National War Tax Resistance Gathering
Sustainable Living Center • Hampton, Florida
Some of our discussions are noted here. Notes are a bit sketchy but give you an idea of the discussion. The slideshow by Clare and Coleman on “Militarization of the South” will be linked from the website when available.
War Tax Resisters and Collective Action: Berlin Congress, SOAW Border action
Friday Evening, November 4, 2016
Garrett Llopiz, our host and board member of the Sustainable Living Center (SLC), welcomed us and introduced himself and information about SLC. He’s a University of North Florida grad in social philosophy, social justice, and found permaculture along the way. He prefers “ecological design” & has a business doing ecological and design landscaping. He has lots of ideas for use of the SLC land for farming and creating a sustainable food forest and living from the food on this land. SLC was found under a philosophy of socio-ecological justice – we need to have both of these in order to have justice; study the way members of eco systems relate and find that they are inherently just and inherently sustainable.
FCPJ was given this land in about 1996 and began to develop it. There are 2 eco-houses on the property and one is inhabited by our old friends John X and Martina Linnehan, who hosted a NWTRCC meeting in about 1988 when they lived at Kings Bay, Georgia. The Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice (FCPJ) has been around 35 years and been through different cycles of focus. Every organization needs to be open to new ideas and evolve.
Two reports started off our evening discussion on
War Tax Resisters and Collective Action: Reports from School of the America’s Watch US-Mexico Border Convergence, World Congress on Military and Social Spending (Berlin), and your actions — individual or collection; discussion.
Cathy Deppe attended the World Congress on Military and Social Spending in Berlin as NWTRCC’s rep. The Congress was organized by the International Peace Bureau. She and her husband Alex stayed at a pension with other members of Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI). There were about 800 people at the Congress; about 200 could not come due to visas issues. It was held at Technical University, which had a mission after WWII to never again be used for military purposes. Recently, they allowed 300 refugees in free on scholarships.
Cathy attended workshops, plenaries etc but also did a lot of tabling. She took 2 suitcases of NWTRCC and Peace Tax Fund lit (NCPTF gave some $$ toward her travel). CPTI has consultative status at UN; asking that people should be allowed a CO to taxation to military at the UN. Their workshop got 28 people – people were shocked how high US military spending is.
Read Cathy’s blog report with photos. She was very grateful for the opportunity to go to the Congress and thanks NWTRCC.
Erica Weiland started off the report on the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) Border Convergence, October 7 – 10. She, Coleman, Anne Barron, and Rachel Soltis were there for NWTRCC, and NWTRCC helped with travel for the three from outside Arizona.
The series of actions was in different places. There was an action on Friday night at the detention center in Eloy which Coleman attended. The detention center is run by ICE – immigration control enforcement. A local group called Puentes set up a stage with music and program. 400-500 people came to be there for the rally. There is a series of huge buildings to hold migrants/immigrants waiting for deportation. The protesters had noisemakers, lights – raised a ruckus. People inside indicated they heard the rally.
Erica was glad to be able to go to the action at the border, and felt that it was very valuable for NWTRCC to be there. Connections were made between the majority white peace movement and the people actually affected by immigration enforcement, border enforcement, US training other militaries. Saturday was at Hotel Americana in Nogales; local people didn’t know about the convergence but were excited about the economic impact and all the people who showed up. The NWTRCC folks set up table with lit that kept blowing away until they got it weighted down. Erica handed out our new flyers. In Nogales it’s an enormous metal fence. You can reach through it. People/families/friends were talking through the border wall but can’t cross. The Mexican side had a big stage, which was not allowed on the US side. Everything was translated in Spanish and English. Workshops/presentations, etc. Really felt how military occupation is a daily reality for reservation and so many people in the US and we don’t think about it. Border patrol looks into people’s backyards. They have the capability to spy on people in their daily lives. There is suspicion that border patrol is involved in drug trafficking or cover for it and maybe others are killed who witness it. Really felt like being at a militarized zone – and anywhere within 100 miles north of the border or south of Canadian border. There’s a checkpoint between Nogales and Tucson, and everyone gets stopped.
NWTRCC table was popular; Erica also just leafletted; people like the flyers and interest at the table. Talked to some WTRs, a Quaker in Tucson who might talk to our contacts there, Felice and Jack. About 20 people came to the workshop – excellent turn out for the end of the day session; showed “Death and Taxes”; had a great discussion and stayed and talked. Very positive. A few were just “waiting for it all their lives”; an IVAW guy had been in Tucson events and drove down from Tucson just for our workshop. Erica will stay in touch with him.
