Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field

Let-it-Shine-peace-walk-photoJoy First August 26, 2015

Voices for Creative Nonviolence engaged with a number of Wisconsin peace groups to organize an 8-day 90-mile walk across southwest Wisconsin from August 18-25. The purpose of the walk was to call attention and make connections between the militarized police violence at home and the military using violence abroad through drone warfare and by other means. In both cases the victims are people of color, which forces us to reflect on the systemic racism of our society.

The walk began at the City/County/Jail complex in Madison on August 18. Dane County has one of the highest rates of racial disparity of any county in the country on many issues, including when it comes to incarceration – hence starting the walk at the jail. In fact, in order to make the prison population match the general population in Dane County, we would need to release 350 Black people. This is horrific, especially when we understand that so many people of color are in jail for nonviolent crimes and crimes of poverty that could better be solved by more positive interventions. It is up to all of us to stand up with our brothers and sisters and proclaim that “Black Lives Matter!”

There were about 15-20 walkers each day as we went through the beautiful Wisconsin countryside – Waunakee, Lodi, across the Merrimac ferry, camping at Devil’s Lake State Park and Rocky Arbor, up through Mauston and New Lisbon, and ending at Volk Field. It was eight nights of sleeping in the homes of supporters, in tents, and in church basements.

The walk participants kept going through inclement weather that is not typical for Wisconsin in August. There was rain, heavy wind, and very cool temperatures during the walk. The cooler temperatures were better than walking in 90 degree weather, but it still made for a difficult walk. However, they kept going 12-15 miles each day, persistent and determined.

What kept us going like this for eight days? People choose to be involved with the walk, knowing it would be difficult and push them to their limits, but also knowing that the militarized violence, both abroad and at home, is causing grave suffering to many innocent people and we must do something about it. We must speak out, raise awareness, share our concerns, and most importantly call for change. And that is what we did all along the route as we built bonds of friendship and connection with each other, and provided outreach and education along the way. We called for change in front of the City/County/Jail complex in Madison at the beginning of the walk, and we called for change at Volk Field at the end of the walk, as well as all along the route.

The walk came to an end at a beautiful rest area next to a noisy freeway near Volk Field. Volk Field is a Wisconsin Air National Guard Base near the village of Camp Douglas, WI. One of the jobs there is to train personnel to operate Shadow drones. Though the Shadow drones do not carry weapons (at least that is what we are told), they carry a camera that is used for target acquisition, surveillance, and assessment, and they are part of the bigger program of drone warfare in this country. The Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars has been vigiling at the gates of Volk Field for 3 ½ years – with three actions of nonviolent civil resistance during that time.

After a picnic lunch we formed our final circle to discuss details for both the vigil and risk arrest action, we read the nonviolence guidelines, and we shared a poem. Then we were ready to process to the gates of Volk Field. We walked slowly and solemnly to the gates with a drum beat and a lone voice singing a mournful chant. We walked to the gates with heavy hearts, remembering those who have died in drone strikes and as a result of police violence. Some of the signs we carried were pictures of children who have been killed by drones, stating, “U.S. Drone Warfare is Terrorism”.

Image taken by Lars Prip.

Image taken by Lars Prip.

The Juneau County sheriff was at the gate with several of his deputies when we arrived. There was also a police dog, which they have never used with us in the past.

We stood, as we always do, on the grass under a big beautiful tree. Buddy and Xan began to sing the names of victims of militarized violence, going back and forth between the name of a drone victim, and then the name of Black woman who was killed by the police in this country. After each name the crowd responded by singing, “We remember you” and a single drum beat.

After listening to the names for a few minutes, those of us who were going to risk arrest stepped off the curb and onto the road. We slowly walked towards the gate feeling the pain of living under a government that could commit these acts in our name. We took one step onto the base and were immediately taken into custody, handcuffed, and put into a police car.

We were handcuffed in front, given a bag of food once we got to the jail, processed and released within about four hours. We were arrested for disorderly conduct and also given a citation for trespassing. We have a court date on September 30. The arrestees were Bonnie Block, Cassandra Dixon, Joyce Ellwanger, Joy First, Jim Murphy, Phil Runkel, Mary Beth Schlagheck, Tyler Shiffer, and Don Timmerman.

