The theme of our November 4-6 NWTRCC gathering, “Plant Peace – Resist War Taxes!” took on layers of meaning as we progressed through the weekend. We started on Friday evening and Saturday at the First Central Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, Kansas, including half of our business meeting on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday morning we met at the home of Beth Seberger for breakfast and the conclusion of the Coordinating Committee meeting, and then carpooled to witness at The Kansas City Plant, located on a former soybean field on the southern edge of Kansas City, Missouri, and now billed as the Future Home of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
The gathering, planned and hosted by Kansas City war tax resisters, members of Catholic Worker, and the Church of the Brethren, began with dinner and a welcome by First Central Church Pastor Sonia Griffith who led us in singing, “Put peace into each other’s hands,” which happened to be Hymn 1099!
Charles Carney, chair of the planning committee, spoke passionately about his “unilateral disarmament” and how freeing it is to tell the government that it will get no more of his money to pay for war – or the preparation for perpetual war, epitomized in the Plant. If it goes into production the Plant would make up to 95% of the non-nuclear parts for all the nuclear weapons made in the United States.
Charles (left with sign), along with other war tax resisters Kima Garrison of Portland, Oregon, Erica Weiland of Seattle, and Jason Rawn (right in photo) of Union, Maine, as well as Jim Hannah, of Independence, Missouri, faced arrest by crossing “the line” at the Plant on Sunday to witness that money should be invested in planting death. Kima and Erica were released four hours after their arrest on $100 bonds. Charles and Jim were released on signature bonds Monday. A court date, January 17, 2012, was set for the four resisters’ trial. Jason was also released on time served – 23 hours in custody on a forced fast due to no sensitivity at the jail to his gluten free diet.
After his release, Charles commented on the “incredible witness of the NWTRCC leaders who ”went the extra mile to support us in KC.” Kima, Jason, and Erica are active on the Administrative Committee and Working Groups of NWTRCC.
Beth Seberger also testified Friday night on her lifetime of war tax resistance. (See her talk on YouTube.) She began by not paying the $18 due to the IRS in 1970 when she saw the courage of young men her age who were resisting the Viet Nam War draft. She said she thought she was done resisting taxes after that war ended, only to learn that militarism continues. She has lived on a low-taxable income while raising her son and continues to contribute to the good of her community by asking her employer to keep her income below taxable levels.
“Many times I think God had a hand in it” (living gracefully while following her conscience), she said. Beth spent much of the rest of the time coordinating the kitchen volunteers who prepared our meals.
Ann Suellentrop, a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) who said the law requires nurses to pay their taxes in order to get licensed, talked Friday about some of the chilling facts about nuclear weapons. Even unused, stockpiled nuclear weapons kill people in America, she said. The bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki are “like bb guns” compared to bombs being made now. Quoting PSR, Ann said, “Prevention is the only cure.” On Saturday night, she showed the film written by Alice and Lincoln Day, Scarred Lives and Wounded Lands, an Economic Footprint.
Saturday morning 25-30 people, including two young women who are working in AmeriCorps in Lawrence, Kansas, shared what WTR/peacemaking activities they and the groups they represented have been doing and the impact WTR has on their daily life.
One project shared captured our interest. Kansas City resisters delivered boxed pizzas to university students who, when they opened the boxes, they found only half a pizza along with a note saying “Oops, the Pentagon got the other half.”
Bill Ramsey reported that the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign Escrow Account has been moved from Seattle to St. Louis. It welcomes deposits from WTRs across the country. Ruth Benn, our NWTRCC coordinator, invited everyone to send photos, captions and stories about local war tax resistance actions to her for the newsletter.
After a break, two groups met. Ruth led Tax Resistance 102. Helen Yeomans, a tax consultant from Overland Park, Kansas, led Tax Refusal 101. She gave very practical information about legal ways to lower taxable income and increase deductions to keep one’s money from paying for war. She stressed that resisters should avoid the $5,000 frivolous penalty by not writing or stapling anything on the tax returns – ever! Instead, write letters to lawmakers, newspapers and, in other ways, share your convictions with others.
Helen said that giving your time and reducing the level of pay you receive for your work is the simplest way to keep from owing taxes. She highly recommended giving money and goods generously so as to increase itemized deductions (which also include deductions for medical expenses, other taxes paid and mortgage interest). One can count gifts to charity up to 50 per cent of adjusted gross income each year as a tax deduction and any contributions greater than 50 per cent can be carried forward to later years. Helen consulted with individuals after her workshop. Her insight and information was helpful.
In the afternoon Ron Faust, a poet and member of the Kansas City Area War Tax Resisters led “Fright and Fight” Resistance workshop. He’s written an article for the next issue of More Than A Paycheck about his Tax Court experiences, so watch for that in early December. Meanwhile, a poem below.*
At the same time, Bill Ramsey spoke on “War Tax Resistance as a Form of Protest. He told parts of his story as a long-time draft and war tax resister and how he uses any publicity resulting from his WTR as a teachable moment to connect WTR with needed social change and to strengthen community among all who work in any way for peace and social change. He said that “a silent witness is ok” but strongly encouraged WTRs to witness publicly, and focus letters and speeches on what you want changed, not just on yourself. He called on citizens to point out violations of international law carried out by the U.S. and try to “get the government to live by its own laws.”
