This is what we’ve been up to this year:
Through the Culture of Peace Forum, a project we have been a part of for seven years, we put on a production of “Metamorphosis II: The Corporation Strikes Back” a musical comedy about a man who falls asleep reading Kafka, and wakes up to find himself a corporation. Will played the role of Chief Justice John Roberts, Arnie Alpert of AFSC (the author) played the lead role of ARMazon.com, and Elizabeth Ropp played the intern. The Palestine Education Project, a special project of NH Peace Action Education Fund held a conference with keynote speaker Alice Rothchild. We co-sponsored with NH AFSC and the Manchester creative club an art exhibit entitled “All of Us or None: Art for Change”. Also in October, Will Hopkins was able to question Hillary Clinton on the Today show. An article about Clinton’s avoidance of the question received over 250,000 hits on US Uncut, and a video of the question and answer was viewed over 130,000 times. We also co-sponsored two talks by Dr. Joseph Gerson about the dangers posed to all of humanity by Nuclear Weapons. Also in October, 350NH dissolved as its own entity and became a special project of New Hampshire Peace Action Education Fund.
November brought our Annual Fall Fundraiser, which featured Rob Shetterly of Americans Who Tell the Truth. About 110 people attended; the event was fantastic. Will was on the Arnie Arneson show (nationally syndicated) to read his Armistice Day poem “To My Children’s Teachers on Armistice Day” and discuss nationalism, issues of race, and militarism in US culture. He also went to Boston to speak on a panel at a Mass Peace Action conference keynoted by Noam Chomsky, who left sick before he had a chance to speak. The panel was on tying movements together and looking at underlying causes. Will also gave a workshop on Bird-Dogging with Arnie Alpert at that conference. Will also did a radio interview on alternatives to violence with ISIS on WPTL before taking a break for a few days for Thanksgiving. He wrapped up the month giving a speech at a 350NH rally in Portsmouth.
In December, in response to remarks by NH Governor Maggie Hassan about turning back Syrian refugees, NHPA sponsored a rally in support of the refugees, which was well attended and got some good press. On New Year’s Eve we supported a young woman who was trying to plan her first event, a photograph of candles in a peace sign on New Year’s Eve; she asked for us to share and invite our members, the peace sign was pulled off! As always, we co-sponsored the December 21 name reading of the homeless who died in the previous year.
Olivia Zink (current C3 Board Chair, then grassroots engagement coordinator for the AFSC GUI program, and current Director of Open Democracy) and Will trained a group of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans from around the Northeast who had four or five successful questions at the Republican Convention- this was organized by a group called Beyond the Choir. The training itself made it into the Intercept where Lee Fang wrote an article about it. Bird-dog support and engaging with GUI became primary near the end of January.
The first couple weeks of February were primary season. Bird-dogging and travelling with GUI were most of what NH Peace Action did. We got a few good media hits and questions to candidates from this, and thousands saw GUI banners and received handouts. Our annual board retreat and strategic envisioning was held on the 13th. Later in the month, we co-sponsored an event entitled “Reparationists are the New Abolitionists” as part of the Culture of Peace Forum.
In March we hosted the Buddhist Monks on their “Walk for a New Spring” on Monday the 14th at the Concord Friends Meeting.
This year’s March conference was to be keynoted by Jim Pope, but he had a medical complication and was unable to come, so the conference was keynoted by Peter Kellman, who gave a history of the labor movement and how it has supported economic equality and encouraged peace. It was an excellent talk, loved by all, and received plenty of feedback. The culture of peace award was given to Dick Dutton, who among many other things, founded the Kids For Peace program in NH. The conference workshops also had very positive feedback, although the conference itself was poorly attended. Lesson learned: never hold a conference on Easter Weekend.
April: On the Eighth of April, Kevin Bowe, a documentarian filmed about four hours of footage of Will telling his story of coming to peace.
