Penny Poll Results from GDAMS

April 15th is a Global Day of Action Against Military Spending and we conducted a Penny Poll on Church Street. There were torrential downpours so we were only out from 11am-2pm.  A huge thank you to Carmen, Kyle, Guthrie and Jess for braving the weather for those few hours. Exactly thirty people participated in this event, not as many as we would have liked but here are the limited results…

GDAMS Penny Poll Results 2014

Screening of “Spies of Mississippi”, Sunday (4/20) at 4:00pm at Main Street Landing

3174d9083637851a26e88c0c9910166fOn Sunday, April 20, from 4:00-5:30pm The Peace & Justice center invites you to The Film House at Main Street Landing,( 3rd floor, 60 Lake St., Burlington) to view “Spies of Mississippi.”
Spies of Mississippi is a journey into the world of informants, infiltrators, and agent provocateurs in the heart of Dixie. The film tells the story of a secret spy agency formed by the state of Mississippi to preserve segregation and maintain “the Mississippi way of life,” white supremacy, during the 1950s and ’60′s. Followed by snacks and conversation in the PJC.

Spring Days of Action Against Drones 2014!

The Peace & Justice Center is excited to work with our members throughout Vermont in solidarity with a world wide coordinated campaign in April and May to End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization. This campaign is designed to encourage communities to host educational events and actions around the world with the eventual goal of winning the passage of local laws that prohibit weaponized drones and drone surveillance from being used in their communities as well as seeking national laws to bar the use of weaponized drones and drone surveillance.

Our Spring Days of Action began a little early with kite flying on Burlington’s waterfront. The brisk weather on Sunday, March 23rd may have deterred participants from the Fly Kites Not Drones event but it brought with it a perfect kite-flying breeze. The event, which took place in solidarity with Afghan Peace Volunteers, was created to celebrate the Afghani tradition of kite fighting as a means of ringing in Nowruz, the Afghan New Year that falls on the first day of spring.  While participants flew homemade and store bought kites they were given the opportunity to learn more about the United States and United Kingdom’s use of drones for surveillance and warfare in the war-torn country. As the war drags through its 13th year Afghan civilians have become more accustomed to seeing drones in their skies than kites and are wary of the detrimental physical and psychological effects these machines have.  The Fly Kites Not Drones event highlighted these unfortunate truths while simultaneously exalting the rich culture that has remained resilient throughout the war.

April Events:

April 15th: Day of Action Against Military Spending! The PJC will be tabling on Church Street in Burlington with the Will Miller Chapter of Veterans for Peace to raise awareness about how much of our income tax dollars go to the military and how little goes to other important government programs. Stop by our table and participate in our penny poll to share where you want you tax dollars to go and be entered in a raffle to win a one-hour massage from Silliman Massage & Bodywork.

April 23rd at 6pm: Drones Film Screening and Talk. Come to Montpelier’s Savoy Theater for an evening of education and discussion centered on drones as a political and moral issue. Learn about the legal controversies that surround the use of drones internationally and domestically. The evening will begin with a presentation by Lydia Bates on the current status of drones, continue with the screening of the short film Wounds of Waziristan by journalist, Madiha Tahir and conclude with a brief discussion of what actions can be taken to spread awareness and help prevent more transgressions. This is a FREE event.

April 26th at 10am: Screening of Dirty Wars through the White River Indie Festival at Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction followed by a Q & A and discussion. This film follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller Blackwater, into the heart of America’s covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond. Part political thriller and part detective story, Dirty Wars is a gripping journey into one of the most important and underreported stories of our time. What begins as a report into a U.S. night raid gone terribly wrong in a remote corner of Afghanistan quickly turns into a global investigation of the secretive and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). There is a $7-$9 admission to this event.

April 27th at 2pm: Caravan to Upstate NY to see Dr. Cornel West speak and join a march/rally at Hancock Air National Guard. Dr. Cornel West’s talk will begin at 2pm and is titled “Connecting the Dots: Poverty, Racism and Drones”. This will be at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church in Syracuse, NY. Following the talk will be an action at Hancock where they fly reaper drones from, this rally is titled “The Peoples Order of Protection Against Drone Terror”. For more information on this event and to join the caravan please contact Kyle at kyle@pjcvt.org or 802-863-2345 x6. This is a FREE event.

Creating Peace by Learning to Speak a Language of Life (April 27th, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.)

