Activism

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As most of you know, our dear sister Liz, co-founder and member of Jonah House community, is currently in jail for her role in the King’s Bay Plowshares. On Sunday, the Baltimore Sun published an op-ed on Liz. Here is the link:

https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-op-0608-elizabeth-mcalister-20190906-f5wipjxaebgxlabqumv3o3sbf4-story.html

Liz McAlister with her husband Phil Berrigan.

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Phil Berrigan’s grave in St. Peter’s Cemetery.

Remembering Phil Berrigan on Memorial Day. Phil experienced the horror and futility of war, and spent the rest of his life working for peace, and attempting to end war.

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Today is the one year anniversary of the Kings Bay Plowshares action. Liz McAlister, a member of Jonah House, along with Fr. Steve Kelly, SJ and Mark Colville, remain incarcerated. The other four members of the group are at large but wearing ankle monitors. After one year, the trial date has yet to be set.

Please sign the petition for the Kingsbay Plowshares 7. It asks that charges be dropped against our seven friends, so that they can return to doing good works in the world.

https://www.kingsbayplowshares7.org/global-petition?link_id=2&can_id=a9df644640c4c1c9b09fb9bcd0cb2d59&source=email-press-release-tutu-nobel-winners-support-protesters-in-jail-one-year&email_referrer=email_522630___subject_674228&email_subject=press-release-tutu-supports-new-petition-for-anti-nuclear-protesters

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Mark Colville is one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, along with Jonah House member Liz McAlister and five others. He’s been in jail exactly one year today. The following is a prison epistle that powerfully shows the injustice of the so-called justice system.

March 2019

Dear Friends,

Greetings and hugs all around! With a grateful heart I commend all who continue to make the sacrifices necessary to keep our doors at the Amistad Catholic Worker open, the kitchen warm, and the table set, especially during these harsh months and under the added strain of my extended absence. For some time now, I’ve hesitated to check in from here in Georgia before being able to offer a bit of clarity with regard to the legal situation of the Kings Bay Plowshares in Brunswick Federal Court. But with delays encroaching now into Spring, and still no action being taken by the magistrate judge on our pretrial motions, a brief update has become increasingly overdue.

Actually, what has been most on my heart these past three months is a deep sense of responsibility to speak about this jail where I’ve been warehoused now for the better part of a year. It is labeled a “detention center,” so-called because the people being kept here have been arrested but have not yet had their cases adjudicated. Considered a temporary holding facility, its conditions and amenities are suited to accommodate the accused for a a few weeks or a month at most, irrespective of the reality that – for reasons I’ll explain in a moment – half a year or more is closer to the average length of stay. This means that all the detained, most of whom are suspected of low-level or nonviolent offenses, are held in maximum security conditions for months, and in some cases years, on end. We are locked down on crowded cellblocks, essentially for 24 hours a day. The diet is heavy on starch, sugar and sodium, which rapidly foster obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease when combined with a sedentary lifestyle.(I’ve witnessed three people having strokes, and one man I knew died of heart failure in his cell late last summer). There is no access to the outdoors nor to physical recreation of any kind; no exercise permitted outside of one’s cell; no visits with loved ones except by video monitor; no use of a library, computer or internet. It also seems to be common knowledge that we are sitting on top of a toxic waste dump, but I have neither the means nor the fortitude to investigate that particular report.

As for the 400 to 500 detainees here, most are in the same predicament as Liz, Steve and I, being held indefinitely with their cases pending. Several systemic factors conspire to make this so.Bail is generally set extremely high, unaffordably so for many, although this can sometimes be remedied at a bail reduction hearing after at least six weeks have passed. The bigger issue, though, is what’s referred to as the “probation hold.” In Glynn County, persons arrested for any reason while on probation can be jailed for renewable terms of up to 60 days, and simply forced to wait until a probation violation hearing is scheduled. As anyone who’s had the experience knows, virtually any encounter with a police officer on probation can result in an arrest, regardless of probable cause or the likelihood of an infraction being provable in court . Merely being on probation is reason enough.

Practically speaking, lengthy probation terms usually have little to do with supervision, rehabilitation or public safety. They have plenty to do with funneling people back through the criminal justice industrial complex, which seems to be a significant source of revenue and employment in municipalities like this one. Convictions in the Brunswick court, 90 percent of which are obtained by plea bargain, commonly bring sentences which include probation terms of between 3 and 20 years! The prisoners here call it being “on paper.” Once they are on a probation hold, an investigation of the newly-alleged crime can proceed, or not, at the leisure of the D.A.’s office. Of course, whether or not they find evidence, the living conditions at the detention center will usually provide ample coercive power to secure another conviction. Obviously, after 60 or 120 or 180 days of 24-hour lockdown, almost anyone is well-disposed to accept whatever plea will result in an immediate release, even if it means being on paper for another decade. Thus, there is ensured an endless supply of indefinite detainees at the Glynn County Detention Center, and their demographic won’t surprise anyone; at present, I am one of three white people in a cell block of thirty-four.

