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The Purpose of Protest
By David Hostetter Submitted by katwpcintern on Fri, 10/25/2013 - 1:36pm
For me, the fiftieth anniversary of the Peace Center has two meanings. On one level, realizing that I have been associated with the Center for 30 of my 51 years makes me feel much like I did when I received my first solicitation from AARP last year: How can I be so old? On another, it reminds me that I made a commitment to the Center from which I have derived a great deal of satisfaction. In the autumn of 1983 I climbed up the narrow stairs to the attic offices the Center then had in the Friends Meeting of Washington, and in my heart I have never come back down. It has been my honor to serve the Center as a volunteer, staff person, board member, and financial supporter.
My involvement with the Peace Center has shaped the focus of my research as a historian. When I delved into the records of the organizations that preceded the Center’s founding, I discovered an inspiring story of dedication and action. From July 1, 1959 until March 30, 1961, a network of peace activists maintained a vigil against preparation for biological warfare outside the main gate of the US Army's Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. Larry Scott, who coordinated The Vigil To Stop Biological Weapons at Fort Detrick, was a visionary nonviolent activist who applied the lessons of Gandhi’s struggle for Indian independence to politics in the US At the outset of the Vigil, Stewart Meachem, then peace secretary of the American Friends Service Commitee and a Vigil participant, wrote a letter to the Fort’s commander about the vital importance of protest and free speech. Meachem asserted, “You suggest that our right to protest peacefully is preserved by these preparations for spreading germs. This I firmly deny. The right to protest is preserved by those who invoke the right itself.” Despite the many changes that have taken place since the Vigil, Meachem’s words still ring true. Peace and freedom grow from nonviolent dissent and protest, not from the armed might of the state. When they ended the vigil, Scott and his comrades established the Washington Peace Action Center, which from 1961 through 1963 vigiled, leafleted and conducted civil disobedience at the White House, demanding a cessation of the testing of nuclear weapons by the US and USSR.
During that time, the Peace Action Center activists mobilized women, students and church people to speak out against the threat of nuclear war. They also joined in efforts for desegregation and participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In the course of their work they came to Washington, the nation’s capital, to bear witness to their beliefs and discovered the community of DC. Empowered by their experience, the core group dispersed in the fall of 1963 to pursue a wide variety of efforts for a just and peaceful world. The Washington Peace Center is their legacy.
The empowerment model of organizing has long been at the heart of what makes the Center a distinct presence among the many organizations that work for peace and justice. Larry Scott spent a great deal of time thinking about nonviolent strategy. Applying Gandhian ideas of nonviolence to the struggles for disarmament, civil rights and against the Vietnam war, he helped to set the course for the work the Peace Center has continued to pursue. Scott recognized the experimental nature of nonviolence, and that spirit has lived on in the many actions with which the Center has been involved.
During my most active years with the Center the prime focus was resisting the Reagan administration’s military intervention in Central America. Working with the Pledge of Resistance, in 1986 I participated in a sit-in in the rotunda of the US Capitol. Our group, trying to prevent Congress from providing more aid to the counter-revolutionary forces attacking the government of Nicaragua, sat down among the tourists who, in those pre-9/11 days, wandered the Capitol at will.
Once we made it clear that we would not leave voluntarily, the Capitol police cleared the rotunda. As we waited to be arrested, we surveyed the historic room around us. While the likenesses of generals and presidents dominated the scene, we spotted Quaker William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, in a frieze where he is shaking hands in 1682 with his seemingly surprised Lenni Lenape treaty partners. Penn the peacemaker had long stood alone amidst depictions of warring white men busily subjugating First Peoples and the land. That year he had been joined by a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. Since then the sculpted likness of suffraists Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony have also been added. While our presence during that sit-in was fleeting, we knew that we were the descendants of peace seekers of the past, and later said so at our trial. In our effort to prevent the US from being mired in yet another war, we were spurred by King’s admonition: “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered .”
We have confronted, but not overcome, the triplets described by King. The challenges faced by the founders of the Washington Peace Center have grown greater and more complex. We may have helped prevent a US war in Central America, but there are many potholes on the path to a more peaceful world, and the Center and its allies have hit some of them along the way. Nonetheless, what began as small network of predominantly Euro-American religious pacifists focused on disarmament has grown to encompass a diverse community and wide-range of issues connected to justice and peace.
The notion that everyone’s voice counts, an ideal that has always animated the Center’s work, remains central to the sense of community that has been sustained for more than fifty years. Five decades of experimenting with nonviolent social change has built a vital legacy of resistance that must be continued.