This all-day seminar is based on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and lead by John F. Reuwer, MD. If you wish you could find more peace within yourself, or have more energy and skills to make peace with people you love and people you don’t, this seminar is for you. The “language of life” has been used as a description of nonviolent communication, developed by Marshall Rosenberg, and adapted here by Dr. Reuwer. There is a $90 fee, if you are unable to afford this please apply for a scholarship, to do so click here. To register click here or contact Kyle at kyle@pjcvt.org or 802-863-2345 x6.

This highly interactive day will give you the opportunity to develop valuable skills to make life easier and more enjoyable. Areas to be covered include:

  • The meaning of peace – What does peace mean to you? Can peace be powerful?
  • What makes human beings tick – what is alive in us that motivates us to do everything we do?
  • Learning to experience the freedom and power that comes from seeing things as they are (before we judge how they should be): transforming “should” energy into living energy.
  • Learning the power of feelings – what they tell us, and how we can transform even negative emotions into energy for positive change.
  • Our beautiful needs – how they define who we are and where we want to go.
  • Learning to make requests of yourself and others in a manner that creates the peace you want.
  • Practicing the language of life. How to carry this into your world to make life easier and more peaceful with anyone you encounter. You will have the opportunity to practice real life situations in a safe environment.

This Sunday, “Fly Kites Not Drones”, an event in solidarity with Afghan Peace Volunteers and activist groups around the world

March 20th marked the first day of spring, as well as Nowruz (New Year) on the Persian calendar. In celebration of Nowruz and in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan the Peace & Justice Center is hosting a day of kite flying at Burlington’s Waterfront Park this Sunday, March 23rd at 10:30 a.m. Nowruz is celebrated worldwide by 300 million people and in 2010 was recognized as the International Day of Nowruz by the United Nations, due to its promotion of peace, solidarity and neighborliness.   In Afghanistan the holiday is celebrated by kite fighting, a practice that involves many skilled competitors attempting to slice the strings of the other kites. Being the best kite fighter in ones neighborhood is a very sought after and respect achievement. In order to increase ones odds of attaining such a status kite fighters will sometimes coat their kite strings in rice glue and shards of glass, however, nylon is now preferred.

From 1996 to 2001 the Taliban government banned kite flying on the grounds of it being “un-Islamic.” Despite reinstitution as one of Afghanistan’s most cherished pastimes “Afghans are more used to the presence of UK and US armed and surveillance drones flying overhead” than kites (Voice for Creative Non-Violence UK). The country has since become the “drone capital” of the world due to the UK’s 547 strikes in the past 5 years and a similar, yet unspecified number of US drone strikes. A lack of transparency within the United States drone program leads to uncertainties in the number of strikes and civilians deaths.

While the United States is at war with Afghanistan there are still violations of international humanitarian law being committed. The Fourth Geneva Convention, created in 1949, was designed to protect civilians in a time of war. However, despite their touted accuracy, drones have been causing countless unnecessary civilian deaths, which are far too often deemed “collateral damage.” Estimates gather that in 2013 the number of civilians killed in drone strikes increased threefold, therefore accounting for 40% of the total number of civilian airstrike deaths. In light of the remote control aspect of drone warfare there is very little sympathy for or connection to ones perceived enemy, therefore allowing for unfettered killing and a completely transformed face of war.

When drones are not being used for warfare they are geared towards surveillance. While this may not result in the same statistics pertaining to civilian casualties, it presents a different form of trauma. Technically referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles, these machines received the name “drone” due to the noise that is audible when they fly overhead. Since they can hover for up to 80 hours, collecting surveillance information, they often take a large mental toll on civilians.

In order to draw attention to these grave international law transgressions and celebrate a rich Afghan culture Afghan Peace Volunteers have created the Fly Kites Not Drones event. Afghan Peace Volunteers is a “grassroots group of ordinary, multi-ethnic Afghans seeking a life of non-violence, the unity of all people, equality, and self-reliance” (Afghan Peace Volunteers). This event focuses on maintaining some level of normalcy in a war torn country by honoring a revered tradition. Come out and join the Peace & Justice Center as fly kites in solidarity with Afghan Peace Volunteers on Sunday, March 23rd from 10:30am at Burlington’s Waterfront Park. Don’t forget to bring your kite!

UPDATE: Here is a short video about how the event went: