Monday, Jul. 22, 2019

Someday. With Liberty & Justice for All - DC Advocacy Days, Part I

By Nancy Merritt · November 09, 2018

Rep. Ron Dellums & MLK <span>&copy;  </span>

Rep. Ron Dellums & MLK


DoP Advocates at Rep. Barbara Lee's (CA) Office <span>&copy;  </span> DoP Advocates at Sen. Murkowski's (AL) Office <span>&copy;  </span> DoP Advocates at Rep. Cedric Richmond's (LA) Office <span>&copy;  </span>

“I am not going to back away from being called a radical.  If advocating for peace, justice and humanity toward all human beings is being radical, then I am proud to be called a radical.”– Rep. Ron Dellums (Oakland, CA), 1935 - 2018 

Ron Dellums served as the Congressman from Oakland/ Berkeley CA for 27 years.  He rose from bellbottom-wearing, peace-espousing, Afro-sporting Berkeley City Council member to member of Congress and Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, where he received bipartisan support from Northerners and Southerners alike.  He passed away on July 30, 2018.

In talking about lessons learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congressman Dellums, said, “But, to me, the most powerful statement, that shaped my life forever, was this comment: ‘Peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the presence of justice.’ I interpreted that to mean, wow, the peace movement is the ultimate movement. Peace is the superior idea, the umbrella movement for—of all movements, the peace movement, because to come together under the banner of peace forces us to challenge all forms of injustice.”

Ron Dellums was also the mentor of Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), sponsor of legislation to create a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding (DoP/ H.R. 1111).

I. ADVOCACY DAYS OVERVIEW

During the week of International Day of Peace (September 21), a small group DoP advocates made the annual pilgrimage to Washington, DC seeking additional cosponsors for current DoP legislation, working to build relationships for peacebuilding, and dialoguing about the role of peacebuilding and other peace-related legislation.  We also urged support for the DoP Act of 2019, which will be introduced likely in February 2019. 

During Advocacy Days, we sought co-sponsorship of  the Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2017 (H.R. 1111); legislation relating to Assault Weapons Ban (H.R. 5077, S. 2095); Condemning Violence Against Children Globally (H.R. 5087); Establishing the Select Committee on Gun Violence Prevention (H. Res. 367); No Money Bail Act  of 2017 (H.R. 1437); Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 6545); Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriation Act (S. 1780); REUNITE Act (S. 3227); and Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 1917).

DoP advocates visited legislators to promote multiple peace-related bills, delivered constituent letters, and worked with DoP supporters in the field to AMPLIFY our requests for cosponsors of peacebuilding legislation and followed-up after Advocacy Days (See also  Then We Met Congress - DC Advocacy Days, Part II): 

  A. Legislative Visits

  • visited over 140 legislative offices, including at least 121 House visits and 19 Senate visits, with visits to approximately 130 Democrats (130) and 10 Republicans 
  • conducted 24 scheduled meetings, two of which included constituent participation via phone (Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)) 
  • met informally with the offices of numerous legislators
  • visited the offices of 43 current DoP cosponsors and sponsor Rep. Barbara Lee(D-CA) to thank them for their current co-sponsorship and urge them to sign on when the bill is reintroduced in 2019

  B. Letters

  C. AMPLIFY Support 

  • spread the word through: 1) distribution of AMPLIFY flyers at the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting in Oakland (CA) in 7/18, the CA Vision 2020 Conference in Sacramento in 9/18, the Nevada County (CA) Democratic Women’s Club; and 2) communication with multiple peace groups in North Carolina,  the Oakland (CA) Wellstone Democratic Club,  the Pace e Bene/ Nonviolence Convergence website and at its march in DC on 9/21/18,  St. Paulus Lutheran Church in San Francisco, Wisconsin Lutherans,  and at the World Beyond War Conference in Toronto, Canada in 9/18
  • AMPLIFY phone calls to legislators by individuals from CA, MT, ND, NM and elsewhere, Montana, North Dakota, and New Mexico.
  • Peace Alliance’s online petitions garnered additional contacts with members of Congress and Senators

  D.  Follow-up

  • after DC Advocacy Day, followed up on legislative visits with phone calls and emails to almost all offices where we had meetings and with some other “drop-by” offices

  E. All Advocacy Days Legislation

From 09/01/2018 -- when we started  publicizing our Advocacy Days legislative recommendations -- through 11/02/2018 follow-up efforts, 64 cosponsors added their names to our recommended bills, including at least 34 from our visit list.  Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) cosponsored HR 1111 during this time.  The largest increase was in cosponsors of Condemning Violence Against Children Globally (H.R. 5087) and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 6545).  Regarding several other bills, many on our visit list were already cosponsor.  There was very little movement on a couple of bills.

II.  INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE

In addition to our Congressional visits, we participated in: 1)  local activities such as San Diego’s International Day of Peace/ “Give Peace a Chance” gathering of middle and high school students at Millennial Tech Middle School; 2) state activities such as CA Vision 2020 in Sacramento; 3) national activities such as Pace e Bene’s Nonviolence Convergence in Washington, DC (with affiliated activities throughout the nation) where we carried the DoP banner in a silent march from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument to the White House; and 4)  international activities such as World Beyond War’s Conference “Designing a World Beyond War: Legalizing Peace,” where the US Department of Peacebuilding co-presented a panel with Canada’s Peace Initiative on “Departments and Other Infrastructures for Peace -- A Way Forward.” (See 2018 ‘World Beyond War’ Toronto Conference Included Departments & Infrastructures for Peace (I4P) Workshop.)  Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) wrote a welcoming letter to attendees in which she said the culture of violence that we live in is unacceptable. (See Rep. Barbara Lee Urges Building Peace Together, Ending War & Violence As the Norm.)

The theme of this year’s International Day of Peace was the Right to Peace and included celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  which recognizes that “the inherent dignity and of equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #16/ ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’ asks:  How can a country develop – how can people eat and teach and learn and work and raise families – without peace?  And how can a country have peace without justice, without human rights, without government based on the rule of law?“ 

We also visited the African American Museum, where the bloody history of racism in this country is on full display.  We were reminded that the last part of the Pledge of Allegiance proclaims “liberty and justice for all” and that this pledge is not complete until we add the word 'someday'.

III.  DEPARTMENT OF PEACEBUILDING LEGISLATION 

Legislation calling for establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding provides “The United States has been at peace for only 21 entire years since its birth during the Revolutionary War. During the course of the 20th century, more than 100,000,000 people perished in wars. Many of our citizens today have never known a peaceful year in their lifetimes.” (HR1111/ Sec. 2, Finding #3)  

Yet over 50% of this nation’s discretionary budget goes to war and weapons.  The current administration spends an inordinate amount of time spreading fear and promoting chaos.  Our budget says we value war profiteering and destruction over the health of the earth and its people.  It says we choose to buy bombs over supporting schools, food, jobs, healthcare, improved infrastructure and earth stewardship.  Our national budget says peace and justice are not currently national priorities.   

During Advocacy Days, we said peacebuilding means evaluating the root causes of violence and acting upon the root causes of peace. We have to face the history and presence of violence in this nation.  During Advocacy Days, sexual assault and violence against women were in the spotlight. Other manifestations of violence simmered in the background ... daily violence against the African America community, homophobia, immigrant bashing, violence against Muslims, violence against Native Americans, astronomical veteran suicide rates, daily fear by American students of being shot in school,  and assault on the Earth.  The mass shooting of Jewish worshippers in Pittsburg, PA was not far in the future. 

Peacebuilding is too important to relegate to the future, to leave to chance, or to dump in the trash heap of futility and despair.  It is past time to prioritize violence prevention and to build a peaceful culture.

IV.  THE SUPREME COURT HEARING BACKDROP 

In addition to the usual drumbeat of “Make America Great Again” and MAGA Mania by the current administration, woven throughout our DC Advocacy Days was the fight for a seat on the highest court in the nation. Its rulings shape our society. The Supreme Court will likely deal with voter rights, healthcare, Roe v. Wade, immigration, the criminal justice system, climate, wealth and resource distribution, presidential powers and other issues intrinsic to peace and justice.   

The Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings started on 9/4/18 - 9/7/18, continued with the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on 9/27/18 and ended on 10/5/18 when the Senate voted to appoint Brett Kavanaugh to the nine-member Supreme Court.  