Robert – expresses appreciation to all for going to SOAW and keeping our presence there. Was afraid that we’d lose the connection so very happy about this.
Daniel – what is your impression of doing it there again and encourage upsurge? There are conversations about whether to move to the border; decision not made as yet.
Erica would love to go there again and hopes they choose that. There was also a direct action at the border. There was a do not arrest order, so people sat for 5 hours there but never arrested.
Cathy was asked to try to connect with the refugee population that is in Germany. Met a young woman who was going to introduce her but it didn’t work out. One of the CPTI women from Belgium told about refugees filling the city park in Brussells; a people’s movement tried to help relocate people. The CPTI friend has offered her flat to a Syrian family rather than rent to whoever.
Death and taxes – question of whether to add Spanish subtitles is the film is good to continue to use. It seemed to be successful at this workshop..
Thanks to all for your participation in these events and reports back.
Presentations/Discussions • Saturday Nov. 5, 2016
Sam Kopinka-Loehr, NWTRCC’s new Field Organizer/Outreach Consultant
Sam introduces self: Sam was born in an Inuit community in one of only white families in David Inlet; while there, the struggles were against NATO, which was doing low flying test runs over Labrador. Locals were doing direct actions blocking NATO bases and runways. Canadian government and hydro Quebec were building dams and flooding Inuit land. Some people were flooded by dams that were supposedly for “green power” elsewhere. Now in 2016 we’re having more conversation about building the intersectional movement.
Sam’s first protests were against Iraq war when there were millions of people in the streets but the government went ahead with war and Sam asked “what is effective action; what is power.” How do we stop this war machine that is making so much money for corporations etc. His aunt is Mary Loehr, who was an influence; she talked about war tax resistance and jail time for direct action. Sam saw people acting on their beliefs but then being imprisoned for it and began to question prison system. Started doing environmental justice work – how the burden is put on people of color. Soil with PCB was going to be dumped in a black community; first cases that really made the connection with environmental racism and movement for environmental justice.
Sam was up at action in native land in New Brunswick, similar to standing rock, where there was use of military force to enact colonization.
Sam asks the question, how are we really building connections between our movements? We’re all trying to figure this out together.
A good read is the Black Lives Matter statement of support for Standing Rock.
Some people say if you build an intersectional movement you lose strength, but no, you really build strength.
We did an exercise telling each other how we got started in WTR. Comments included: 1 had a specific goal with resistance; 1 drifted into it. 1 heard Pres. Johnson wanted to collect a surcharge for the Vietnam War & refused to pay. 1 couldn’t get ordained because of civil rights work; one thing led to another. 1 – Active with a peace group then met a WTR but life got in the way; now has time to look into it. 1- Heard about the movement in early 90s and a local group and dove right in. 1 – was in Navy and when got out met Catholic activists and a civil rights march. Grew up near McDonnald-Douglas and being aware of military spending then met Catholic Worker and thus became a WTR. 1 – CO for Vietnam and refusing to pay for war made sense. 1 – after not wanting to stay in the police he met a WTR in construction work who said “why are you paying.” 1 – brothers returning from Vietnam with their stories or silences and then saw a Trident Sub surface in Puget Sound and she tore up the tax form.
Sam notes: Having a relationship is key to WTR stories. As a younger person, he hears us talk about a lot of stories of war. For his generation there are stories more about injustice. A revolutionary energy not tied to 1 specific war but that “these systems are set up to fail.” There might be a moment like seeing a black person shot that radicalizes someone but the moments are different than many of the older generation who got into this because of war.
Another question to answer in twos: When have you seen community organizing when you thought it was really effective and why?
Report back: What pieces seemed effective about the organizing you were talking about?
High levels of risk
Challenges creates change
Out of comfort zone
Conflict – disparity of force
Public actions/marches – NV direct action
Persistence against the odds/resistance against the odds
There is not much mentioned about the sense of bringing together different movements
People working together at the grassroots
Sam hopes to draw together the overlaps in our experience with current movements and facilitate intersectionalism from our network into others.
Erica and others review last tax season and our discussion at the May CC gathering to continue using slogan in various forms and build on this effort.
Erica has posted an Organizing packet on the website, and we will work on a print version for those who ask. The packet has links to resources, cards, and background to the campaign.
