May Gathering Sessions

Saturday a.m. Session
Tax Season Divest/Invest Campaign Evaluation/Comments

Present: Robin Harper, Erica Weiland, Rick Bickhart, Jason Rawn, Robert Randall, Peter Smith, Susan Lee Barton, Rachel Soltis, Paul Sheldon, Coleman Smith, Anne  Barron, Candi Horton, Bob Smith, Craig Simpson, Mike Levinson, Marie and Daniel Riehl, Ginny Schneider, Ruth Benn, Bill Glassmire, Jerry Chernow, Paula Rogge

Anne B – introducing the topic of divest from Pentagon; expanding our partnerships with other groups; She likes to start with “invest” in people first then “divest” as one of the ways to do this. NWTRCC gave $350 to local organizers; she used it to support local groups – overhead light brigade, occupy san diego, other groups; they bought snacks or whatever from local businesses. Seemed to resonate well. Many of the vendors signed up on the info contact sheets. Worked with whoever is working on MLK events; found it was heavily militarized in SD, plus elected officials; community groups were at back of parade, so they used that to start the discussion about the cooptation of this parade. She joined NAACP to talk about the issue of defunding the Pentagon in a community which needs military jobs. They talked about peaceful careers. When you talk about the IRS you hit a wall; concern about jail. Peace Tax Fund was hugely popular. Used alternative fund to pump up the volume; and use again next year to get people to apply and make connections. Met people at Rising Tide are former wtrs.

Robert R – difficulty of bringing antiwar/antimilitarist message to MLK events. Not just military seen as a way out, but is a way to say “look I’m part of you, I belong to you, I earned my way.” Robert served on a committee that plans the march. No sense of anything wrong with ROTC and such being part of the parade. Robert thinks divest/invest is not critical one way or the other. On a campus “divest” might be the thing to emphasize. In social service groups “invest” might make more sense. Robert thinks the back of the card is excellent text.

Mike L – disagrees about the card text. He finds “invest” to be a word primarily of interest to people with money. “If you invest money in something” tends toward people who have wealth. That doesn’t relate to other people who don’t invest.

Jerry – the context makes it clear

Susan Lee – appreciates that interpretation of “invest”. Also feels we should use the words of the culture in different ways. With her paycheck she tries to line up what she should do with her money, line up her resources with beliefs. Our emphasis on “invest in people” – different than the way others use invest. It reclaims words like invest for more than what business is doing.

Robin – appreciates Mike raising this concern “if you invest your time and resources in something you want it to bring us future benefits and security”. Robin would like it to be more community centered. The first sentence is good.

Erica – would like to hear more about a general evaluation of the whole “days of war tax action” – language is one thing but did our pilot project work. Did we connect with new local groups. Could we do it differently next year if we wanted to try something like this again.

Bill G – sympathetic to Mike’s concern and prefers Mike’s emphasis. One WTR leafleted at PO for many years but got no results and gave up doing wtr and leafletting. Bill is concerned about us writing for other people, not ourselves.

Ginny – would like to speak about working with other groups and movements. Her partner is Apache, the risk for people of color is way more than the risk for us. For many people of color and others it’s a scrabble to get above taxable income, so if you get there are you going to give it up. Makes it more difficult about accepting other people’s experiences in our expectations.

“Divestment” as a connector to other groups. How can NWTRCC and other groups implement that. What are other people thinking and how to reinforce that in our work.

Coleman – looking toward 2017, we need to do more listening. Sitting in a Black Lives Matter group and hearing what the issues are, how they are talked about, what the language is. When we talk about “war” it’s another country but we should use that language more here. In US borders are locked off or can be; climate change and resource wars; violations of human rights. How do we translate resistance to taxes that make other communities understand. Why do campuses have military equipment at football games? Militarization of the police. The palm card is a work in progress. What we’re talking about is not something out there but it’s here.

Jason – “right wing kooks” and “left wing kooks” – Jason more partial to left wing kooks, but has paid more attention to right wing kooks and learning a lot. Reading about homeland security grants for local communities. What do we have to offer? Under 10 years to make changes and feels he should not be here but doing direct action. When I think about divestment and investment and the relationship I think of direct action: carbon farming – use animals. Bioremediation – using fungus to take care of problems from mortgaged opulence. Real things are being done to change the world and think of divestment I think of taking the trillion for nuke weapons and how many radioactive eating mushrooms could that buy. UMASS study for every billion invest in war buys more for education, green jobs, etc.  We need to figure out who we should be talking to and working with and do it.

Mike – words we use are important. Feed the cities, not the pentagon. Prefers that to using “investments”. Redistribute wtr money.

