Organizing for Peace in a Time of Pandemic and Uprising

Summer 2020 Newsletter

MAPA's May Day car caravan
A small portion of MAPA's May Day car caravan/ Mass. Peace Action photo

by Cole Harrison

Our nation, and the world, has been plunged into a life and death struggle with a deadly virus, and then has been rocked by the biggest mass movement for justice since 1968.

For 20 years, we’ve engaged in seemingly endless wars on nearly every continent — war fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Niger, Iran, and more. We’re building up our nuclear arsenal and preparing to make war in space.

Yet, as it turns out, none of this has made us safe. The greatest actual threat to our national security in decades has infected 1.5 million people and killed 93,500 in the United States — by far the most in the world.  Nurses lack PPE and 9,300 health care workers have contracted COVID; testing is inadequate, a national contact tracing system has not even been started, and 36 million workers are unemployed and increasingly desperate.  More than one in five households in the United States, and two in five households with mothers with children 12 and under, were food insecure in April. Fivemillion have been infected worldwide, and as the virus hits poorer countries, the situation is becomingeven worse.

COVID-19 has changed everything Massachusetts Peace Action does. It has also demonstrated that everything we’ve been saying for years is true.

State of the Organization

Since our last day in the office on March 13, we’ve moved all of our work online. Our office staff are working from home, and our working groups and committees meet online every day.

Our organizing has not missed a beat, but has changed. We have launched webinar series on Lift the Sanctions, Raytheon Antiwar Campaign, Fund Healthcare Not Warfare, Middle East Wars, Peace and Climate, Palestine/Israel, and Authoritarianism, which have expanded our educational work and reached a much broader audience. In three months, we’ve presented 25 webinars and five online public meetings on subjects ranging from racism in healthcare to war crimes in Yemen, attended by more than 1,400 people. (View the videos at

MAPA newly elected board members April 2020
MAPA members elected new board members in April 2020: Joseph Gerson, Keith Harvey, Yoav Elinevsky, Steve Powell, Jackie King, and Paul Shannon

We held a well-attended Annual Meeting online on April 18, with Jamaica Plain State Rep. Nika Elugardo as the keynote speaker. MAPA organizer Brian Garvey presented an overview of our program work. We elected six new board members—Yoav Elinevsky, Joseph Gerson, Keith Harvey, Jackie King, Paul Shannon, and Steve Powell—bringing the board’s total strength to 26. We voted updates to our bylaws and official documents.

COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter are shaping the political landscape in our country, and our peace issues are now seen in relation to these two issues. We have therefore launched five priority campaigns for 2020.

  • Fund Healthcare Not Warfare pressures Congress to allocate funds to combat COVID-19 and reduce Pentagon spending. Three Mass. Reps joined 26 other members of Congress on May 19 to make this point. Support this campaign by signing the online petition at ly/FHCNW, and by enlisting your friends to sign.
  • Lift the Sanctions calls on the United States to relax the draconian sanctions on Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba and other countries that are battling COVID-19 with far fewer resources than the United States has.
  • Peace Voter works to elect pro-peace candidates. We have endorsed Ed Markey for U.S. Senate, five candidates for Congress (Alex Morse – CD1; Jim McGovern – CD2; Ihssane Leckey – CD4; Ayanna Pressley – CD7; Robbie Goldstein – CD8); and 26 candidates for State Legislature. We’ve held four online Town Hall meetings and two online action meetings to support these candidates.
  • Respond to COVID-19 by protecting workers, working families, immigrants, and the incarcerated; advancing racial justice; deepening democracy; alleviating economic hardship; investing in our communities, not big corporations; and building a sustainable future. We support the Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance and the People’s Bailout.
  • End Militarized Police Violence: Defund the police and invest in our communities; demilitarize the police; repeal qualified immunity; end the use of the military within U.S. territory; establish restorative justice, not mass incarceration.

We have convened discussion teams on the danger of American authoritarianism and fascism and on a post-pandemic narrative that will energize the American people. Contact us to get involved in one of these groups.

We have restarted outdoor face-to-face actions, ensuring for safety that all participants are masked and stand 6 feet apart. We held a Lift the Sanctions car caravan on May 1 that was joined by 40 cars. Thirty people turned out to protest Raytheon in Cambridge on May 16 and 23, and in Dorchester on June 13; 25 protested  sanctions and war threats on Venezuela in May in Northampton.

Our fundraising has been hurt.  We had to cancel two Music for Peace concerts in the spring, and we’ll have to make adjustments to our annual dinner September 26 and our fall concerts.  As always, we depend on you, our generous members and supporters, to pay for our work.  Please make a donation, or even better, join Partners for Peace, our monthly sustainer program, which charges your card a little bit every month so it doesn’t take a big bite out of your budget.

Our nation and the world face their most serious challenge in years, and the political, social, and economic system of the United States have been found wanting. We at Massachusetts Peace Action are rolling up our sleeves and will continue fighting even harder for peace and justice in the months and years to come

—Cole Harrison is the executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action.   Updated June 14