Stellar lineup for peace conference
Best. Peace. Conference. Ever.
The 15th annual Kateri Peace Conference will take place on Aug. 17 in Fonda. I've written more than once about this “best kept secret of the peace movement.” At a mere $40 (and no one is turned away for lack of funds), which includes lunch, it is also one of the best bargains of the movement.
John Amidon and Maureen Aumand, the conference organizers, do an incredible job of lining up speakers from the national and international peace and justice stage. In all the years I have attended, I have never been disappointed in the quality of the presenters or the workshops they have given.
John and Maureen have outdone themselves this year with Ray McGovern, Martha Hennssy, Ellen Barfield and the Capital District's own Steven Downs on the schedule. With the exception Downs, I am proud to say I have been arrested with all of these fine folks, even sharing a jail cell and a trial with Ellen and Martha on more than one occasion.
I've listed some biographical information on the presenters to whet your activist appetite - you can click here.
If you have time and money for only one peace gathering this year - this is the one you should attend.
“The Moral Imperative of Activism.”
Ray came from his native New York to Washington in the early Sixties as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then served as a CIA analyst from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. Ray's duties included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President's Daily Brief, which he briefed one-on-one to President Ronald Reagan's most senior national security advisers from 1981 to 1985.
In January 2003, Ray helped create Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to expose the way intelligence was being falsified to "justify" war on Iraq. On the afternoon of the day (Feb. 5, 2003) Secretary of State Colin Powell misled the UN Security Council on Iraq, VIPS sent an urgent memorandum to President George W. Bush, in which we gave Powell a C minus for content. We ended the memo with this: "No one has a corner on the truth; nor do we harbor illusions that our analysis is irrefutable or undeniable [as Powell had claimed]. But after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion beyond ... the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic."
As an act of conscience, on March 2, 2006 Ray returned the Intelligence Commendation Medallion given him at retirement for "especially meritorious service," explaining, "I do not want to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture." He returned it to Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R, Michigan), then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman.
On May 4, 2006, in Atlanta, Ray made national news by confronting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on live TV with pointed questions like: "Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties?" (The impromptu, four-minute mini-debate that followed is still receiving hits on You Tube.) Ray's opinion pieces have appeared in many leading newspapers here and abroad. He has debated at the Oxford Forum and appeared on Charlie Rose, The Newshour, CNN, and numerous other TV & radio programs and documentaries. Ray has lectured to a wide variety of audiences here and abroad. Ray studied theology and philosophy (as well as his major, Russian) at Fordham University, from which he holds two degrees. He also holds a Certificate in Theological Studies from Georgetown University.
A Catholic, Mr. McGovern has been worshiping for over a decade with the ecumenical Church of the Saviour and teaching at its Servant Leadership School. He was co-director of the school from 1998 to 2004. He has been invited to lecture at various interfaith and ecumenical events, and has given the sermon at a number of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues.
“Dorothy Day, her life and her work.”
Martha lives and works between her family homestead in Vermont and Maryhouse Catholic Worker in lower Manhattan. She is the seventh of nine grandchildren to Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Martha is herself a grandmother, and she works very part time as an occupational therapist. She has traveled to the Middle East, Russia, Europe and Afghanistan in search of peace making and cultural understanding. She participates in resistance work against war, torture, and nuclear power/weapons. Martha states "I am committed to the Catholic Worker tradition of welcoming the needy, celebrating the dignity of work and speaking out against war and injustice, all grounded on a foundation of prayer".
Stephen F. Downs
"WAR DESTROYS LAW - How the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the War on Crime, The War to Secure our Borders, and the War with Drones creates political prisoners and political assassinations and destroys our legal system."
Remember the man and his son who were arrested about a decade back at Crossgates Mall in Albany for wearing t-shirts promoting peace which they purchased at said mall and it wound up being a Supreme Court case? Yep that's him. Stephen F. Downs graduated from Cornell Law School in 1969, after previously serving for 2 years in the American Peace Corp in India. He spent most of his legal career as the Chief Attorney for the NY State Commission on Judicial Conduct disciplining bad judges.
He retired in 2003, and in 2006 volunteered to be part of the defense team for Yassin Aref, a local imam charged with terrorism related offenses.
After Aref and his co-defendant were convicted and sentenced to 15 years, Downs became convinced that the US Government had deliberately convicted an innocent man in a process known as preemptive prosecution (prosecuting someone before they commit a crime for ideological reasons). It changed his life.
Downs became a founding member of the Muslim Solidarity Committee to raise money and help take care of the two families and 10 children of the defendants. When other similar cases of preemptive prosecution were discovered, including the cases of Rafil Dhafir, Fahad Hashmi, Lynne Stewart, the Newburg 4 and the Ft. Dix 5, Downs became a co-founder of Project SALAM, dedicated to documenting all of the cases of preemptive prosecution in a data base, and advocating for the release of the defendants. (Project SALAM is now following over 800 cases in its data base.)
In 2010, Project SALAM became one of 18 founding members of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF), which is dedicated to eliminating preemptive prosecution, profiling and prisoner abuse.
NCPCF runs educational programs to raise awareness of the problems, maintains a data base to follow the cases, advocates for legal solutions to the existing injustices, publishes a news digest and other material to counter false media information, and creates programs to help prisoners and their families. Downs is now the interim Executive Director of NCPCF. (email@example.com) For more information on Preemptive Prosecution and Prisoner Abuse and the many cases associated with them, go to www.projectsalam.org and click on Downs article “Victims of America’s Dirty Wars.”. For more information on NCPCF, go to www.civilfreedoms.org.
“Civil Resistance and Civil Disobedience”
Ellen Barfield has been a nonviolent peace and justice activist for over 25 years. After
serving overseas in West Germany and South Korea, she left the US Army in 1981
and used Army money to return to college, harboring a vague notion of wanting to do
something to challenge social problems. As she graduated, activists began peace
gatherings at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant outside her home town of Amarillo,
TX. Over several years she embraced the anti-nuclear weapons movement, and
eventually lived at and managed the Red River Peace Network's Peace Farm across
the highway from the Pantex plant.
Ellen moved to Dallas to live with her second husband Larry Egbert whom she had
met in Red River, and continued helping to organize Red River events at Pantex, as
well as doing reproductive choice, feminist, AIDS and LGBT, civil and human rights
and peace work in Dallas. Ellen and Larry traveled to Nicaragua with a Pastors for
Peace caravan in late 1995 and lived in Leon, then settled in Baltimore, MD.
Ellen has served on the national boards of Veterans For Peace, the War Resisters
League, School of the Americas Watch, and Women's International League for Peace
and Freedom, and is the co-founder and coordinator of the Baltimore Phil Berrigan
Memorial Chapter of Veterans For Peace. She has traveled to Iraq, Palestine, and
Nicaragua on multiple peace delegations.
Part of Ellen's activism is risking arrest in civil resistance for the environment, human
rights, and peace. Her first arrest was at the Nevada nuclear weapons test site in 1988,
and her first serious arrest was one week later blocking the gate at the Pantex plant, for
which she later was fined over $1000. She continues to do actions with the National
Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance.
“Iraq 2013 Occupation and its Aftermath”
In May of this year Cathy Breen visited Iraq to see the consequences of the many years of US Occupation. Her presentation will be centered on her recent trip.
Cathy is a member of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. In Oct/Nov. 2012 after an absence of 9 years, Cathy Breen, returned to Iraq. Prior to this she visited and supported Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria over a period of several years witnessing and reporting about their reality. Cathy traveled again to Iraq in May of 2013 at a time when violence and killings were once again on the increase. Listening to and witnessing the reality of life in Iraq ten years into the war, her hope is to make the reality of life in Iraq heard and understood in the United States. She is a long-time member of the Catholic Worker Community in New York city.
From Protest to Prison and Back again.
Brian lives and works at Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa, where with his partner, Betsy Keenan and others, he tends a large garden and small herd of goats and chickens. From this little farm, Brian travels around Iowa and beyond, speaking and acting with communities that are working for justice and peace. His travels include Iraq and Afghanistan and he was deported from Bahrain in 2012 after witnessing the violent repression of human rights activists there. In recent years, he has been active in resistance to remote controlled murders by drones with friends in Nevada, New York and Missouri and on May 24 of this year he was released from a six month federal prison sentence for participating in a peaceable assembly in protest of drones at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
Jack Gilroy has written two award winning novels of young men who refused to follow government orders to train to kill. Absolute Flanigan and The Wisdom Box published by Binghamton University. Over the past several years, Gilroy has written a series of plays that examine the power of conscience over the power of government. Gilroy’s plays, Render to Caesar?, followed by Sentenced to Death for Not Killing, have been performed at the Columbus, Ga Convention Center. Most recently, The Predator, a play based on a young woman whose mother, a drone pilot, believes her college age daughter should make the military her career. The Predator has been read at universities (e.g. Georgetown, Wittenberg, Syracuse) and numerous other venues.
Jack Gilroy is a retired high school teacher, full time activist, veteran of two military services and former prisoner of conscience.