From the inside, I find the real horror of all this in its utter normalcy. Sometimes it takes a rigorous act of the will to maintain a personal relationship with reality. I’m living in a place where hundreds of people accused of low-level and/or nonviolent crimes are being held indefinitely, under maximum security conditions, having neither been granted due process, nor convicted nor sentenced. The presumption of innocence is, quite literally, a punchline. The totalitarian culture of coercion that dictates every aspect of life in a maximum security jail has essentially chewed up and swallowed the “justice system” here, such that it is not honestly possible to even use that term without the disclaimer of quotation marks. Broken families bear a terrible burden, some driven from poverty into destitution. The racial bias could hardly be more obvious. Yet it all seems to function beyond significant public notice, and has nothing to do with questions of morality, necessity, or service to the public good.

Of late, I’ve grown convinced that it couldn’t be more fitting for the Kings Bay Plowshares to have been swept up and tossed into a human dumpster such as this. The racket they run here gives real substance, on the neighborhood level, to what U.S. nuclear policy – our national religion – has been preaching to every child born on the planet for the last seventy-five years: No Lives Matter. However long it might draw out, I hope that my incarceration here will in some way speak this truth. The idols we named at Kings Bay are not sleeping. They demand sacrifice. The god of the national security state feasts on the blood of the poor.

“The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., March, 1968. Yes, indeed.

– Mark Colville

[As of this writing, the Kings Bay Plowshares have been waiting many months for a ruling from magistrate judge Benjamin Cheesbro on a pre-trial argument they have placed before the court. The essence of their position is that a jury should be allowed to hear and consider the principles of faith and conscience that informed their action at Kings Bay, and that the government has acted improperly by filing criminal charges against them. The seven were arrested on April 5, 2018.]

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Former members and dear friends of Jonah House Sisters Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert have won another award (ICANN, an organization they have done much work with this past year, won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018). This time it was the Pax Christi Peacemaker Awards. The text from Pax Christi follows.

– – – – –

On Monday, June 4, 2018, Ardeth Platte, OP and Carol Gilbert, OP accepted an award on behalf of peacemakers around the world. Mary T. Yelenick from the Pax Christi International UN-NGO Delegation presented the award.

“We were privileged to be present for the Pax Christi New York Metro Awards Banquet and Fundraiser. Young and older people received awards for charity and justice work. We received the award for all of you who have surrounded us over many years. All connected with us receive a pause in the peacemaking labor for a gathering of this nature to say “thank you” to and for each other. War makers are lifted in memorials all over the world, so this memorial belongs once again to Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters who challenged war and the nuclear arms race for years and continue to do so.” — Peace, Ardeth and Carol
___________________

The message on the award read:

Pax Christi Metro New York Gratefully presents the Sister Christine Mulready Peacemaker Award For 2018 to Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte OP

Carol and Ardeth, your life-long commitment to peace is grounded in the love that both Thea Bowman and Dorothy Day proclaim. From the classroom to the public square, from government facilities to military bases, from places of worship to diplomatic centers, you have allowed love to conquer fear. Like Thea, you embrace a simple life that is open to people and filled with laughter and music. Like Dorothy, you know the link between poverty and militarism and you stand up and speak out against both.

Thank you for your great courage to live, love, and laugh, to believe that peace is possible, and to help to bring it into being. We are privileged to honor you.
___________________________

DSGR Corporate Stance on Nuclear Disarmament

The Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids call upon the United States government to lead the way for the global abolition of nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction by adopting a plan to lock down, dismantle, reduce, and eliminate nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction.

We call for immediate development, adoption and implementation of a plan that will ensure that there will be no new nuclear weapons, no new materials for nuclear weapons, and no testing of nuclear weapons.

We will work with all people of goodwill until there is no chance that a nuclear weapon or other weapon of mass destruction can come into the hands of anyone wishing to do harm.

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As in years past, we began our Lenten journey at the White House, on Ash Wednesday. Joe Byrne and Liz McAlister were there to represent Jonah House.

Liz McAlister, emeritus member of Jonah House, with Michael Walli of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, in Washington, DC.

Participants marked the street in front of the White House with crosses made of ashes.

Follow this link for a full account of the prayer service at the White House, written by Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker:

Report of Ash Wednesday Liturgy of Repentance Outside White House-February 14, 2018

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Wonder article about the wonderful work being done by Sisters Ardeth and Carol, with ICANW (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). Ardeth and Carol left Jonah House to dedicate themselves full-time to this peacemaking work.

 

http://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/features/nunsnucleardisarm.aspx

http://www.icanw.org/

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Our dear friends Ardeth and Carol are in Germany protesting at a German airbase where American nuclear weapons are deployed. Here’s a report from Germany:

On Monday, July 17, 2017, Ralph Hutchison <orep@earthlink.net> wrote:

US citizens take action against US nuclear bombs in Europe

Remove US flag; Blockade main gate; Meet with Base Commander

Among the American delegation were CWers:
Steve Baggarly, Virginia;  Susan Crane, California ; Kathy Boylan, Washington, DC.

