”  According to an 8/1/17 article in the Washington Post, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was testifying before the House Finance Committee “about the state of the international finance system when Waters, the committee’s ranking Democrat, asked why his office had not responded to a letter from her regarding President Trump’s financial ties to Russia.  Mnuchin tried to sidestep the question with platitudes and compliments, apparently attempting to run out the clock on her questioning ... It didn’t work. Waters shut down his rambling and redirected him to her question again and again with the phrase 'Reclaiming my time,' an invocation of House procedural rules."

At the Progressive Caucus, a panel discussed proposed reforms to the Democratic National Party’s (DNC) election and operating procedures. In December 2017, the DNC’s Unity and Reform Commission agreed to revisions aimed at restoring faith in the presidential nomination process and the management of the DNC.  According to the Huffington Post, the Commission is recommending “the effective abolition of some 60 percent of superdelegates to the presidential nominating convention. It has also presented a set of measures designed to increase accessibility to presidential primaries and caucuses, as well as reforms aimed at opening up DNC budgetary and administrative processes to greater scrutiny through, among other things, the creation of an Ombudsmen Council.”  (Huffington Post, DNC Unity Commission Agrees on Slate of Historic Reforms, 12/9/17)   Panelist included Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2), former Nevada State Assemblymember and DNC member Lucy Flores (Our Revolution), and DNC member James Zogby (Our Revolution). Author and activist Norman Solomon (RootsAction) moderated. (For more information, see  PDF]report of the unity reform commission - Democrats.org

At the Senior Caucus, there was great concern about the President's proposed budget cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and SNAP food assistance.  Representatives from the Disability Caucus visited to ask for support in opposition to proposed measures that would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At the Veteran’s Caucus, they discussed the plight of immigrant Mexican veterans who had been arrested by ICE police and deported.  Some officers and members of the Veteran’s Caucus had visited these deportees in Tijuana prior to the CDP convention and reported on the deplorable conditions and situations of the homeless veterans… men and women who had risked their lives in service to the US.  Doug Merritt, CA DoP Campaign volunteer, said, “All candidates were asked what they would do for veterans if elected.  Answers varied but had some common themes.  Some of these were: to bring those deportees home; to increase vet housing, training, education and employment opportunities; to increase prompt access to health services especially for PTSD treatment and counseling,  domestic abuse and suicide prevention;  to encourage/facilitate more veterans in local, county and state leadership positions; to increase the accessibility and number of loans for vets and their families; to support federal, state and local legislation written to solve veteran issues;  and to reverse convictions for nonviolent drug related offenses.”

We also testified at the Platform Committee and CA DoP Campaign volunteer Jerilyn Stapleton, who is a member of the CDP Legislation Committee, participated in that Committee’s legislation endorsements.  To see CDP convention legislation endorsements, adopted resolutions, candidate endorsements and more, see www.cadem.org. 

VIII.  PLANTING SEEDS

Peace cultures thrive on and are nourished by visions of how things might be in a world where sharing and caring are part of the accepted lifeways for everyone.  – Elise Boulding.

Walk in peace.

Nancy Merritt
Peace Alliance/ Department of Peacebuilding Lead
National Department of Peacebuilding Committee
CA Department of Peacebuilding Campaign, State Coordinator/ No. CA

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