I think our commitment to peaceful methods of change while recognizi, in the words of Quaker author Margaret Hope Bacon, that “our allegiance to nonviolence does not demand from us that we shrink from taking sides,” has been the Center’s greatest success. Waging peace remains a monumental struggle, yet our effort to defend the right of protest itself through active, nonviolent dissent remains the central work of the Washington Peace Center.
David Hostetter served on the staff of the Peace Center from 1985-88 and during 1995. He is author of the book Movement Matters: American Antiapartheid Activism and the Rise of Multicultural Politics. His article “Experiment in Persuasion: The Vigil to Stop Biological Weapons at Fort Detrick, 1959-1961, and Antiwar protest in the 1960s,” is included in the book Mid-Maryland History: Conflict, Growth and Change.
We must hold our elected officials accountable for the Center for Public Integrity ranking of (D-) in State Corruption and ranking at the bottom in the nation for fraud. This means filing official PETITIONS, COMPLAINTS, AND ESPECIALLY FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUESTS to investigate and announce government corruption.
I want to see citizens form organizations in their communities to work on this. You can work with me as I work on larger projects. We watched the fraud of the last decade as innocent bystanders. Many, like me, thought it was just the Bush Administration. Now we see government at all levels openly violating and ignoring Rule of Law. WE SAY NO!
Taking the time to write a complaint, whether it be a large event like an Election Complaint with the Federal Elections Commission or a small complaint to the State University or Public Library system, letting people know the problem exists and the you care DOES WORK, especially if you are persisitant and public. Make your issue known in newspaper comment and letters sections, TV newroom tip sections, local organizations and their facebook pages .....YOU MUST SHAKE THAT APATHY AND CREATE A LIFESTYLE OF ACTIVISM OR YOU WILL LET SOMEONE ELSE DECIDE THE SOCIETY IN WHICH YOUR CHILDREN'S FUTURE LIE! You can bet that if you have a problem.....someone else does.
Politicians and institutions rate forms of complaint communications with heightened amplification. An email at the lowest end, phone call, and then letter writing. They figure if you sat down to write that letter, there are probably thousands of others feeling that same way.
MAKE A COMMITMENT TO MAKE THIS A ROUTINE WHETHER AS AN INDIVIDUAL, A GROUP, OR AS PART OF A LARGER ORGANIZATION. iT WILL BE TIME WELL SPENT. REMEMBER ------- WE WANT THESE ISSUES MADE VERY PUBLIC, SO SHOUT LOUDLY AND STRONGLY!
Here we have the Maryland Attorney General Complaint Secion on the government website. Look at the information requested and use that as a template for other complaints. THE PROBLEM CONSUMERS MUST ADDRESS IS THE FACT THAT WE HAVE A JUSTICE SYSTEM THAT WORKS REACTIVELY, NOT PROACTIVELY ON BUSINESS REGULATIONS. THIS IS A CHANGE FOR ALL OF US USED TO THE GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT OF JUST A FEW DECADES AGO. THAT IS HOW ALL THESE FRAUDS HAVE CAUGHT THE AMERICAN PUBLIC-------WE ARE USED TO FRAUD BEING RARE BECAUSE OF GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT. THESE LAST FEW DECADES HAVE BEEN ABOUT CORPORATE POLITICANS REVERSING THAT, HAVING NO OVERSIGHT UNTIL CONSIDERABLE DAMAGE IS DONE TO THE PUBLIC. THIS IS REPUBLICAN AND THIRD WAY POLICY.
File a Consumer Complaint If you are a Maryland consumer and have a dispute with a business, or if you live in another state and your dispute involves a transaction that occurred in Maryland, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division. Through mediation, we will work with you and the business in an effort to reach a mutually agreed-upon resolution to the dispute.
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1. Gather any documents that are relevant to your complaint, such as receipts, contracts, leases, repair orders or sales agreements. You may need to refer to these documents while you are filling out the complaint form and will need to send copies of these documents to our office after you file your complaint (see Step 5)
2. Choose the complaint form from the column at left that best suits your complaint and complete the form online.
3. When you have completed the form, review the information you have entered for accuracy and then click on the "Submit" button. Your complaint will be sent to our office and you will immediately receive a "Complaint Confirmation" on your screen which contains the information you provided along with other important information about how we will handle your complaint. You will not receive an email confirmation.
4. Print the “Complaint Confirmation” page to keep for your records.
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