Ginny – in terms of “divestment” part – what have people done to connect with other divestment movements. There’s an action in Albany and all over the world today – fossil free divestment movement. An island off Louisiana already evacuated

Anne B – joined Rising Tide in SD, and they are working with which is doing more direct action. Most of the group is below taxable income. They are interested in what “older folk” (Anne) brings, but they are still so focused on divestment from fossil fuels. Sees her job is to ties it to the military as biggest global climate changers. She started before MLK of just going to lots of meetings and putting out info but not saying anything. Just listening.  Found that the pie chart card got picked up most at many of these meetings. People at Creech did use the QR code. Keeping presence alive in SD. Going to meetings and having tables and lit. Have allies promote our stuff more. VfP nationally needs to embrace WTR for the chapters to do so. After this tax season, more local San Diego groups have links on their websites to WTR stuff.

Robert – what did happen with the pilot projects? Michiana, Seattle, etc.

Robin – thinks the card is written “for the choir”; maybe comic book language, shirt sleeve English. Hard for us to write in that way, how the person in the street responds to our literature. Divest falls into the other pattern of written too much for own edification.

Erica – Anne did put in a ton of time to do the outreach and make connections. Others have just not had the time to start building those connections in a more strategic way, to do small things as she did to build on. Erica is not as social as Anne so doesn’t have all the social energy for personal meetings and outreach.

Bill G – went to meetings of Corvallis Chapter, talked to woman from citizen’s climate lobby.  He sees people in his generation, not the young folks. Busy-ness is a disease in Corvallis, He made a proposal for them to adopt WTR in some way or another – contribute some money to work against climate change. Talked about it for a couple meetings, we are too busy, we don’t have time for this.

Peter – MLK event penny poll, talked to some groups but didn’t build anything. Didn’t have a chance to network around the event.

Ginny – arrested with Bill McKibben. He purposely is not involving militarism in work of no anti-nuke and no militarism. At the local level there is possibility to make connections, but at national no.

Coleman – Death & Taxes is underused. There are good testimonies on there.

– Ran out of time. This discussion fed into the Saturday afternoon session. –

Saturday afternoon sessions

Building partnerships and Outreach/Field organizing sessions were combined

In part the outreach discussion was designed to feed into the proposal for hiring a field organizer.

Robert – In thinking about these 2 together, now thinking of needing someone who has a lot of experience in collaborative organizing and making some of the connections. We can teach that person about WTR but harder for a WTR to maybe do the collaboration work.

Paul – the challenge of partnerships. We want one big community to connect with everybody, but having a focused campaign like or Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) has value. He mentioned the NWTRCC gathering in EQAT, but no one was especially excited about this; they have a strict focus on their campaign. You get something done that way. Going outside hurts their effort. Even EQAT and took a while to work together. Partnerships need to be ones that really want to work together.

Bob – Difference between movements and campaigns. You can have campaigns within movements but in times like this, with antiwar movement in deep sleep it’s hard. We have our actions but the movement is non-existent. In times like these you go with campaign – clearly focused with particular demands, etc. He and George Lakey talk about this; Occupy was all over the place. Have had partnerships with different groups at different times. With DNC coming, Brandywine has outline for antiwar presence – not a march. There are other marches. A lot of groups joining the big marches, like March for Our Lives. Antiwar had to decide what they’d do, and in this case they hope to bring in drone replicas and place them in areas that are well traveled, have a daily presence in parts of the city. That seems best for where the antiwar movement is at these days

Susan Lee – Which groups that are already active can we join with. Making it mutually beneficial is one of the challenges. We have a specific focus as do the other groups so finding angles to work with specific groups. Anne B’s examples in San Diego show the steps to building connections. Where are the connections that can be built on – like the tiny houses – what are the issues where the connections can be made, like housing. Redirection of tax funds can be a visible benefit. Using the local models for a nationwide step one day. If we want to connect with average people how can we make the connections about the militarism in our country.

Bob – It’s great to work with groups on something. The more specific the better. It’s a strength to say who we are. It’s very clear.  Work with groups on something and be who you are.

Nancy Tate – charging ahead with the things we want to work on. Local is so different from what we are talking about. Not quite clear what we want to do – national vs. local is very different.

Erica – with the grant money, using some to fund people to do work with local groups; how local groups build connections is useful for us.

Craig – he belongs to early childhood teachers group. Not connected to WTR. Always struggling to get things passed like more money for preschool teachers pay; some have no benefits. We might get some money then it disappears. Military gets millions and billions, early childhood is nothing. Craig would ask a field organizer to help produce some flyers and info that could go to their network – teachers, parents, children, grandparents. Where the money is going. Where it could go. An annual budget for day care center compared to a fighter plane There’s wide outreach in this network.. Teachers are part of the global majority/people of color. They know what’s going on in their communities.