Robert – feels non-active on his local scene; the theme lends itself perfectly for intersectionalization. Not only is it good to have national materials for people to order/download and use, but people on the local level can take that slogan and use it locally however they want. Make signs that have the various sorts of Divest/invest tag lines.
Daniel – does divest mean anything? Not clear about that term when you are talking about refusing to pay for war.
Erica – in Seattle they have a “divest from prisons and the police state”; this is a movement of young people; fossil fuel divestment is well known; college students use this. The movement for black lives uses the term “divest from prisons, police state, & militarism” in their platform. Maybe it is not relevant to you but it is very much used in many movements. BDS.
Coleman – move your money is one of the common phrases used also. We haven’t used the term climate change and talked about that movement much today. It’s another angle.
Jim asks if divest/invests means bodies or dollars and sense. Some say yes dollars and sense. Sam reads from the black lives matter platform.
Robert – we understand the issues & put militarization of police into our statement decades ago. We need to talk about how to do it – action.
Sam – in talking with Anne Barron, they think it would be a great time to do a collective redirection for black organizing. In our communities have WTRs take a public stand with black lives matter and do a public redirection.
Chrissy – Prefers that we focus on building relationships vs. handing over money. She sees that there are power dynamics and the concern of how that looks.
Jim – giving money away; teaching/educational/work project or something rather than giving money away.
Chrissy – would like to have a training of trainers in St. Louis that would carry on this work in St. Louis.
Robert – would like to see a mutual kind of training – we provide our info and others train us in whatever.
Daniel – the money redirection that we do just send a check vs. really building relationships. In redirection presentations we can also ask them to tell us about the work etc. Standing Rock – is it disconnecting to just send a check.
Coleman – Appreciates connecting the dots of poverty, racism, war. Has no problem with concept of collective distribution, but pooling money and just sending it has issues.
Erica – local redistribution; give it locally. Likes the idea of both redirecting locally and in the place where we go. Likes suggestions of reciprocity – not just mailing a check but getting to know you. A response to a specific call for money is better than just sending a check.
Chrissy – Copwatch is one group; it’s a tangible skill that we could learn from them about watching cops vs. our offering WTR.
Sam – power dynamics in relation to money. Black organizing groups have asked for support from white groups.
Clare – Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in Asheville, they collect money each time and give it to the local BLM organizers. There are lots of calls for Standing Rock support.
Robert – As to collective redirection, how much would we be redirecting? Would like it to look good and the War Tax Boycott we did years ago was a lot of work.
Daniel – militarization of the police; article 1033; remind public about it with something that we do. That issue connects better to WTR than some of the other ideas.
Ruth – hard to do a national redirection at this point. Seems the difference here is how to use that to build relationships, and what can the model be for doing that. And what are each of us really committing to do during tax season?
Daniel – I commit to holding a tabling; using signage from NWTRCC or his own.
Clare – Asheville will have some public standing in their park. They have evolved over the years from going to the PO or the IRS to going where the people are – in the park. A lot of good conversations happen in the public sphere.
Peter – committed to penny poll at MLK Day in South Bend. They have a SURJ group in SB and will try to make interconnections with them. Literature is the main thing they need.
Organized redirections for the coming year – Clare notes that many folks don’t have the $$, but they have time. “We can give time to ______ project and that’s equally powerful.”
Cathy suggests that the So Cal group could give $$ to Chrissy to go to Standing Rock. It’s concrete.
Daniel – we encourage local groups to choose redirection groups and collect the info and disseminate. As Sam talks to groups encourage redirection
Chrissy is going to Standing Rock as a legal observer on Nov. 10 with National Lawyers Guild. She’ll see what might be useful to whatever needs arises.
Bill would like to emphasize money and time “in service” to relationship building.
A small group interested in the redirection plan will talk over lunch and bring back a proposal later.
Proposal to have local actions coordinated, and for people not in groups, they could join in with another group. Encourage local groups to do a redirection to black-led organizing in our communities. It will be a decision that local groups make, and we will promote the redirections nationally.
General agreement to a coordinated redirection effort that is locally based.
Go back to our communities and do the research and ask groups what would be useful. Don’t want to reinforce power dynamics that are not healthy.
Erica works with antiracist group that raised money for other organizations who already do fundraise for those other groups, so WTRs could combine with something that is already happening.
Bill would talk to the nearby group and try to encourage them to engage with any black-led groups nearby and talk about what are the issues we should be working on, will encourage them to include reducing the military budget.
If we are successful in collecting any amount, can we add in some desire to want it used for fighting militarism.