Even though it was one of the easiest arrests I have been through, it nonetheless felt like a powerful action. The whole eight days built up to this action where we were able to really make the connection between militarized violence at home and abroad. It is time for real action and real change in polices regarding drone warfare and police violence. We cannot, we will not rest until we have peace and justice. Let it shine! And let’s keep working.

Join the discussion on the Madison VFP Facebook page.

Chapter 25 works for peace and justice with Peace Rally and Memorial Mile

Featured speakers at the May 25 peace rally in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by  Veterans for Peace Chapter 25, are pictured in this photo montage by photographer  Paul McMahon, a member of Veterans for Peace. Clockwise from lower left: David  Newby, president emeritus of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO; Father David Couper,  former Madison police chief and ordained Episcopalian priest; social justice  advocate Everett Mitchell, pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church; and Will  Williams, Vietnam War veteran, activist, and peace movement spokesman. Rev.  Mitchell is pictured wearing a stole of Kente cloth, a traditional fabric used for West  African garments and worn at times of great importance.  (Photos by Paul McMahon)

Featured speakers at the May 25 peace rally in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by Veterans for Peace Chapter 25, are pictured in this photo montage by photographer Paul McMahon, a member of Veterans for Peace. Clockwise from lower left: David Newby, president emeritus of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO; Father David Couper, former Madison police chief and ordained Episcopalian priest; social justice advocate Everett Mitchell, pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church; and Will Williams, Vietnam War veteran, activist, and peace movement spokesman. Rev. Mitchell is pictured wearing a stole of Kente cloth, a traditional fabric used for West African garments and worn at times of great importance. – (Photos by Paul McMahon)

By David Giffey

The historic Gates of Heaven building resounded with applause and affirmation during the annual peace rally sponsored May 25, Memorial Day, in Madison, by Clarence Kailin Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace.

Four featured speakers delivered important and thoughtfully prepared comments, high school student scholarship winners were honored, and names of war casualties were read to live bagpipe music as the audience of 100 people received red carnations to be placed at the Lincoln Brigade monument at James Madison Park. The Gates of Heaven building, a former Jewish Synagogue, was moved to its present site at the park and served as a home for the peace rally.

A somber display – The Memorial Mile – also was erected by Chapter 25 members on May 23, and was scheduled to remain in place along Atwood Avenue until May 30. The Memorial Mile consists of 6,675 symbolic grave markers, which stretch a saddening and impressive distance along the street to be viewed by thousands of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

The peace rally began with a stirring set performed by the band Old Cool.

Veterans for Peace member David Couper, an ex-Marine, and former Madison police chief and advocate of community policing, told the crowd: “Excessive militarism is dangerous in a free society…we have seen it manifested in our nation’s police. As soldiers, we fought an enemy, but police in a society such as ours must be our guardians, especially of those among us who are most vulnerable…” After Couper retired from his peace keeping work he was ordained a priest in the Episcopalian Church. His invocation was included in his thoughtful comments.

Activist and labor leader David Newby, president emeritus of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, described the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal as being devised in secret to benefit powerful corporations. “Memorial Day is such an important day,” Newby said, “for remembering those killed in this nation’s wars…It’s an important day for remembering too that the reasons for our being in these wars are so often not what we are told. So often it has been not the American people who we went to war to protect, but rather powerful corporations whose interests and profits were considered more important than the lives of the women and men sent to war.”

Everett Mitchell, a social justice advocate, attorney, activist, scholar and pastor at the Solid Rock Baptist Church, devoted some of his comments to lessons taught about war and peace by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As injustice and police violence reach into the lives of African Americans in Madison and communities across the U.S., Rev. Mitchell repeated a message for peace and justice activists: “Until there is justice, we can’t stop.”

Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace is heir to anti-war history.  Beginning in 1967, this hand-sewn flag made in Madison, Wisconsin, was used by Madison Veterans for Peace in Vietnam at numerous public demonstrations and protests against the war. Chuck Goranson, a Vietnam veteran, was a grassroots organizer of the group. “Vietnam” was dropped from the group’s name in 1970, when the war was expanded into Cambodia and Laos. Clarence Kailin Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace is a 21st century renewal of the earlier veterans for peace organization. This photo, by Chapter 25 member Phillip Fransen, was taken during the peace rally May 25, 2015, at the Gates of Heaven in James Madison Park. The aging flag serves as a reminder that veterans have long been active in the peace movement.  (Photo by Phillip Fransen)

Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace is heir to anti-war history. Beginning in 1967, this hand-sewn flag made in Madison, Wisconsin, was used by Madison Veterans for Peace in Vietnam at numerous public demonstrations and protests against the war. Chuck Goranson, a Vietnam veteran, was a grassroots organizer of the group. “Vietnam” was dropped from the group’s name in 1970, when the war was expanded into Cambodia and Laos. Clarence Kailin Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace is a 21st century renewal of the earlier veterans for peace organization. This photo, by Chapter 25 member Phillip Fransen, was taken during the peace rally May 25, 2015, at the Gates of Heaven in James Madison Park. The aging flag serves as a reminder that veterans have long been active in the peace movement. (Photo by Phillip Fransen)

Two of seven 2015 high school scholarship winners, Lyric Simonson and Jose Hernandez, read excerpts from their prizewinning essays titled: “Why I Believe War Is Not the Answer.” This year, Chapter 25 provided a total of $4,200 in scholarships to seven high school graduates. A record 39 students from seven high schools in Central and Southwestern Wisconsin wrote essays for the contest.

Closing comments by Chapter 25 member and Vietnam War veteran Will Williams pointed out the injustices of war that he realized after serving in war. Williams emphasized the importance of educating and supporting young people in order to overcome traditions of militarism and violence.

The peace rally ended with an invitation from the family of Clarence Kailin, namesake of Chapter 25 and a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from Madison, to join in scattering some of Clarence’s ashes near the monument at the park. Norman Stockwell, of WORT-FM, offered the invitation on behalf of Clarence’s family, some of whom attended the peace rally.

Names of Wisconsin residents killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those of civilian casualties were read.

See more photos of the event here.  Courtesy of Tom Glassel.

Montage of Chapter 25 and Chapter 970 members marching in Monona Memorial Day Parade. (Youtube Link)

Peace Rally Program in Madison hosted by Veterans for Peace

Peace Rally May 25, 2015  — Download Flyer

Hosted by Veterans for Peace – Clarence Kailin Chapter 25 – Madison, Wisconsin

FClarence KailinEATURED SPEAKERS

•Everett Mitchell:  “Resisting Narratives of War”

•David Newby – U.S. Labor Against War

•David Couper –  “Keeping the Peace” Invocation

•Will Williams – Comments

 

IMG_0275VetsPlacingrosesatLincolnStoneMUSIC/POETRY

•Old Cool Band

•Spoken Word by First Wave

•Sean Michael Dargan – Bagpipe

PLUS

•Dr. James Allen Scholarships

•Remembering War Casualties

EMCEE

•David Giffey

Monday, May 25, 2015 – Memorial Day

12:45 p.m. – James Madison Park – E. Gorham Street (next to Gates of Heaven)

Special Thanks:  WORT-FM Radio, Norman Stockwell, Steve Ringwood, George’s Flowers

Veterans For Peace, Clarence Kailin Chapter 25, Madison, WI, will be setting up the “Memorial Mile” display along Atwood Avenue in Olbrich Park again this year. We very much appreciate your past participation in setting the display, and would like to ask for your assistance again for this years’ Memorial Mile Display if your Memorial Day holiday weekend would allow time for it.

The annual set-up time is scheduled for 9:00 am, Saturday, May 23. You may stop and start at any time. Hopefully, the ground will not be too dry and hard, and the installation will be accomplished in a few hours. We will have a tent set up with water, and possibly some snacks at the mid-point near the southern park entrance.

The take down time is scheduled for 1:00 pm, Saturday, May 30.

Please share this information to anyone that might be interested !

