Monthly Archives: July 2011

Wisconsin Updates!

Since Joy First’s article on the occupation of the Wisconsin capitol in the spring issue of WIN magazine, organizers have continued to coordinate actions and protests, keeping the public focused on this issue.

Here are some updates:

  • Around the grounds of the capitol on June 4, protesters set up Walkerville to pay witness to the legislature’s budget negotiations.  Each day highlighted a different group affected by the budget cuts. Walkerville has inspired other similar actions around the country, such as Bloombergville in New York.
  • On June 6 protesters shut down M&I Bank, a supporter of Walker’s campaign after accepting federal bailouts. The Firefighters Local 311 initiated the action and many other union activists joined in solidarity.
  • University of Wisconsin students staged a zombie die-in at the Capitol to protest the “death” of higher education on June 8. 
  • Protests on June 14 in reaction to an “extraordinary session” drew 5,000 protesters in and around the capitol. Check out the “sights and sounds” from the demonstration.
  • The recall elections are happening throughout the state. Hear more about the recalls in this report by Ann-Elise Henzl on Milwaukee Public Radio.
  • July 16 marked the kick off of the Wisconsin Truth Tour.  The bus tour is currently stopping in eight cities across Wisconsin speaking out against the impacts of the budget cuts.

For more information about the ongoing grassroots organizing in Wisconsin check out the following:

Labor Notes compilation of Wisconsin related news:

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Blog

Defend Wisconsin

We are Wisconsin

Know Before You Go, ‘Cause There’s No Reset Button

At the National Network Opposed to the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY) gathering in 2009, youth staffers of the Ya-Ya (Youth Activists-Youth Allies) Network, a youth-led organization based in NYC that focuses on counter-recruitment and other kinds of social justice work, met with reps from WRL New England to talk about what youth organizers need for their counter-military recruitment efforts. The consensus? A “joining the military? 101” leaflet that breaks it all down in a clear way for young folks thinking of joining. From the summer of 2010 through the summer of 2011 the Ya-Ya Network and the WRL national office worked on a leaflet that does just that.

Know Before You Go, ‘Cause There’s No Reset Button breaks down the enlistment contract and life in the military and provides new stats about sexual assault in the military, racial disparities in becoming an officer, and stop-loss. Our leaflet is written to be accessible by everyone and used as a tool for counter-military recruitment organizing in schools and other community places.

Ya-Ya/WRL leaflet release event 7-28-11

On June 28th, WRL and Ya-Ya held a leaflet release event and celebration in NYC. Ya-Ya and WRL gave away free copies of the leaflet to attendees and talked about why we created the leaflet in the first place and what we are hoping for people to get out of it.

Lisa Flores of Ya-Ya said that she wanted to work on this leaflet to improve upon what was already out there for counter-recruiters: “Because, as a youth, the pamphlets that we were giving out [as counter-recruitment literature] were long and not attention-grabbing.” She also said that she hopes that, though our work,  we can help people see the “truth in military recruitment.”

“I wanted to serve the youth,” said Ya-Ya staffer Khaleeq Alfred. “We want youth to know all there is to know before joining the military–exactly what you’re getting into. Hopefully, they’ll decide it’s not the right course and we can give them alternatives.”

Ya-Ya staffers Stormy Behlin and Melissa Kissoon then showed a clip from the film For Colored Girls about interpersonal violence that is often triggered by PSTD among service members returning home from U.S.-occupied places and Lisa Flores read a piece by veteran Robynn Murray from a Warrior Writers collection.

Finally, a group of students at NYU, Doree Simon, Dhara Vyas, and Julian Brand, screened a brilliant serious of short films they created for WRL about what it means to join the U.S. military. Check out Doree’s documentary below featuring Duwan Briant with Picture the Homeless and click here to see the other two films that are part of the “Consider This” collection.

To order copies of Know Before You Go, go to the WRL online store or to print out copies on your own, check out the downloadable PDF available on the WRL website.

WRL Organizers Criss-cross the Country

The following are several brief reports from organizing coordinator Kimber Heinz and field organizer Ali Issa on their travels across the country from Chicago to New Mexico, and Pittsburgh to Detroit.

