The Spring Assembly Brought Us Together!
See below for videos of the workshops, a taste of what happened and some useful links!
Peace and Justice in a Time of Coronavirus
Saturday, May 2, 2020, 9 am – 12:30 pm
This was the 22nd Annual Western Washington FOR conference; this year by videoconferencing or phone due to COVID-19 restrictions. We found out how several groups and organizations are compassionately and courageously continuing to provide services in this unusually trying time, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted them and the people they serve.
A Taste of What Happened
& some suggestions to get involved
Spring Assembly brought us together!
David Lambert welcomed us warmly to this Zoom & phone event May 2, 2020, and acknowledged the rest of the planning committee. Then fellow Tacoma FOR activists Susan Donaldson and Vivi Bartron gave us a Meditation, with Susan giving a reading about the jeopardy of the effects of humans on the climate, and Vivi a more hopeful poem.
Paul Chiyoken Wagner, a member of the Wsaanich (Saanich) Tribe of southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, gave a Land Acknowledgement. He gave blessings in both his tribal language and in the language of the Puyallups on whose ancestral land he now resides. He spoke of the Northwest Natives respect for and nurturing of the land; of their respect for the wisdom of their elders and for the life giving role of women.
Paul Chiyoken Wagner segued into his workshop, starting with the work he does with Protectors of the Salish Sea. This group is calling for Governor Inslee to declare a climate emergency. They have persistently requested meetings with the governor, held rallies, walks, and occupations at the state capitol, and everyone can support the effort by signing their climate emergency petition. They finally were able to meet with the governor, but he has not yet agreed on declaring this emergency. Paul is also working with Puyallup Water Warriors in their stand against a proposed fracking operation to produce Liquid natural gas (LNG). An anti-fracking petition supports this effort.
Deborah Cruz and Betty Deveraux of Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest (AIDNW) talked about their work on behalf of the people imprisoned at the ICE Northwest Processing Center (also known as Northwest Detention Center) in Tacoma. Before the pandemic, they visited prisoners; currently their members are writing letters to prisoners. They support the people who are released from the facility, often with clothes inappropriate to the northwest climate, by providing warm outer clothing as well as backpacks. What the presenters stressed is providing what is needed for the released people to be treated with dignity as the people travel on to reunite with family and friends. The pandemic is making AIDNW’s work more complicated, but there are numerous ways we can help, by donations or volunteering.
Maru Mora Villapando of La Resistencia works in different ways to support the people imprisoned at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC). She started by saying that they don’t believe in charity and that the prisoners themselves are the ones who can lead the movement to Shut Down the NWDC, La Resistencia helps publicize conditions at the prison and members show up at the prison to support the people inside who have staged several hunger strikes. Organizations can show support by endorsing their efforts. Since the prison is clearly violating pandemic “social distancing” orders, La Resistencia encourages all to fill out a form reporting their illegal activity, and to pressure the governor to use his emergency powers to free all the prisoners. “For five plus years we have fought to close the Northwest Detention Center and we will not stop until the doors are opened and everyone is free.”
Kwabi Amoah-Forson of The Peace Bus told his interesting story of how his Peace Bus originated and evolved, and has been central to a number of campaigns. Kwabi was inspired by Brian Haw, solitary British peace vigiler, and went to Europe to discuss peace with people in several countries At one point Kwabi had the idea of becoming a pilot and flying all around the world to continue peace discussions. Once Kwabi abandoned the idea of flying, he bought a van and The Peace Bus was born. Kwabi used the van to deliver thick, warm socks to homeless people along the route to interviewing border patrol members near San Diego. In this pandemic time, he is using donations to deliver food to families whose children would normally eat at school. He is collecting letters from children about what they are doing to create peace. Next up will be The Peace Bus TV show. Kwabi says that when all have food, clothes and shelter, the we all can pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
Carly Brook and Kit Burns of the statewide coalition Washington Against Nuclear Weapons and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility went far beyond nuclear weapons are bad in their presentation. They started with a photo of people from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific being evacuated from their homes and relocated on other islands so that the U.S. could use their homeland for nuclear weapons testing. They showed the devastation wrought on Spokane Tribal land by uranium mining and spoke about the downwinders near Hanford where plutonium was produced for weapons, on land considered an “isolated wasteland.” That land still has massive contamination, and will remain dangerous for many decades to come. In the past 20 years, treaties and policies to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons have been weakened or abandoned. In this time of a great need for PPE and ventilators, 50-60 billion dollars are spent on nuclear weapons each year. Organizations can join the coalition to continue the work to abolish these weapons.
For further information on this topic, Kit recommended several films: Nuclear Savage: the islands of secret project 4.1 (2009) about the U.S. nuclear weapons testing wreaking havoc and destroying lives in the Marshall Islands; The Atomic States of America. (2012) – living in a nuclear reactor community, and the truths and myths of nuclear power; Count Down to Zero.(2010), a documentary about how the likelihood of nuclear weapons (or fissile materials) usage has increased; Uranium Drive-In. (2013) about the struggles between proponents and opponents of opening a uranium mill (plant to extract uranium from ore). Besides the links above, these films are available on DVDs for borrowing from the Meaningful Movies Project, see https://meaningfulmovies.org/film-library-old/.
