Friday, May. 24, 2019

CA DoP Advocates 'Compassion Matters: Build Bridges, Not Walls'

By Nancy Merritt · August 05, 2018

DoP, RJOY, Peace Pledge at CDP Meeting <span>&copy;  </span>

DoP, RJOY, Peace Pledge at CDP Meeting


Womens Caucus, Rep. Waters Families Together <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span> Jerilyn Stapleton, Protestors at Resolutions Committee <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span> Iyad Afalqa, Maggi Koren, Robert Leahy Endorse Peace Resolution <span>&copy; Nancy Merritt </span>

The CA Department of Peacebuilding Campaign (DoP) advocated that “Compassion Matters:  Build Bridges, Not Walls” at the CA Democratic Party (CDP) statewide Executive Board meeting in Oakland from July 13-15, 2018.  CDP officers, elected officials, candidates and grassroots organizers attended.

The CA DoP Campaign tabled and began the process of seeking endorsement by the CDP Resolutions Committee of a “Resolution to Encourage State Legislators to Establish a CA Peacebuilding and Violence Prevention Government Entity.”  The CDP Arab America Caucus and the Veteran’s Caucus endorsed the resolution on July 14, 2018.  Joining the CA DoP Campaign at our table were representatives from Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) and  the Legislative Peace Pledge group. We advocated:

  1. Call members of Congress from September 24 – 26, 2018 to AMPLIFY our Advocacy Day visits in Washington, DC where we will urge members of Congress – including at least 9 from CA – to cosponsor legislation to create a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ HR 1111).  HR 1111 is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) and currently has 41 cosponsors.  Thank you, Rep. Ro Khanna (CA), for recently signing on.
  2. Sign the petition asking legislators to cosponsor legislation to create a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding.  
  3. Support our “Resolution to Encourage State Legislators to Establish a CA Peacebuilding and Violence Prevention Government Entity,” which was endorsed by the CDP Arab American and Veteran’s caucuses.
  4. Learn about and support Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), restorative justice and restorative practices.  RJOY has worked since 2005 to interrupt cycles of violence by promoting institutional shifts toward restorative approaches that actively engage families, communities, and systems to repair harm and prevent re-offending. (www.rjoyoakland.org)
  5. Ask candidates & legislators to sign the Legislators Peace Pledge and for young people to sign the Youth Peace Pledge(www.peacepledge.world)
  6. Support keeping families together and free.  No human being is illegal and the federal Administration’s policy of ripping children from their parents is unconscionable.
  7. Stay wokevote and encourage legislators to support recommended federal and state peacebuilding-related legislation

The CDP Executive Board met as Donald Trump continued to stir violence and chaos, assailed Canada and NATO nations, and met in secret closed session with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.  Thousands in these and other nations protested his racism, sexism, trade policies, attacks against the press, kidnapping of children of asylum seekers and creating havoc at America’s southern border.  And more …  

Executive Board attendees discussed myriad issues – including gun violence prevention, homelessness, the “rent is too damn high,” healthcare, US elections and CA elections. Throughout the weekend, placard-holding advocates and opponents tried to outshout each other in the hallways and in some meeting rooms.  There were also informative panels and discussions at the general sessions and at caucus meetings, for example:  a panel on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen (Arab American & Veterans Caucuses), “Organizing in a Post-Janus Landscape” (Labor and Progressive Caucuses),  and  “Women At the Barricades” (Disability Rights, Healthcare, Sexual Harassment: #MeTo #WeSaidEnough #yabasta, Families Belong Together) (Women’s Caucus). 

Many speakers reflected frustrations and hopes of the times.  “We will prevail because we have to.”  “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”  “No walls. Families Belong Together.” Congresswoman Barbara Lee quoted Shirley Chisholm, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”  Someone else added that if they don’t let you in the room, break down the door.

Gratitude to volunteers from the CA DoP Campaign, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) and advocates of the Legislators Peace Pledge – including Raymond Barglow, Teiahsha Bankhead, Maggi Koren, Lily Marie, Doug Merritt, Nancy Merritt, Kendra Mon, Josh Roebuck, Malachi Scott, Jerilyn Stapleton and Stephanie Thomas. 

For more details, see below.

I. Department of Peacebuilding – Legislator Contacts & Petitions

At the CDP Executive Board meeting, we publicized DC Advocacy Days and the companion AMPLIFY action and collected petitions to hand deliver while we are in DC. The petitions urge members of Congress to cosponsor HR 1111.

National Department of Peacebuilding Campaign supporters will advocate for creation of a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ HR 1111) and for other peacebuilding/ nonviolence legislation in Washington, DC from September 24-26, 2018.  Register here and see detailed flyer here.  As part of Advocacy Days, for those who cannot go to Washington, DC, we asked supporters to AMPLIFYour efforts by calling members of Congress while we are on Capitol Hill in September and/or before then. The call list includes: 1)your member of Congress; 2)former Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ HR 1111) cosponsors; and 3)other potential cosponsors.  For a list of legislators to call, see:  https://peacealliance.org/wpcontent/uploads/2018/07/FLYERUSAmplifyOurVoicesFlyer-2018-1.pdf

II.  CDP Resolutions Hearing & CA Statewide Entity for Peacebuilding & Violence 
      Prevention

We began the process of seeking CDP endorsement of our resolution for a CA state-level department or office devoted to violence prevention and peacebuilding.  The CDP Resolutions Committee briefly discussed the “Resolution to Encourage State Legislators to Establish a CA Peacebuilding and Violence Prevention Government Entity” and will vote on advancing it to the full Executive Board during its next meeting in November 2018.  During the raucous and noisy Resolutions Committee session, which was crowded with shouting advocates and opponents of various upcoming CA initiatives, the Resolutions Committee Chair called upon DoP advocate Jerilyn Stapleton to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Both the Arab American Caucus of the CDP and the Veterans Caucus endorsed our resolution for a CA Entity for Peacebuilding and Violence Prevention at the July Executive Board meeting.  Arab American Caucus Chair Iyad Afalqa and Veteran’s Caucus Chair Cullen Tiernan spoke in favor of the resolution.  Robert Leahy, Veteran's Caucus legislative coordinator, was supportative.  Chair Tiernan said they wanted the Veteran’s Caucus to be known as the peace group, they are tired of endless wars/ “not one more war,” and veterans above all know what war means. According to its caucus platform, “We believe that war or military force must only be used as a last resort.  Our military’s focus should be responding to humanitarian crises.”  Chair Afalqu emphasized the importance of speaking truth to power, always being the voice for the voiceless and keeping hope alive

The Executive Board adopted several resolutions relating to violence prevention, human and civil rights, election reform and congratulating the Golden State Warriors for winning the 2018 National Basketball Association Championship (the team and coach Steve Kerr “have exhibited and modeled good sportsmanship, community engagement and generosity” and “took a stand against Donald Trump by refusing to visit the White House as is customary following a national sports event.”)  Adopted resolutions included, but were not limited to:

  • Supporting Self-Determination (Samoa)
  • Urge All CA DNC Members to Support DNC Superdelegate Reform
  • Prioritizing Gun Violence Prevention
  • Expressing Opposition and Outrage of the CDP for Human Rights Abuses, Negligence, Unlawful Detention Forcible Separation of Children from Parents at Our Southern Borders
  • Full and Fair Funding of California’s Public Schools
  • Standing Up Against Sexual Harassment
  • Supporting UC Workers and All Public Sector Workers in Wake of Janus Decision
  • Supporting Congresswoman Maxine Waters (and her calls to reunite all separate children with their parents and her right to protest) (www.cadem.org)

III.  RJOY Promotes Restorative Practices

Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), founded in 2005, works through restorative alternatives to interrupt cycles of violence which disparately impact youth of color and which include punitive school discipline and juvenile justice policies that lead to incarceration and wasted lives.  The term ‘restorative justice practices’ refers to facilitated group practices that emphasize shared understanding and repairing any harm experienced in connection with the actions of one or more individuals.