The Culture of Peace Forum showing of “This Changes Everything” was very well attended (roughly 60 attendees), Will facilitated discussion, and the showing was very successful.
With co-sponsors, we screened and helped outline discussion protocols, and publicized for the showing of Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next” on Thursday the 21st . Tax Day actions were very successful; we distributed 250 flyers in Manchester and Concord, and met with staff from all four of our DC representatives. About ten people came to the meeting and flyering.
The major program item this month was the showing of “Where to Invade Next” at the Manchester UU, it was well attended, and we got good feedback from attendees. This was a co-sponsored showing, and Curt represented NHPA, as Will was in Idaho.
The Nuclear Weapons Working Group (a joint project of AFSC and NHPA formed out of the GUI program) has completed a congressional briefing packet to be delivered to Congressional and Senate candidates and has begun planning for this year’s Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemoration.
On the C4 side, candidate questionnaires were finalized, and sent out to candidates. The C4 did in the end vote to recommend endorsement by the National Peace Action PAC of Carol Shea-Porter.
The ISIS committee helped Will reach an end-point with his article to kick off our Alternatives to Violence with ISIS campaign. The article appeared in our spring newsletter with a call to bring Will to churches, rotary groups, and other community organizations to talk about the conflict with ISIS. It also appeared in Truthout in late June.
On Saturday the 21st, Doreen tabled at the annual March Against Monsanto, which had relatively poor turnout this year. She did collect some names for our email list.
On Wednesday the 25th, Will attended a Jim Rubens foreign policy event, and made a good contact with a republican State rep, James McConnel, who is also a former Lt Col in the US Army and was highly critical of US “Nation Building Wars” which he called a failed policy. This led to another meeting with Rubens, on June 2, on nuclear weapons and ISIS (just Arnie, Will, John Raby, and Jim).
Will H and NH Peace Action Board Member, Will Thomas went to Massachusetts to sing in the chorus for a Veterans For Peace music video project “Extremists For Peace”, led by Pat Scanlon. Will gave his ISIS presentation to Concord HS Amnesty International on Wednesday the 8th. We had a good discussion, and several of the students who attended later came to Peace of Mind.
Will, Arnie, John Raby, and Judy Elliot of the Nuclear Weapons Working Group met with Maggie Hassan’s Campaign Political Director about nuclear policy, which she seems pretty good on. Her policy director was unapologetic about her remarks on Syrian refugees, and says she “stands by her remarks.”
The compassionate listening project event on June 9 went very well, and we had a great discussion after it.
On Monday the 13th, Will organized and trained a peacekeeping team for the Donald Trump event at St. Anselms. The team consisted of Rev. Michael Leuchtenberger, Rev. Lynn Marshall, Rev. Jason Wells, Rev. Gray Fitzgerald, Rev. Mark Ferrin, Mark Barker, Will, and Rob Spencer. Needless to say, there were no instances of violence. Will had also half-organized a seacoast team when that event was cancelled. On the 25th, Will gave his ISIS presentation at the Progressive Summit to a small group.
Will Thomas, Will Hopkins, Arnie Alpert, Judy Elliot, and John Raby met with Bud Fitch from Kelley Ayotte’s office, he listened respectfully and said he would pass the information on to the Senator.
NH Peace Action also tabled at Market Days in Concord, which is always a good chance to talk to a lot of people about what we do. Many, many thanks to all the volunteers who man the booth. Special thanks to Ginny Timmons who spent countless hours each day volunteering.
July 2 marked the Annual Membership meeting, 35 or so attended. We voted to endorse the School of the Americas action this year. Our speaker, Jeff Klein of Mass Peace Action, who had just returned from Syria, did a great job re-framing the current crisis in Syria as one created largely by over a century of colonialism. Klein argued that the situation on the ground is one which really only has two primary poles of power, one around Assad and his alliance with Russia, and the other being formed by the Islamic State and radical jihadists backed by the United States who are primarily concerned with the downfall of Assad and see radical Islam as a lesser evil in Syria.