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2015

Noted speakers, music, high school scholarship awards, and poetry readings are scheduled for a Peace Rally Program beginning at 12:45 p.m. Monday, May 25, at James Madison Park, 614 E. Gorham Street. The program on Memorial Day afternoon is hosted by Veterans for Peace, Clarence Kailin Chapter 25.

In addition to the May 25 program, Veterans for Peace (VFP) will sponsor a “Memorial Mile” display of more than 6,675 simulated grave markers to acknowledge U.S. deaths in the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Memorial Mile display, May 23 to May 30, will be located along Atwood Avenue east of Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Peace rally speakers May 25 at James Madison Park will include:

  • Everett Mitchell, social justice advocate, attorney, activist, and pastor, speaking on “Resisting the Narratives of War.”
  • David Newby, president emeritus of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, discussing efforts by U.S. Labor Against War (USLAW).
  • David Couper, priest and former police chief – “Keeping the Peace” invocation.
  • Will Williams, veteran and activist, with closing remarks.

Warm-up music will be provided by the band Old Cool. A spoken word performance by UW-Madison’s First Wave is scheduled, as well as a poetry reading by Veterans for Peace member Daryl Sherman. Sean Michael Dargan will play a bagpipe tribute to end the program while names of war casualties are read. Audience members will be invited to place red carnations at the nearby Abraham Lincoln Brigade marker. Chapter 25 namesake and founding member, the late Clarence Kailin, was a volunteer fighting fascism with the International Brigade in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Program emcee is Chapter 25 member and Vietnam War veteran David Giffey.

During the May 25 program, graduates from area high schools will be honored for their participation in the annual Veterans for Peace essay and scholarship competition named after the late VFP member Dr. James Allen. This year, 40 students at seven high schools from Madison to Baraboo to Boscobel wrote essays on the topic “Why I Believe War Is Not the Answer.” More than $4,000 in scholarships have been awarded annually by Chapter 25 since 2007. Veterans for Peace is a non-profit organization. All funds are raised through donations and small grants. The program is free and open to the public. Good will donations will be accepted during the program and at the Memorial Mile site.

Chapter 25 member Steve Books will offer Veterans for Peace educational information. Audio assistance provided by Norm Stockwell and Steve Ringwood, WORT-FM Radio.

(Media: For more information contact David Giffey, 608-753-2199 or email barnowl1941@gmail.com. Interviews with participants available.)

VFP Scholarship Essay Contest Open to Students in Six Rural Southwestern Wisconsin Schools

Since 2006, Veterans for Peace Chapter 25 has offered $500 scholarships to a growing number of graduating seniors in rural high schools in Southwestern Wisconsin. To apply for the scholarship, senior students are required to write a 500- to 700-word essay on the topic: “Why I Believe War Is Not the Answer.”

In each of the six rural schools where scholarships are offered, a member of Chapter 25 provides information to students about the cost of wars – both human and monetary – and alternatives to the military. Veterans for Peace counter-recruiting takes place during lunch hours in the school cafeterias, where military recruiters often visit. Guidance counselors in the high schools list the Veterans for Peace scholarships each year along with dozens of other community scholarships available to the students.

Since the scholarship program began nearly a decade ago, the number of participating rural schools has grown, as has the number of students entering the essay contest. In some cases, 15 percent or more of a high school senior class has written an essay on the peace topic.

In addition to the scholarships in six rural Southwestern Wisconsin schools, Chapter 25 also offers a scholarship for students attending a high school in the City of Madison. (See this page).

This year, schools outside the City of Madison participating in the essay contest include: Baraboo, Boscobel, Dodgeville, Richland Center, Riverdale (Muscoda), and River Valley (Spring Green).

Essays are judged by the VFP scholarship committee, and awarded at honors ceremonies conducted annually at each high school and attended by hundreds of parents, family members, and friends. When awarding the scholarships, a Veterans for Peace representative briefly describes the peaceful mission of our organization to the crowd.

The scholarships are funded solely with donations to Veterans for Peace Chapter 25. While the scholarship/essay program includes only a fraction of the 425 school districts in Wisconsin, it represents an important effort to educate students and citizens about the unbearable costs of war.

After the scholarships are awarded, some of the essays will be made available on this website: madisonvfp.org.