On May 31st, field organizer Ali Issa made a trip to Chicago where he took part in a joint strategy session with Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, United for Peace and Justice, Civilian-Solider Alliance and Citizen Soldier. Discussion of overall strategy and coordination between the groups was supplemented by thoughts about how things like reparations and protest movements from within occupied countries can relate to work focused on veterans’ immediate needs, like IVAW’s Operation Recovery, their campaign to stop the redeployment of traumatized troops. With a sizable and growing anti-occupation and pro-democracy movement in Iraq, there is no better time to put some of these ideas into practice. This session led to plans for an October 7th coalition that would tie in the many issues surrounding 10 years of the US-led ‘War on Terror.’ Another concrete outcome of this meeting has been IVAW infusing its outreach at Fort Hood in Texas, from which about 3,000 are being sent to Iraq this summer, with reports on Iraqis demanding that the occupation leave.

From April 15- 18, WRL, along with the South Asian Solidarity Initiative, had the honor of hosting former Afghan parliamentarian and independent activist Malalai Joya. While originally slated to be the first stop in her month-long US tour, New York City ended up being her last, due to the US government denying her an entry visa, and only granting one after a successful campaign launched by her supporters. Click here for a powerful article about her US tour. While in New York, Malalai Joya participated in a dialogue with Eve Ensler at the CUNY Graduate Center attended by over three hundred people. Joya also met with members of Iraq Veterans against the War, who are attempting to build on their resolution against the occupation of Afghanistan by making links with democratic-minded groups and individuals based there. Check out this short video documenting their conversation. Finally, Malalai also met with several community organizers based in New York City and interested in engaging in solidarity work, including: Ya Ya Network, Raha – Iranian Feminist Collective, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the Persian Poetry Project, Girifna, and VAMOS Unidos. This was a rare opportunity for grassroots organizers to have a face-to-face exchange with an independent Afghan voice, and is what we hope will only be the beginning in an effort to link movements for justice globally and build concrete solidarity campaigns accountable to the people of occupied countries.

On May 5th, Ali gave a brief presentation at AFSC Friend’s Center in Philadelphia entitled ‘Iraq’s Tahrir Square’ about the pro-democracy movement there, attended by about 50 people. Ali also got the chance to connect with delegates that had recently visited Afghanistan with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and strategized how to amplify the voices of Afghan-driven alternatives to US military strategy there.

Also in May, Kimber traveled to New Mexico, where she met with anti-uranium organizers with the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment from towns affected by the uranium industry, from toxic waste being dumped on their lands and getting into their water supply and, for some, having worked in the mines or mills. She spoke with them about their ideas for what should be done with the video and audio recordings that were created during last summer’s Think Outside the Bomb anti-nuclear youth encampment in Chimayo, NM. These recordings will soon go into an anti-uranium storytelling project created by WRL in collaboration with MASE and other groups.

From there, she attended the GI Rights Network’s annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. WRL has teamed up in NYC with Iraq Veterans Against the War to revitalize and relaunch the NY node of the GI Rights Hotline! A group of counselors-in-training in NYC will be working with experienced counselors on the East Coast to take calls from military service members and veterans and get them linked up to the resources and support they need.

On May 13-14 Kimber teamed up with WRL New England Office Coordinator Joanne Sheehan to organize and facilitate the pilot of WRL’s training, “Beyond the Peace Vigil: Movement Building for Allies,” geared towards white folks in the U.S. peace movement and folks who are involved in antimilitarist organizing in some other capacity who want to deepen their relationships with organizations and groups led by people of color and become stronger allies to the communities most affected by U.S. war and militarism. The training was held at Voluntown Peace Trust in Voluntown, CT and participants got to know each other and build up their ally skills through two days of intensive activities and discussions much informed by popular education tools and principles. Kimber and Joanne prepared for this training at a weekend workshop for popular educators in March at the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN. The curriculum will go up on the WRL website in the month of August. Kimber also presented a piece of this curriculum at the Allied Media Conference in late June, in Detroit, MI during a curriculum fair organized by Ali along with other members of the Palestine Education Project. WIN editor C. Moen also attended the AMC to build with other media makers (see picture of the WRL crew above.)

Finally, Ali also spent some time in Pittsburgh in early June, collaborating with IVAW board member and videography Joyce Wagner to produce a video interview of Iraq protest organizer and shoe-thrower’s brother Uday al-Zaidi (see here.)  Ali also got a chance to meet with a member of the United Steel Workers strategic campaigns team, who have been consistently donating to an Iraqi Oil Union newspaper project in the south of Iraq.