Will was interviewed on Making Waves radio about his Islamic State article on July 7. Also on the seventh, he met with Carol Shea-Porter and two of her advisors along with the rest of the Nuclear Weapons Working Group. We hosted the regional Peace Action leadership retreat over the weekend of the 15th to the 17th, Will also presented his ISIS presentation to about 30 at the World Fellowship Center over the weekend. On Tuesday the 19th the Nuclear Weapons Working Group met with Rich Ashooh (Republican Candidate for CD-1 House of Representatives and former BAE executive).
The Annual Hiroshima/Nagasaki remembrance had a great program, attendance was actually a bit above average, but disappointing nonetheless- as the program was stellar. We held it on August 6, Judy Elliot and John Raby presented at NEC, followed by a march to the Capitol arches for a demonstration of how many nuclear weapons currently exist, using BBs to symbolize nuclear weapons. After, we marched to the river to lay flowers and share reflections. Will MC’ed the event which was cosponsored by us, AFSC, and UCC Peace with Justice Advocates.
Will gave his ISIS presentation to about 30 at the Manchester UU on Sunday the 7th, it was well received, and the fifth time Will has given it. The Nuclear Weapons Working Group finished meeting with the last few candidates for federal office in August, meeting with Jack Flanagan and Ann McLane Kuster. Also of note in August, NH Peace Action 501c(4) endorsed Carol Shea-Porter, but as we did not receive questionnaires back from others (outside of that race), made no other endorsements.
On Thursday, August 25, our 350NH arm held a 2PM rally before delivering about 2000 signatures to Governor Hassan calling on her to support investment in offshore wind research. Turnout was excellent for a week-day afternoon, and Will spoke, making the connection between militarism and fossil fuels.
On Friday, August 26, NH Peace Action 501c(4) was contracted through MoveOn.org to organize an event at Kelly Ayotte’s office, where veterans called on Senator Ayotte to disavow her support of Donald Trump. The event went very well, with good speakers and eight attendees, but no media showed up. It was a 1:00 PM event on a weekday organized in a week, and Matt Murray from NH Labor News did publish a story using our pictures and press release. The small shot in the arm will help the C4 make its budget this year.
Over the weekend of September 3 and 4, we held our annual Peace of Mind Conference, 15 youth attended, and the program was great. Youth feedback was overwhelmingly positive. We kicked off the weekend with a panel on how big money controls our political process featuring Becky Wasserman, Arnie Alpert, Kaity Thomson, and Katherine Thorndike. Arnie then led an overview of what Nonviolence is and how it works, and finally, Alex Freid led a workshop on goals-based campaign development and movement theory. Thankfully, we did have a small contingent of new Americans, keeping our youth base diverse. Visits to the pond, sunrise hike, talent show, humor, and relaxation were also on the docket for the youth.
On September 10, we tabled at Laconia Multicultural Days, thanks to Krisan Evenson and Tom & Bev Westheimer for doing the lion’s share of the work around this. The Palestine Education Network (another arm of NHPA) also had a table at the festival, both of us sold some chum, got some email signups and met new people who are interested in our work.
On September 21, “A Peace of Pizza for Peace” took place on the Statehouse lawn with speakers, music, and pizza commemorating the UN International Day of Peace. Local pizzerias volunteered a small portion of their proceeds for the day to fund grass roots peace work, and we had a little festival on the statehouse lawn including pizza, music, and tables. Rik Yeames, local Dominos franchisee spearheaded this project.
We hired Hannah Eliason, a senior at Concord High School, to take over for Emily Spencer as our membership renewal advocate a couple of weeks ago, and the rest of September was mostly devoted to preparation for our 34th Annual Fall event and Fundraiser, featuring Celene Ibrahim, a Muslim feminist scholar and theologian who will present from her perspective how to effectively oppose the violence of the Islamic State.