Workshop Descriptions & Presenter Bios
1. Paul Chiyoken Wagner is a member of WSANIC’ (Saanich) First Nations and has been speaking out on social environmental issues since he was a boy at City hall meetings working to keep toxic fluoride out of drinking water. A Coast Salish Storyteller and award winning Native American flutist he is a strong advocate of ancient ways and teachings of the circle of life as well as the return of our elder women to guide our societies in to life. In 2013 Chiyokten assisted with Idle No More rallies and actions here in Seattle as well as speaking at them. In 2015 he was honored to speak alongside Jill Stein at the Cop21 Climate Talks in Paris with the Salmon is Life Coalition. After participating in the “Seattle to Standing Rock Canoe Journey” in Late August 2016 he started the campaign “Winter Shelter For Standing Rock” where he and volunteers built Tarpees (teepee like winter shelters) for Indigenous Water Protector families (with elders), to date 70 of these 8-12 person arctic shelters with custom wood stove heaters have been built for occupations and gifted to various points of resistance in the US and abroad and are still being gifted today. After returning to Seattle Chiyokten formed Protectors of the Salish Sea, an Indigenous led organization dedicated to ending the era of fossil fuel in our Salish Sea and beyond through direct divestment actions. Protectors of the Salish Sea has worked with numerous climate justice organizations where last year they helped occupy 2nd Avenue with 4 Tarpees to shut down Chase Bank. Protectors have occupied the Capitol 3 times. 3 years ago POSS occupied Olympia State Capitol with 4 Tarpees for 4 days and in September
2019 walked 46 miles and occupied the Olympia state capitol demanding that Gov. Jay Inslee Declare Climate Emergency honor the treaties by halting all fossil fuel expansion projects and occupied again on March 10th 2020. POSS is still organizing events and holding a daily presence at the Capitol and has a resistance camp 15 minutes from the State Capitol. Chiyokten has organized numerous walks and rallies, co-authored the Tokitae/ Salish Sea Whale Sanctuary Proclamation which has begun the process of recognizing our Salish Sea as Salish Sea Whale Sanctuary to save our Wild Salmon and Orcas from extinction.
2. Deborah Cruz and Betty Deveraux of Advocates of Immigrants In Detention Northwest will present on their services during this pandemic crisis. Currently we have an R.V. parked in from of the ICE Processing Center in Tacoma where we help people as they are released. Due to COVID-19 and separation, we are currently working outdoors under a canopy. Our volunteers are there from 3 – last release which can be as late as 7 PM. Our visitation program was shut down on March 13th, but our visitors continue to write to detainees and are busy making masks for those who are released and for our dedicated Welcome Center volunteers.
The Hospitality House is not accepting overnight visitors at this time. We have set up a corporate account at a hotel in Seatac for those immigrants
who cannot travel the same day. Our transportation volunteers are busy taking people to the hotel, airport, and
other local destinations.
3. Maru Mora Villalpando is a Long time Community Organizer who helped found La Resistencia in 2014 to support people detained in the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) who were on hunger strike. Maru has been active in organizing action with this group since; coordinating regular protests outside the NWDC gate. The goal of La Resistencia is to call attention to the inhumane conditions at this center and to shut down NWDC and to eliminate all deportations in Washington State. She will discuss how the covid-19 disease has the heightened the critical need to reach these goals quickly.
4. Kwabi Amoah-Forson: “My workshop will include the history of the Humanitarian Aid organization I created over the years called, The Peace Bus. I will be speaking about the recent adventure that The Peace Bus took to the Mexico border, our peace literacy program for elementary and middle schools, our kids Television show and our current Breakfast Fund for families in need. After speaking, I’d like to open up the floor for questions and conversations. I look forward to working with you all! Thank
5. Join Carly Brook of Washington Against Nuclear Weapons Coalition
for discussion and storytelling about the movement to abolish nuclear weapons, and call for survivors of Washington’s nuclear legacy including the Spokane Tribe, Marshallese, Hibakusha people, people living near the Trident Nuclear Submarine Base and Hanford’s downwinder communities. Carly will discuss the increased health impacts these communities are dealing with during COVID-19. Learn lessons from the history of Washington’s vibrant anti-nuclear movement and learn how you can join the movement to abolish nuclear weapons.
coordinates Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility’s nuclear weapons abolition program, coordinating the statewide coalition WANW( including our faith subcommittee, and youth front, along with frontline solidarity work), engaging with elected officials and promoting education and awareness of the proximate threat of nuclear weapons. They graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in Sociology and Global Studies and believe in building community power through grassroots organizing to build the world we want and need. Carly has learned from and organized as part of the International League of People’s Struggles, One America, the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, and Northwest Detention Center Resistance to
build a powerful network of organizing relationships.