During 2018, UFPJ focused on elevating campaigns that link U.S. wars abroad with the assaults at home on justice, human rights, democracy, and human and environmental needs. A year ago, at a meeting of UFPJ founders, former Co-Chairs, and current Coordinating Committee members, in St. Louis, we agreed to lift up the work of:
- The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
- The Divest From the War Machine Campaign
- The Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases
- The Korea Collaboration Olympic Truce Campaign
As 2018 draws to a close, the Trump Administration has challenged all of us with new assaults on peace, human rights, justice, and our common security. Troops are massed on the U.S. Southern border to drive away migrants seeking asylum from violence. The devastating war in Yemen has created a horrific, humanitarian crisis with the overwhelming majority of the population on the brink of starvation, while Trump celebrates corporate profits made selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. Threatened U.S. abandonment of the lntermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty has added to the heightened threat of nuclear war, raising it to levels not seen in decades.
Never has Dr. King’s description of the triple evils of war, racism, and poverty permeating U.S. society rung so true. UFPJ’s mission is clear. We must continue to organize our national network to serve its main purpose: uniting organizations and individuals to take bold action to stop wars and violence abroad; to redirect the resources squandered on killing to repair our communities; and to build a culture of peace and justice to secure our future. Our 2018 campaigns were central to that mission.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
This grassroots movement to affect change at state and local levels through sustained nonviolence was launched to bring together the broad range of constituencies needed to achieve Dr. King’s “revolution of values” and confront the intertwined evils of racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological destruction.
In May of 2018, the Campaign kicked off with 40 Days of Moral Action. At rallies in more than 30 state capitols demanding policies to lift up the poor, people were arrested or risked arrest while joining in nonviolent direct action. Each week, from May 13 through June 22, highlighted a different theme:
- Week 1: Child Poverty, Women & the Disabled – Somebody’s Hurting our People
- Week 2: Systemic Racism, Voter Suppression and Immigration
- Week 3: The War Economy, Veterans & Education, Gun Violence
- Week 4: Ecological Devastation & Health
- Week 5: Systemic Poverty, Jobs, Income & Housing–Everybody’s Got a Right to Live
- Week 6: Challenging the Nation’s Distorted Moral Narrative–a New & Unsettling Force
The Days of Moral Action culminated on June 23rd with a mass rally and 24-hour vigil in Washington, D.C. accompanied by a Global Day of Solidarity. Jackie Cabasso and Terry Rockefeller, UFPJ’s National Co-conveners, were there.
In the fall of 2018, the Campaign pivoted to address voter suppression. Citing the carefully targeted gerrymandering, reckless voter purges, and voter ID laws targeting brown and black people from Georgia to North Dakota, the Poor People’s Campaign offered a moral answer to the abuse of power we saw on Election Day. Then, in support of the families fleeing Central America who are desperately seeking a better life, the Campaign went to the Southern border to demand the demilitarization of border communities and the protection of migrants seeking refuge. The protesters, who included Fight for $15 workers, undocumented immigrants, and people impacted by the California wildfires, joined leaders from the American Friends Service Committee, Kairos Center, and Repairers of the Breach, to proclaim, “While politicians use the suffering of these refugee families to stoke a fear of who is coming towards our border, we are brought closer together in common suffering and hope.”
Divest from the War Machine
The “War Machine” is a massive, global, U.S. military apparatus that operates largely thanks to an alliance between the arms industry and policy makers. It prioritizes “defense” and corporate interests over human rights; military spending over diplomacy and aid; combat preparations over preventing wars; and profit over human life and the health of the planet. 64% of the federal discretionary budget goes to wars and militarism, rather than education, healthcare, or housing for the homeless. The companies that are part of this War Machine are making a killing on killing. Their priorities will never be our priorities.
UFPJ and many of our member groups joined the campaign, spearheaded by CODEPINK, beginning with a week of action in February to gear up for locally based work and identify financial institutions to focus on. These include city, county, or state retirement funds; university, hospital or religious institution endowments; and union pension funds. Divestment can be a powerful tool for peace. Divestment campaigns have already resulted in over $5 trillion being divested from the fossil fuel industry. CODEPINK’s Weapon Free Funds toolkit provides valuable tips for local organizing. In the fall, Divest from the War Machine’s Back to School initiative focused on recruiting students to challenge the investments of their colleges and universities.
Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases
The Coalition was launched when more than 250 activists came together for the Conference on U.S. Foreign Military Bases, January 12-14, at the University of Baltimore. Its first actions included solidarity initiatives to demand that all charges be dropped against anti-Okinawa Base activists arrested in Japan. A Day of Protest Against Guantanamo followed on February 23rd, in solidarity with the Cuban people’s efforts to take back their territory, illegally occupied by the U.S. National Days of Anti-War Action took place on April 14th and 15th, in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and the San Francisco Bay Area.