Although RJOY was founded with a local focus in the Oakland/ East Bay Area, community organizations and school districts in CA and the nation are increasingly calling upon RJOY for training and technical assistance. Beginning 2007, RJOY’s city-funded West Oakland Middle School pilot project eliminated violence and expulsions, and reduced suspension rates by 87%, saving the school thousands in attendance and Title I funding.  (www.rjoyoakland.org) 

At the Executive Board meeting, RJOY volunteers talked about its work in schools and the juvenile justice system; promoting healthier communities and community self-sufficiency in addressing internal conflict; the North Oakland Restorative Justice Council (NORJC);  and its national restorative justice-based Truth and Reconciliation Project to address violence against African Americans in the United States. 

IV.  Legislators Peace  Pledge & Youth Peace Pledge

In conjunction with the Peace Pledge Youth Committee and the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club Peace Committee and Raymond Barglow,  the CA DoP promoted a “Legislators Peace Pledge” and a “Youth Peace Pledge.”  To sign the pledges, see www.peacepledge.world.

            A.Legislators Peace Pledge

“In keeping with the platform of the CDP,  and to advance the cause of nonviolence and world peace, we advocated for candidates and current office holders to sign a ‘Legislators Peace Pledge’  during the 2018 election season:

“As a candidate for a U.S. public office in 2018 — or as someone currently occupying a U.S. public office, as the case may be — I pledge to support and advance these four aims:

  1. Ample funding for community-based violence prevention programs and enforced regulation of the manufacture, sale, transfer, and use of firearms.
  2. The non-violent resolution of international conflict and the abolition of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
  3. The sharp reduction of government military spending, and conversion from a military and fossil-fuel based economy to a sustainable economy that meets such civilian needs as health care, education, housing, mass transportation, renewable energy, and ending poverty.
  4. The provision of re-training and alternative employment for soldiers and military industry workers, enabling them to apply their experience and skills to civilian production.

“In keeping with the above aims, I will not knowingly accept any campaign donations from military contractors or fossil fuel corporations.”

            B.  Youth Peace Pledge

“I pledge to:

  1. Encourage peace in all its forms, acknowledge and welcome differences among people, and always seek non-violent solutions when conflict arises.
  2. Treat all people with respect and protect their dignity and safety, regardless of their ethnicity, age, economic and social status, sexual orientation, abilities, ideology, religious belief, and place of origin.
  3. Challenge hatred in all of its forms, ranging from malevolent speech and racial prejudice to gun violence and war.
  4. Support peace candidates for political office and advocate for peace-making public policy at every level – community, state, nation, and world.”

V. Keep Families Together & Free

The CDP adopted a resolution “Expressing Opposition and Outrage of the CDP for Human Rights Abuses, Negligence, Unlawful Detention Forcible Separation of Children from Parents at Our Southern Borders,” in which the Party affirmed its commitment to take action against abusive, immoral, inhumane and illegal treatment of migrant children at our Southern border and to call upon the Congressional Democratic Delegation and the CA State legislature to take immediate steps to insure that migrant children are tracked for family unification and, in the interim placed with organizations designed to care for the emotional, physical, medical, and educational needs of minors, with proper oversight and monitoring by independent institutions. 

The resolution stated, in part, “Whereas Trump’s Administration disregarded United Nations Human Rights Office standards for treatment of refugees and implemented a zero tolerance policy at our Southern border which included, but was not limited to, the unlawful abduction of children forcibly removed from their parents who have been criminalized, even though many are lawfully seeking asylum from deadly and dangerous circumstances in other countries … resulting in the UN Human Rights Office calling upon the U.S. to stop separating children from parents because separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration runs counter to human rights standards and principles …”

VI.  Stay Woke, Vote & Support Federal & State Peacebuilding Legislation

We advocated for citizens to “stay woke” and to vote.  We urged attendees to ask legislators to support federal and CA peacebuilding legislation that would help build a culture of peace that works for all, including:

A.  Federal Peacebuilding Legislation Awaiting House Action

  • Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2017 (H.R.1111- Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13).  Establishes a cabinet level Department of Peacebuilding and adds a voice at the table in the executive branch to address root causes of violence like inequality and poverty through effective programs and policies that create the infrastructures for a culture of peace. 
  • Assault Weapons Ban of 2018 (H.R.5087Rep. David N. Ciciline (D-RI-1).  Regulates the importation, manufacture, possession, sale or transfer of assault weapons, and for other purposes.
  • Establishing the Select Committee on Gun Violence Prevention (H.Res.367– Rep. Mike Thompson  (D-CA-5).  Establishes the House Select Committee on Gun Violence Prevention to investigate and report on causes of mass shootings and rates of gun violence in cities; linkages between firearms and suicide, public health, dangerously mentally ill individuals; correlation between state gun violence prevention laws and incidence of gun violence; an implementation of effective gun violence prevention laws in accordance with the 2ndAmendment to the Constitution.

B.  Federal Peacebuilding Legislation Awaiting Senate Action

  • Assault Weapons Ban of 2017  (S.2095) – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).  Regulates assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.
  • FIRST STEP Act (H.R.5682) – Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA-9) with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-8).  Passed in the House and referred to the Senate, this bill is exclusively focused on federal prison reforms.  It would provide terms for early release, ban the shackling of pregnant women in prison, expand life-changing classes, and add incentives that turn federal prisons toward rehabilitation so that people return back to their communities job-ready.

C.  CA State Legislation Awaiting Assembly Action

  • Criminal Procedure: Use of Force by Peace Officers (AB 931) - Shirley Weber & Kevin McCarty.  This bill would limit the use of deadly force, as defined, by a peace officer to those situations where it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death to the officer or to a third party, as specified. The bill would prohibit the use of deadly force by a peace officer in a situation where an individual poses a risk only to himself or herself. The bill would also limit the use of deadly force by a peace officer against a person fleeing from arrest or imprisonment to only those situations in which the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed, or intends to commit, a felony involving serious bodily injury or death, and there is an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to the officer or to another person if the subject is not immediately apprehended.  Supported by the ACLU.
  • Changing the Penal Code re: Inmates (SB 990) -  Scott Wiener. This bill would: (1) require equal access to programs and opportunities to work for inmates housed away from the general population for protective, rather than disciplinary reasons; and (2) require facility staff to utilize the gender identity, gender pronoun (“he,” “she,”or “they”), and honorific title (“Mr.,” “Miss,” “Ms.,” or “Mrs.,”) specified by the inmate.   Passed Senate, awaiting Assembly action, and backed by the ACLU.

D.  CA State Legislation Awaiting Senate Action

  • Cannabis Convictions Resentencing (AB 1793) - Rob Bonta.  This bill would 
    require the Department of Justice, Prosecutors, and Defense Attorneys to review the records and identify past convictions that are potentially eligible for recall, or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or re-designation now that marijuana has been legalized.  Passed Assembly and awaiting Senate action.
  • Addition to the Government Code relating to Military Equipment (AB 3131) - Todd Gloria & David Chiu. This bill requires approval and oversight on a continuing basis by state or local governing bodies of funding, acquisition, or use of military equipment within its jurisdiction only if it determines that the military equipment meets specified standards.  Passed Assembly, awaiting Senate action,and backed by the ACLU.
  • CalWORKs: Maximum Grant Amount (SB 982) - Holly Mitchell.  This bill raises  the minimum level from 33% to 50% of the federal poverty level for California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) grants, increases the maximum aid for CalWORKs grants, and establishes an annual increase in grants.  Supported by 20 or so non-profit service organizations and FCNL CA.
  • Peace Officers: Release of Records (SB 1421) Nancy Skinner
    This bill will permit inspection of specified peace and custodial officer records pursuant to the California Public Records Act. Records related to reports, investigations, or findings may be subject to disclosure if they involve: (1) incidents involving the discharge of a firearm or electronic control weapons by an officer; (2) incidents involving strikes of impact weapons or projectiles to the head or neck area; (3) incidents of deadly force or serious bodily injury by an officer; (4) incidents of sustained sexual assault by an officer; or (5) incidents relating to sustained findings of dishonesty by a peace officer.   Supported by literally hundreds of civil rights organizations.   

Compassion matters, stay woke, stay active, stay hopeful.  Peace on.

Nancy Merritt
On Behalf of the CA Department of Peacebuilding Campaign

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