Robert – there are a lot of people thinking along those lines. Just not the people we know or think of. He thinks that the peace movement is not moribund. Taking different forms with different people. When the call is “don’t shoot” that’s a peace message. When he hears Black Lives Matter talk, it is often about divest from police and invest in community. What we’ve been struggling for in this idea of building partnerships, it’s how to better fulfill that reality that already exists. Maybe we wish the antiwar component is better recognized. We won’t achieve what we want to achieve without making these connections.

Bob – Black Lives Matter was absorbed into power quickly in Philly. Depends on where you are. Black police and black mayor makes it different. There’s a lot of “heart politics” in the peace movement – “peace day” – but Brandywine is not welcome. “We’re not protesting” is how they get received.

Jason – being antiwar is important but so many people just overwhelmed by the violence in the world that they are just like “I’m going to garden.” Does the protest with sign is one thing; or go to community saying “hey, there’s a trillion dollars up for grabs and how do we get hold of it.” Email from David Gross – “Spanish newspaper diagonal ran a notice that people should resist war taxes and give them to diagonal.” [about setting up a website making connections through redirection that benefits the groups being funded and they in turn resist]

Rick – all these issues won’t be achieved unless we address militarism. never mentions militarism. Such a huge blind spot. Distressing.

Jason – in Maine on the local level they did speak on tax day

Coleman – People gravitate to the things they can see. All movements are hitting walls. Move to more horizontal organizing, crossing traditional boundaries.  At human rights network meeting he went to they did not talk about militarism or have it on their agenda. He is assigning himself the task to take the topics they do have and make the connections to militarism to show them.  In Ashville, BLM discussion – the population in Asheville of people of color has been reduced. No affordable housing, etc. Border issues – war and militarism there.  The language is important.

Robert – how do you define militarism. A particular set of one group over another with a violent intervention. Population is converted to this military norm. Dominance of a violent set of values. Exploitations of one group over another.

Paul – Students think we are not at war. Militarism is almost a better term now. Villanova used to have a peace group. “No one wants peace more than the military” – we are against militarism. We’d like a different attitude and approach toward our world neighbors.

Ruth – Would like to focus a bit more on actual things we can do. As NWTRCC we can do only so much, and we’ve been trying to help facilitate some new local models. Use a field organizer(s) to find the people in our network who we can use better.

Susan Lee – Yes, we want to focus on WTR but we also need to be able to talk about the issues that are important to them. We need to be able to make the connections in the way we talk and use the language that relates to these communities we want to talk to.

Anne  – Peace Resource Center has “prisms” of discussion. Maybe not getting more WTRs but working with other groups/defund militarism. Would rather not have 1 person who goes around but supporting the regional groups that are already doing something. Having a “national” person may not be able to understand those connections.

Erica – Field Organizer idea is not to have a person pop in and do their thing, but to learn about the connections and what people are doing. Networking and building connections are part of that proposal. Support for local groups – having capacity to do things that a local group maybe cannot do. Anne’s example shows how much time it takes to do what we are talking about.

Anne – next year there will be more people doing what she was doing.

Bob – role of field organizer is organizational. Not as fluid as personal considerations. Don’t start with the broadest, start with the specific and real. Antiwar work within communities – “make it real”. They do a bi-monthly “reach out” – a table with goodies – kisses, etc. – and literature at transit stops. People just stop and maybe take lit and chat. Would like to see a field organizer raising the issue for people for peace or antiwar – raise war tax resistance in peace groups/for peace groups. Raise first your allies and build on that.

Paul – when he talks to people about WTR, people are amazed to hear the concept. Over and over people have never heard of it.  Tax resistance to a corrupt government is powerful these days. “You can do” this empowers people.

Robert – keep language short. Militarism is a long word. It’s not ok to kill people. – for a range of reasons. If we find a way to get into groups and touch base on that, then how can we stop doing it. Divestment.

Anne – Field Organizers do the work for a short time and then are done. She argues for supporting the people who are on the ground doing things and how to support them regionally.

– Out of time, but this gave some background to our proposal discussions on Sunday.

Film interviews with war tax resisters

For the other afternoon session, Paula Rogge and Jerry Chernow showed clips from the interviews they have been conducting on film over the last couple years. The footage was well-received — “Wow, now I see my friends here as stars!” Some clips will begin to appear on the NWTRCC website over the coming months, and eventually a longer film will be completed also.