by John Dear
The following remarks were delivered on September 18 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as part of the launch of Campaign Nonviolence’s week of actions.
Today we are pleased to announce the launch of Campaign Nonviolence, a growing grassroots movement that begins this Sunday, September 21st, International Peace Day, with a week of over 225 protests, marches and rallies across the country in every state against war, military spending, poverty, the epidemic of violence and catastrophic climate change.
I want to welcome my friends here, Ken Butigan, director of Campaign Nonviolence, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, of the HipHop Caucus who is on our board and who also works with 350.org, my friend Marie Dennis a long time peace activist with Pax Christi, and chair of Pax Christi International, and my friend Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a long time advocate for peace and justice. I thank Aric Caplan and Caplan Communications for helping us spread the word about Campaign Nonviolence.
What we are doing this week is historic. As you know, change only happens from the bottom up, from grassroots movement building, from movements that grow and won’t go away. That’s what we learn from the Abolitionists, the Suffragists, the Labor movement, the Civil Rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement.
This week, with Campaign Nonviolence, people across the country are coming together and, for the first time in decades, connecting the dots, making the links between the pressing issues of our time, taking to the streets in a groundswell of coalitions, demanding change on all fronts.
With these 225 marches, rallies, and public events, thousands of ordinary Americans are speaking out in over 150 cities against war, and poverty and environmental destruction, and also calling for the visionary nonviolence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a way forward for our country and the world, saying that we want a new culture of peace with justice, a new culture of nonviolence.
As part of the Campaign Nonviolence, we published my book, “The Nonviolent Life,” and earlier this year, I toured the country for four months, and visited 35 cities where events will take place. I met with thousands of people who will be taking to the streets, and I heard for myself that people are fed up. They are sick and tired of this epidemic of violence, of our permanent war economy, of our ignoring catastrophic climate change, of poverty, and racism and killing, and serving the one percent and their oil companies and weapons manufacturers.
So in Salt Lake City, they’re gathering to rally for nuclear disarmament and the use of those funds for environmental cleanup. In Sarasota, they’re marching for immigrants, low-wage workers, and an end to U.S. war-making. In Chicago and Wilmington, they’re marching against gun violence in our inner cities. In Bangor, Maine, they’re hosting an “End the Violence” rally.
In Santa Fe, a thousand people will march against climate change and for new just environmental policies. In Wisconsin, they’ll be vigiling against U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. Peace vigils will be held from Honolulu to Boise to Buffalo to Little Rock to Washington, D.C. demanding an end to our war-making and the waste of billions of dollars for weapons instead of human needs. I urge every to visit our website: www.campaignnonviolence.org, to see the lists of actions and events.
With these marches, thousands of Americans are saying our government is broken, our leaders are failing us, and it’s time for a change. What do we want? Drastic cuts in the bloated U.S. military budget; the abolition of nuclear weapons and drones; the reallocation of those enormous funds–trillions of dollars–for food, housing, jobs, healthcare, schools and environmental cleanup. We want fair wages, new immigration policies, the reform of our criminal justice and prison system. We want an aggressive fight against catastrophic climate change, massive funding for renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, such as solar and wind, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ending the keystone pipeline and fracking and cleaning up our water, land and air, and signing an international treaty for rapid, verifiable action to reverse climate change.
But we want more than that! We want Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of nonviolence, and we want it to be implemented. We want a new culture of peace, justice and nonviolence. As we move closer to the brink of global catastrophe through ongoing war, extreme poverty and catastrophic climate change, we see that Dr. King was right: creative nonviolence is the only sane, rational, intelligent choice. Nonviolence is our future, and it’s time we become people of nonviolence.
That means, too, that we do not support the bombing of Iraq and Syria as the way forward to peace. We have been bombing Iraq for 23 years and this warmaking has not brought peace to Iraq, the Middle East or us. War cannot stop terrorism because war is terrorism. War always sows the seeds for future wars. Peaceful means are the only way to a peaceful future.
Americans are sick and tired of war. They know that the world is becoming smaller, that we need to find nonviolent ways to resolve international conflict, and dig out the roots of war and terrorism which are poverty and global systemic injustice.
This Sunday I will speak at the peace rally at the Climate March in New York City, then I will come back here on Tuesday morning to join the local Campaign nonviolence action. We will gather at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning in Lafayette Park in front of the White House to speak out against this culture of violence and injustice, and call for a new culture of peace and nonviolence, and engage in nonviolent direct action.
All across the country, thousands of people will be speaking out. It’s time our leaders listened to the people and worked to make peace with justice a reality.