Others we all know well ….
Srs Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Jonah House, Maryland; Ralph Hutchison, OREP Tennessee; John LaForge and Bonnie Urfer, Nukewatch, Wisconsin

A delegation of eleven US citizens joined with activists from China, Russia, Germany, Mexico, The Netherlands, Belgium and Britain at a peace encampment at the German airbase in Büchel, Germany, where US B61 bombs are deployed.

On Sunday, July 16, following the celebration of a Christian liturgy, Dutch and US citizens removed the fence blocking the main entrance to the airbase and proceeded on site, the Dutch delegation carrying bread for a “Bread Not Bombs” action and the US delegation carrying the text of the Nuclear Ban Treaty passed on July 7 at the United Nations in New York City.

More than thirty activists entered the site without incident, passing through the security gate that was accidentally left unlocked and unstaffed. The Dutch delegation placed loaves of bread on the wings of jet fighters; the US delegation lowered the US flag from the flagpole, requested a meeting with the base commander, and read the text of the UN Treaty to soldiers at the base.

After forty-five minutes, guards ran to seal the gates and police were summoned. Eventually, all activists were expelled from the facility without being charged.

On Monday, July 17, activists woke to find themselves prisoners in the peace camp as those attempting to approach the base with banners were rebuffed by police. More than a dozen police vans ringed the roundabout at the gate.

Undeterred, activists traveled through the woods and sat down to block the road leading into the airbase. They were joined by two other teams who traveled to blockade other entrance gates. The US delegation asked again to meet with the Base commander and were told that he would arrive shortly to meet with them.

When the commander arrived, they delivered the Treaty to him and then left the blockade to greet workers arriving at the main gate with banners requesting the removal of US B61 bombs from German soil. The Dutch activists remained in the road for another forty-five minutes before being removed by police. There were no arrests.

The US delegation arrived at the invitation of German activists to participate in a twenty week encampment at Büchel.

In the US delegation: Steve Baggarly, Virginia; Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Maryland; Susan Crane, California; Carmella Cole and Ralph Hutchison, Tennessee; Leona Morgan, New Mexico; Zara Brown, Minnesota; John LaForge and Bonnie Urfer, Wisconsin, and Kathy Boylan, Washington, DC.

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By Joe Byrne

After their quick and wonderful visit to Jonah House, the Loras College students headed to Washington, DC, to participate in the Holy Week Faith and Resistance Retreat, organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Like the Loras visits to Jonah House, Loras’s participation in the Faith and Resistance Retreat is a tradition of many years standing. Joe Byrne was able to join the retreat as well.

The retreat began on Holy Thursday. For a good description of the retreat and for highlights, check out the blog entry written by Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker:

Report of Holy Thursday and Good Friday Retreat and Public Witness–April 13-14, 2017–Four Arrested at Pentagon

Good Friday began with a vigil at the Pentagon at 7am. This also is a tradition of a few decades standing. The retreat participants, including the Loras contingent, marched to the Pentagon carrying crosses.

Most of the group filed into the Protest Zone where they did a modified stations of the cross (the reflections of each station are included in Art Laffin’s description). We repeated the stations at the White House later in the day (see below).

Some of the students laid out a huge banner that said “U.S. Empire Crucifies Humanity and our Earth.”

While folks were in the Protest Zone, four people from the retreat attempted a blockade of the Metro entrance. These four included Joe Byrne. The other three risking arrest were Bill Frankel-Streit, Paul Magno, and Kathy Boylan.

Here is Joe and Paul, with their signs, risking arrest.

Those risking arrest are arrested and taken away.

The four people arrested spent a short while in lock up at the Pentagon being processed. They were released with a citation and given a court date. They were able to join the other retreatants for breakfast and to help plan for the noon witness at the White House.

The witness at the White House was similar to that at the Pentagon. There was a dramatization of the stations of the cross, showing those groups who continue to be crucified today. These groups included Iraq and Afghanistan war victims; drone victims; victims of militarism and nuclearism; victims of racial violence, poverty, economic exploitation, torture, and imprisonment; immigrant victim; nonviolent revolutionary victim; and the victim that is our desecrated Earth.

The White House witness ended at 1pm with a final circle with those who participated in the Faith and Resistance Retreat joined by all those who were able to come to the witness at the White House. Shortly thereafter the Loras students were back in the van for the 17-hour trip back to Dubuque, Iowa. We will miss them until they return next year for Holy Week!

Thanks to Lin Romano for providing these photos.

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By Joe Byrne

During Holy Week, we had a very full and fulfilling one-day visit from Loras College students. Loras College has been sending a delegation for Holy Week for many years now. We’re so glad to have the tradition continue.

Here is the crew who helped Tucker remove leaves and trash from the south-east corner of the cemetery:

Meanwhile, Emily and a student collected wood chips for Mulch. Auggie helped too!

Here’s the crew helping Emily plow, plant, and mulch the garden:

These lettuce and cooking greens survived the winter and have been replanted so they can flourish over the summer:

Pema in her favorite garden/doggy bed:

And here is the two person crew who helped Joe prepare the food boxes for next week’s food pantry day:

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