American Friends Service Committee
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Editorial material in Peacework is published under a Creative Commons
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Tens of Thousands Sign Petition to Bring the MA Guard Home
Marilyn Levin is a longtime peace and justice activist involved in Arlington United for Justice with Peace and a member of the Greater Boston UJP Coordinating Committee.
We live in a democracy. Yet, it's rare for people to vote directly on major issues that affect our lives. We vote for elected officials and hope that they will fulfill campaign promises. HomeFromIraqNow.org, a coalition of organizations and activists including AFSC, United for Justice with Peace, and the Sherborn Peace Abbey, attempted to bring the question of the war in Iraq directly to the voters of Massachusetts by placing the following binding initiative on the 2006 state ballot:
"The governor is required to prevent any further deployment of Massachusetts National Guard troops to Iraq, and to use all legal means available under state and federal law to fight for the recall of all Massachusetts National Guard troops currently in Iraq. The governor may not deploy the National Guard to any foreign destination without approval of the state legislature."
The drive to collect 100,000 signatures of registered voters (in order to get the 66,000 valid signatures required) fell short. Our efforts engaged hundreds of activists, the majority from Cape Cod, Southeastern Massachusetts, Greater Boston, and Western Massachusetts. At malls and street corners, we were able to bring the discussion of the war in Iraq to thousands of voters in a tangible way and the campaign drew national attention. An impressive total of over 30,000 signatures was actually collected by this grassroots volunteer effort. The favorable response we received from the public, shown by their willingness, and often eagerness, to sign our petitions, confirmed our belief that the call to bring the National Guard home reflected mass opposition to the war.
Organizers' hopes to garner tens of thousands of signatures through the internet netted only several thousand signatures. Thus, Internet-based methods show promise, but to get on the ballot, we needed a more geographically and numerically extensive network of committed volunteers throughout the state.
Why did we focus on the National Guard? They are our relatives and neighbors who enlisted to serve the Commonwealth in the event of natural disasters or threats to public safety. Many joined with the hope of funding higher education. When we focus on the National Guard, we spotlight the costs of the war on a local level.
But over the last several months the political landscape has changed with some members of Congress calling for the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq and public opinion turning more sharply against the war.
A statewide conference will take place on January 14, 2006 in Worcester to evaluate the petition campaign and to maintain our momentum as a statewide campaign to bring the troops home. Military families from Massachusetts will help us in our deliberations. Our goal is to bring together many of the activists who worked on the petition campaign with new people who would like to engage in strategic discussions about formulating a new statewide campaign.
Ideas for refocusing our efforts include initiating Town Meeting resolutions across the state, placing a nonbinding question on the ballot in state representative districts, asking the state legislature to hold hearings on the economic and human impact of the war on Massachusetts, and introducing legislation calling for the governor to stop supporting the war and to issue a call for bringing the troops home.
Please join us. The conference will be held
in Worcester on Saturday, January 14, from 11am to 4pm, at the
Worcester Age Center, 799 West Boylston St. To learn more,