Ruth – Remember to let me know in the office and with Sam and Erica what resources should we produce that would be useful to you; we want to be able to give lit and resources to groups that will help with your organizing.
Erica started the discussion off regarding what it means for us in the coming year; how we are feeling emotionally, along with how it feels from the region/area we are each from.
Cathy – California has some propositions which are great and that’s been her focus
Clare – in Asheville in the left community this election has brought out real divisions as far as choosing not to vote for Hillary and the anger that seems to inspire.
Ruth – Trump didn’t’ come out of nowhere; there has been a deep divide in the country and it is very hard to talk to people across that divide. That feels like a worry no matter how the election goes. On the brighter side for us, Obama was hard to organize under as a peace activist than either of the next two.
Wendy – appreciates what Bill McKibbon said on electing Hillary; we are electing someone that we can pressure.
Ed K – Obama did open up Cuba. John Lewis is close to Hillary.
Clare – Sensing the divide right here. It’s hard to talk about.
Robert – we should be talking about after the election because we are not going to decide who it will be. Either one is a new opportunity for us. You couldn’t criticize the first black president and the peace movement dried up. Trump’s election will bring blowback, especially on the kinds of things that Sam was talking about. If Hillary is the next president, will it be hard to criticize the first woman president? Probably not like Obama. She’ll be militaristic.
Jim – would like to embrace possibility that we can have a discussion with our neighbors. His community is heavily Baptist fundamentalist; use “liberty and justice for all” – what do those words mean to each other? Discussion around that to have a sense of peace. It starts with me. Compassion. Misunderstandings must be broken down.
Daniel – how do we respond better as society becomes more militarized? How do we put out more about things people can do and how not to pay for it?
Jackie – doesn’t matter who the president is but we need to hold our elected officials responsible. Trying to talk to neighbors; she joined the Waldo Baptist church/black church. She’s not a Baptist but found a loving, kind community. She’s a radical activist. At Standing Rock they are holding mirrors up to the cops. She walks into the local police department and asks why they are doing what they are doing. She asks the sheriff directly – why did you buy that tank. There were protests when Obama was elected. You have to have fun, you have to have a sense of humor, you have to not be afraid to speak up even if your voice is shaky. This is your life, you’ll be doing it until the day you die. Get out there take a chance, join a black church, etc. Everybody can teach you something. There’s something good about everyone.
Erica – no matter who there will be new issues of militarism; might look a little different depending on which one. We need to get out in front on that immediately. When it comes to the military, the budget always goes up no matter which candidate. Keep doing what we’re doing but in better ways. Louder.
Clare – that there is so much disinformation put out online; people forward things that aren’t true without asking; shocked to see how manipulated people are. Who do we trust?
Chrissy – people’s attention span has gotten so low that we find what we agree with and don’t engage in conversation. Trying not to point fingers about some group in a particular place but figuring out how to reach out/communicate. Local conversations have been around an Air force base at airport in St. Louis. Fighter jets have been taking off a lot and people have been asking what that means in terms of what comes next – worried about war.
Jackie – ROTC in the schools, so we do work locally. Now we have Opt out, plus direct action at recruiting stations. Valentine’s Day actions – “don’t enlist stay and kiss.” Going into the schools.
Robert – no group is monolithic. There are some people who share much in common for us. Trump people do agree that the system is fucked up. Some don’t think we should be in foreign military operations. Where I am I should try to find the people who don’t want to be in war of aggression, who believe some of the things I do. They might want to join in not paying for that crap.
Clare asked what news sources are trustworthy – get as many as possible to get a balance – Democracy Now, NY Times, Wash Post, Guardian, al Jazeera, Independent in Britain,
Cathy – about the soldiers who were given a bonus to go, like we have a force of mercenaries. There are more contractors than soldiers. Look for openings everywhere and educate.
Erica – one news source she likes is Unicorn Riot. They’ve been covering Standing Rock for months. Take a lot of video.
Clare – asserting our rights to protest as often and every place we can. Journalists being arrested, targeted. So many things call for more action and risk.
Coleman – Where is the rage? We need more nonviolent direct action training for trainers.
Robert – if Trump wins training will be critical because he has no tolerance for protest; freedom of speech. The kinds of connection we were talking about making this a.m. are the ones that are necessary.
Daniel – what are we going to do?? What do we want NWTRCCC to look like at this time next year?
Notetaker: Is appears we did not answer that question! So if you got this far, send your answers to the NWTRCC office, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll post them…..