Massachusetts Peace and Justice Network Formed

Statewide Peace Groups Meeting, Feb 3 2018, Worcester
Statewide Peace Groups Meeting, Feb 3 2018, Worcester

The peace and justice movement faces new and difficult conditions in the Trump presidency. Sharply increased military spending, escalated wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and threats against North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba, are coupled with increased anti-immigrant, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim rhetoric and racism, and attacks on labor, working people, and the climate.  The far right controls the national and most state governments and is on the offensive on every front.

Fortunately, a new progressive movement has risen to resist Trumpism, exemplified by Black Lives Matter, Bernie Sanders campaign of 2016, the Women’s March, the wide response to Charlottesville, and the general concern about economic inequality.  But too often, progressive groups do not see peace as part of their agenda. In the Trump presidency, even though militarism and war is central to Trumpism, peace is on the sidelines of the progressive movement. To respond to this situation, a gathering of Massachusetts peace groups came together in Worcester on February 3 to bring a new focus on peace issues as part of the movement for social, economic, and climate justice.

Attending the meeting were  56 activists representing 39 peace organizations in the state.  They represented eight multi-issue campaigning groups, eight community peace groups, nine faith-based groups, four political groups, two veterans’ groups, two women’s groups, and groups focusing on racial justice, Latin America, nuclear disarmament, Latin America, and peace education.    The meeting was chaired by Thea Paneth of United for Justice with Peace and Arlington UJP, and Cole Harrison from Massachusetts Peace Action.

Paul Shannon of the American Friends Service Committee spoke about work to challenge U.S. wars and interventions, particularly focusing on the crisis in Korea.  Joseph Gerson of AFSC and the newly formed Campaign for Peace, Disarmament, and Common Security spoke about nuclear disarmament. Jonathan King of Mass. Peace Action discussed how to connect the military budget to the concerns of everyday Americans who are worried about housing, schools, healthcare, and jobs. Karlene Griffiths Sekou of Black Lives Matter/ Boston and the Movement for Black Lives addressed militarization of the police, the need to redirect resources and shift the system, and the need for movements to be led by those most impacted.

They agreed to form the Massachusetts Network for Peace and Justice.  Subcommittees were formed to address nuclear war, the Korea crisis, elections, Pentagon spending, and race.  A coordinating committee was appointed to oversee the work and organize follow-up meetings; its members include Shannon, Gerson, King, Paneth, and Harrison, as well as Jeff Napolitano of the Resistance Center for Peace and Justice, Jeff Brummer from Veterans for Peace, and Shelagh Foreman of MAPA.   The next meeting is scheduled for Saturday, May 19 in Worcester.