Sixty peace activists came together in Worcester May 11 for the first Massachusetts / New England Peace Organizing Conference, organized by the Massachusetts Peace and Justice Network. The Boston metro and Pioneer Valley activist hubs were well represented, and organizers also joined us from Southeast, Northeast, and Central Mass., plus Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine. We mourned the loss of Paul Ropp, our host at the First Unitarian Church of Worcester, who was claimed by cancer in April.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) gave the keynote address. He reported on progressives’ efforts to cut military spending in the new Congress and described the Medicare for All hearing—the first ever held in Congress—that he recently organized, as Rules Committee chair. He spoke about his efforts to organize support for a Palestinian human rights defender who is facing an Israeli deportation order, about Congress’ vote to end US support for the Yemen war (which was vetoed by President Trump), and about efforts for reconciliation in Venezuela.
In the issues and strategies panel, New Hampshire’s John Raby spoke about bird-dogging the 2020 Presidential candidates; Chelmsford’s Jerald Ross spoke on federal peace bills; Northampton’s Marty Nathan spoke about Venezuela; and JVP-Western MA’s Joseph Levine spoke about Palestine. Breakouts addressed the 2020 election, Venezuela, Palestine, nuclear war and great power rivalry, peace and climate, and Middle East wars.
In a final panel on the Network’s Commonwealth Peace and Justice Agenda, Andrea Burns, Jerald Ross, and Cole Harrison described the nine bills in the Agenda, which address a range of peace and justice issues, identified the State Legislature committees they have been assigned to, and asked for everyone’s help in organizing constituents to urge state legislators to support the bills.
The conference was the Network’s largest gathering since its formation in February 2018. It covered a wider range of peace issues, drew a wider geographical representation than any previous gathering, was the first to include other New England states, and was the first to be publicly announced and to present a leading political speaker. Watch the Conference videos at bit.ly/peace-conf-video. We look forward to further statewide and New England – wide unity of peace organizing efforts.
—Cole Harrison is executive director of Mass. Peace Action.