Joffre Stewart, who has resisted the draft and also war taxes since at least 1948, said as an anarchist, he opposes the existence of the State itself, which is responsible for all wars. He called on us to “break our identity with the state” and not say “Our government.”
Henry Stoever, a Kansas City attorney who has represented prisoners of conscience, tax resisters and peace planters, talked about the primacy of conscience and also said we need to take the chance to speak out about what is harming “the family” – things that will hurt our country in the end.
Naomi Paz Greenberg, from New York, who serves on the board of Conscience and Peace Tax International, said out that “Tax Freedom Day” is a good time to point out that taxpayers are in fact working for the government, doing military service, for a long part of each year.
Good experiences and strategies for communicating with people opposed to WTR were shared by several people. Naomi said, “Do listen to ones who disagree.” Bill said, See opposition as an opportunity for conversations to raise questions” and “absorb their negativity and move beyond it.”
Bill ended his story with telling how his witness around the dinner table of a United Methodist pastor and his family resulted in Clark Hanjian, a NWTRCC veteran who was one of the two young boys at the table in 1974, crediting Bill in 1994 for inspiring him to become a WTR and a vegetarian.
Most people stayed together for the first part of the semiannual business meeting late Saturday afternoon, even though the fresh air outside on a cool, sunny day was inviting. Some of the discussion centered on building our movement, relating to the Occupy Wall Street protesters and helping them see the connections between the suffering of the 99% and the funding of war, and starting a new war tax boycott.
After more good food, prepared by Tom and Norene Purcell for Saturday’s dinner. the group met again with Henry and Jane Stoever to prepare for the vigil at the Kansas City Plant that Jane organized.
“We’re all sick of Honeywell
That create hell”
[Hear a version on YouTube and read the lyrics from an earlier demonstration at the site.]
Erica Weiland reported the results from 17 surveys filled out by WTRs attending the Kansas City gathering. Some statistics: Of those reporting, nine persons have filed and refused to pay 100 per cent of taxes at some time in their lives; five don’t file; 12 live below a taxable income. The 17 people have resisted income taxes for a cumulative 432 years; and refused telephone taxes for a total of 180 years. Based on the 10 who reported about how much money they redirected from paying for war, an estimate of $359,610 was made. Of that, the IRS seized about $94,000. People surveyed reported positive reasons for being WTRs: freedom of conscience, feeling empowered and being a part of the community of resisters.
After a change to Standard Time and the experience some noticed of the Oklahoma City earthquake aftershocks, we met Sunday morning for breakfast and the rest of the business meeting. We also finished writing notes to 12 WTR friends who are suffering from illness, garnishments and other difficulties.
During evaluation time, Charles thanked everyone for “taking time out of your lives” to come to Kansas City. Joffre responded, “I didn’t take time out of my life.”
The NWTRCC group was joined by other Kansas City area peacemakers at the nuclear weapons parts building site to say, “Plant beans, not bombs,” “War taxes are killing us” and other messages tied to military spending and its horrible consequences and to tie our signed “I won’t pay taxes for nuclear bombs” cards to the fence enclosing the former soybean field. Several persons spoke, including Daniel Woodman, North Carolina farmer who said we should nurture what we plant if we want it to grow and we should not nurture the K.C. nuclear plant with our tax dollars.
Jim Hannah (arrestee on right) quoted astonishing figures saying that “a million dollars a day is being poured into this project” and, according to the federal Government Accountability Office, five billion dollars would be spent in building and operating the plant as a nuclear weapons parts factory would be spent in the next 20 years if plans continue.
“Five billion dollars! . . . Imagine that. . . . That’s not peanuts . . . and certainly not soybeans! You could buy a lot of good with that kind of money. Or a lot of death and destruction.”
Peacemakers hope to turn the Plant into a facility to manufacture parts for alternative energy creation, such as wind turbines or solar receptors. Kansas has a lot of wind and sun. NWTRCC members believe that one important way to Plant Peace is to Resist War Taxes.
Susan Miller is a member of the Heartland Peace Tax group and a former NWTRCC Administrative Committee member who writes from her home in Hesston, Kansas.
This intimidation is the way
To keep the poor in line,
So that the military will stay
And the rich will dine.
Every once in awhile, in due time,
A war and tax protestor comes along,
To remind us that we lost the sublime
And our priorities have gone wrong.
(On occasion when tax resisters are raising the priorities of a nation)
By Ron Faust from Prophetic Poems
Photos by Susan Miller, except “Beans Not Bombs” by NWTRCC.
Read minutes of the Coordinating Committee business meeting.