November 16-18, the Coalition organized the first International Conference against US/NATO Military Bases, which was attended by nearly 300 participants from over thirty-five countries, and endorsed by over 700 organizations and activists. The conference called for the closure of all US/NATO military bases, with particular emphasis on U.S. bases in Guantanamo, Cuba, Okinawa, South Korea, and Ramstein, Germany; the old and new U.S./NATO bases in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Scandinavia, and Ireland, as well as the bases newly established by the U.S, France and their allies on and near Syrian soil. It also condemned the establishment of the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and its military bases in Africa.
Speakers highlighted the twin threats to humanity posed by global war and global warming, both driven by accelerating militarization. They emphasized the role of the U.S. and its allies, which have by far the largest military expenditures in the world. The Coalition will continue its activities in 2019. Mass mobilizations against NATO’s 70th Anniversary Summit in Washington DC, on April 4, are being planned in DC, in NATO member states, and elsewhere.
Korea Collaboration Olympic Truce Campaign
The on-again-off-again status of U.S.-North Korea negotiations to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, normalize relations and build a lasting and stable peace was a source of profound instability in 2018. Amidst the horror of North Korea’s nuclear tests and U.S. military threats, the South Korean people initiated a process to move the region away from crisis. It began with the nonviolent “Candlelight Revolution’s” overwhelming support for President Moon Jae-in’s commitment to engage with North Korea. Novel diplomacy between the two Koreas began with an inclusive Winter Olympics and led to the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula, adopted April 27 by North and South Korea, and the historic June 12 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore.
UFPJ and its member groups played an active role, coordinating through the Korea Peace Network. Women Cross the DMZ made visits to both North and South Korea, building peace together with Korean women. Veterans For Peace helped to write and distribute a People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea, endorsed by tens of thousands of people in the U.S. UFPJ signed onto and promoted a number of statements supporting the new diplomatic opening, including an Open Letter to the leaders of the U.S., South Korea and North Korea, signed by more than 100 U.S. peace, faith-based, professional, and Korean-American organizations, including the American Federation of Teachers. The March 28 Open Letter was presented by UFPJ National Co-convener Jackie Cabasso, at a well-attended press conference at the United Nations. At the June Summit, North Korea committed to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. and North Korea committed to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the repatriation of those already identified. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to North Korea. Hyun Lee, a leading Korean-American peace activist, perhaps best summed up the historic meaning of the summit. It was “a historic breakthrough in U.S.-North Korea relations.”
That two nuclear-armed States, having moved toward possible war for many months, reversed course and took an important step away from the brink, a step that could lead to a completely new path after 65 years of armed confrontation ought to be a cause for celebration. Yet in the days following the Singapore Summit the response to the Summit Declaration by much of the U.S. media and many elected officials was dismaying. Two senators introduced an amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to prevent President Trump from withdrawing troops from South Korea, where the U.S. has 83 bases and some 30,000 troops.
UFPJ will continue to push the Korean peace process forward. To this end, UFPJ joined and promoted a “Joint Statement of U.S. Civil Society Groups in Support of the Current Peace Process in Korea”, signed by more than 150 groups, published in The Nation on December 6.
UFPJ’s Annual Initiatives
UFPJ disseminated educational and informational materials and promoted local actions on our long-standing, initiatives, including:
- GDAMS [Global Day Against Military Spending]—April 15th Thirty-eight community-based protests and actions in 15 states challenged our country’s warped and dangerous national budget, foreign and military policies. Pentagon spending will be $716,000,000,000 in 2019. Add another $66 billion for Washington’s wars from Afghanistan and Yemen to the Philippines. Before these increases, Pentagon spending equaled that of the world’s next eight biggest military spenders combined. Meanwhile, Trump proposes cuts to housing, food subsidies, education, legal assistance, and environmental protection. In this era of mounting assaults on the foundations of democracy, human rights and peace, each community-based action is a reassertion of commitments to democracy and human dignity.
- Nuclear Free Future Month—August Since 2006 UFPJ has declared August “Nuclear Free Future Month”. In 2018 we kept the momentum going. With tensions escalating between the U.S. and Russia and the U.S. and China, and with nuclear-armed states engaged in unpredictable conflicts that could catastrophically escalate on the Korean Peninsula, in the Middle East and South Asia it was a time for action. Ominously, all the nuclear-armed nations are engaged in a new nuclear arms race. Yet, despite their animosities toward each other, they are united in opposition to the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (or Ban Treaty). And the original nuclear-armed states continue to ignore their obligations under the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to end the arms race and negotiate “in good faith” the elimination of nuclear weapons. August 6th and 9th marked the 73rd anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and rallies, marches, vigils and nonviolent direct actions took place across the nation and around the world. It was a key moment for citizens to enroll their mayors in Mayors for Peace!