DoP advocates were in DC from 9/20/18 on.  During this time, Dr. Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.  Other women came forward with related allegations, witnesses emerged.  Kavanaugh’s character, temperament  and fitness to serve on the Supreme Court came into question. Women flew into DC from Alaska, Maine and elsewhere to implore their Senators not to elevate Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.  

On September 20, 2018, NOW President Toni Van Pelt issued a statement:  “NOW supports calls made by Anita Hill, among others, for a truly independent, neutral investigative body with training in trauma-informed investigations to make a report to the committee ... Dr. Blasey Ford also deserves the full measure of justice for new threats to her life and safety.  She and her family are unable to safely occupy their home, and she continues to receive death threats and vicious attacks on social media …”

Three DoP advocates stayed in DC until Dr. Blasey Ford’s testified on 9/27/18.  DoP Advocate Anne Creter (NJ) said, “The day I needed to leave D.C. turned out to be the day before the unprecedented historic Judge Kavanaugh / Dr. Ford hearing was to take place in the Senate.  I felt compelled to be there to support Dr. Ford so was able to extend my stay one more day.  After waiting in line for hours engaging with like-minded folks from around the country who were as appalled as I was about the injustice of the Supreme Court nomination, I got a coveted seat in the Senate Overflow Hearing Room to view the hearing going on just two floors away.  While disappointed not to sit silently directly outside the hearing room in protest as I had heard was planned, it still was very gratifying to experience and bear witness to this poignant day while in D.C.”   

On September 28, 2018, shortly after he announced his support of Brett Kavanaugh, two women blocked the elevator carrying Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ.), commanding his attention for five minutes and condemning his support for Kavanaugh. Maria Gallagher, a 23-years-old sexual assault survivor told him,  “Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me.”  DoP Advocate Jerilyn Stapleton (CA) said, “the second woman who held the elevator was using restorative justice language i.e. the harm caused, etc.  I was in tears listening to both of them, but especially felt a joy in my heart to hear the restorative justice words. They both made him listen …” 

At a campaign rally in MI on 10/2/18, the president mocked Dr. Ford’s testimony and told people to ‘think of your son.’

Without a complete investigation and testimony from witness, the all-male Republican majority members of the Senate Judiciary Committee rushed this through to the final Senate vote.  On October 4, 2018, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and five Republican members of the Committee stood before the nation in a press conference and declared, “We’ve had a fair and thorough process … he’s one of the best nominees I have seen in my 42 years in the senate … Kavanaugh has proven his character, truthfulness …”  

That same day, the Huffington Post reported an encounter between Sen. Orrin Hatch  (R-UT) and a woman sexual assault survivor:  “’Why aren’t you brave enough to talk to us and exchange with us?’ an unidentified female demonstrator asked Hatch …  ‘When you grow up, I’ll be glad to [speak to you],’ Hatch responded from behind his security.  ‘How dare you talk to women that way? How dare you?’ the woman replied. Hatch waved goodbye to the protesters as the elevator doors closed.”

All of this permeated  our time in DC, via signs in the halls of Congress and in media coverage airing on television sets in legislative offices, including in stories about actor Bill Cosby relating to allegations of multiple sexual assaults over many years  (“Bill Cosby Sentenced to 3-10 Years in Prison”) and to concerns about Kavanaugh on many issues:

  • On Senate office windows overlooking the Senate Hart Building atrium, posters said:  “Believe Survivors,” “Believe Women,” “Kavanaugh on Reproductive Rights: Overturn Roe v. Wade, Deny Access to Contraception,” “Kavanaugh on Health Care: Overturn ACA.  End protections for pre-existing conditions” 
  • Lapel buttons: “I Believe Dr. Blasey Ford/ #BelieveSurvivors,” “Still She Persisted/ Elisabeth Warren,” and, “I Still Believe Anita Hill”

Then, there were our Congressional visits.  (See Then We Met Congress - DC Advocacy Days, Part II.)     

Peace-ing it together,

Nancy Merritt
 
On Behalf of the National Department of Peacebuilding Committee
And Department of Peacebuilding Advocates

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