Category Archives: Organizational Matters

Management of our program work and mission

Chelsea Manning supporters gather in Oklahoma hometown to celebrate her 27th birthday and demand release from prison

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NEWS RELEASE

On Wednesday, December 17, for the second year, supporters of Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) will celebrate the Oklahoma-born whistleblower’s birthday in her hometown of Crescent, which is about 40 miles north of OKC. The event is hosted by last year’s sponsor, the Center for Conscience in Action (CCA), now joined by local chapters of Amnesty International throughout the state, with a grant from Amnesty USA to help with expenses.

The event will take place in the middle of the small rural town, at El Palmo Restaurant at 224 N. Grand (Map: goo.gl/maps/gu2a2),beginning at 6:30 pm. Representatives from CCA and the Equality Center of Tulsa will speak.

Manning, who will be 27, was an Army intelligence analyst stationed in Iraq who leaked thousands of documents to Wikileaks in 2010, exposing war crimes and unjust detainment, torture and prisoner abuse, diplomatic deception and embarrassingly candid communications relating to US policies in the war on terror. Court-martialed in 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years and is serving that sentence at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas. Immediately after the verdict, Manning announced her medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and desire to live as a woman, along with the change of name.

CCA has held numerous support events for Manning since her arrest in the summer of 2010, joining the international support network that funded the legal defense and continues to raise funds for an appeal and advocate for a pardon or clemency as well as proper medical treatment for the gender dysphoria. Amnesty has also been advocating on Manning’s behalf for several years and has named her one of the world’s top political prisoners and among their “individuals at risk” for whom global action is promoted.

The party will be combined with an advocacy letter-writing campaign, as well as cards and letters to be sent to Manning at Ft.Leavenworth. Donations will be collected for the support network’s drive for the legal appeal case.

Since her sentencing, Manning herself has become more and more vocal about her case and with thougthful criticism of US national security policies, having published op-eds in The New York Times, The Guardian, and other newspapers as well as through Amnesty and the Chelsea Manning Support Network websites.

Amnesty has several chapters in Oklahoma, including OKC, Norman High School, OSU and Tulsa.

For more information:
Chelsea Manning Support Network – chelseamanning.org
Amnesty International Petition – campaigns.amnesty.org/actions/write-for-rights-chelsea-manning

War Resistance and Peace Work in Oklahoma – Fall 2013 Update

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Free Kimberly Rivera 021

Since our group was founded in 2004 as a means of support for conscientious objectors to war,  our commitment to work for those who take courageous stands against war has not wavered, but  we have been evolving as far as our specific projects and scope of the work. In 2013, we took a big leap in that continuing evolution, and decided to expand our vision to peace action that addresses the violence in our local communities and that impacts the very sustainability of our planet home.

One exciting aspect of these organizational changes is the creation of a new micro-grant program that will help fund local projects that bring a nonviolent approach to local justice and environmental activism.

For a full report on our new vision and the work we have done in 2013 and look forward to doing in 2014 and beyond, please read this post on our website.

 

Your financial support keeps our work for peace going

This will be but one of many appeals for a donation that you receive this month, all likely from organizations that deserve your support. But if you can, we hope that you can support our work with a tax deductible contribution through our fiscal sponsor, Joy Mennonite Church. We are funded through individuals, churches and other organizations that share our commitment to a just world through local action, understanding peace in the radical tradition of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and our recently deceased hero, Nelson Mandela.

Donations can be made online with a credit card through Paypal, or mail a check made out to “Joy Mennonite” and mailed to:

Center for Conscience in Action
504 NE 16th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73104

 

Kimberly Rivera free and back home with new baby and family

CCA Legal Director James M. Branum was the attorney for war resister Kimberly Rivera, who was court-martialed this year after returning from Canada, and sentenced to six months at the Miramar military confinement facility in San Diego, California. CCA funding allowed James to represent Kimberly for a much lower than usual fee. Pregnant with her fifth child through all of this, Kimberly gave birth to a son on Nov. 26. She was released on Dec. 13, and is now back home in Texas with her family and new baby. The Riveras will need help getting back on their feet, and our ally organization Courage to Resist has fund set up for this purpose.

 

Chelsea Manning update

Manning Birthday in Crescent 008 (2) (640x480)CCA is a member of the Private Manning Support Network, and has been engaged in educational and advocacy work on the case since 2010. Being in Oklahoma, where Chelsea  (formerly Bradley) Manning was born and raised, has meant we feel a special responsibility – which is our honor – to bring attention and better understanding about the effects of Manning’s release of documents to Wikileaks.

This past summer, CCA Executive Director attended several days of Manning’s court martial. And just this week, on Chelsea’s birthday on Dec. 17, we organized a birthday party in her hometown of Crescent. We toasted her courage and sacrifice, and look forward to her being present for the next birthday celebration.

Two petitions asking for clemency/pardon are still active and need your signature:

Manning’s civilian attorney David Coombs recently did a fundraising tour of the west coast, and his talk in Seattle was recorded.  The video, and a transcript, are available online. Watch it here.

 

National response by peace activists keep Under the Hood alive

 Under the Hood is a GI rights café and resource center in Killeen Texas, near Ft. Hood, the largest base in the US. Its presence there is critical to effective outreach among the huge population of servicemembers in the area, who get info about and assistance with discharges, harassment and discrimination, sexual assault and other concerns. Earlier this year, the existing board of directors sent out an appeal for new energy and support from the wider peace community nationwide. Many organizations and individuals responded, including CCA. The result was a new board and advisory board, and we are happy to say that CCA’s two staff members are both on the advisory board that also includes representatives from Veterans for Peace, IVAW, Civilian Soldier, Courage to Resist, Center on Conscience and War, and the Military Law Task Force.

The new board and advisory board will be meeting on the ground in Killeen in January, and we will be part of that meeting, which will help plan and direct the future work of Under the Hood.

UTH has a holiday fundraising campaign underway; if you can help, or just want more information about their work, please visit underthehoodcafe.org.

 

GI Coffeehouse West Coast tour

 Speaking of GI rights and coffee, the three existing GI coffeehouses – Under the Hood, Coffee Strong in Washington,  and The Clearing Barrel in Germany — are working on an unprecedented joint project, an educational/fundraising tour of the US west coast early next year. CCA is a co-sponsor of this effort and is assisting with website development, promotion and other support needs. The coffeehouses serve as the face of the GI Rights movement to active-duty servicemembers. Keeping them alive and strong should be a priority for everyone who works to build a more peaceful and war-free world.

 

Rosalie Riegle’s history of war resistance from Dorothy Day to today

 We were thrilled to have a visit from oral historian and writer Rosalie Riegle in October. Her books add significantly to the important documentation of peace work, which often (usually?) misses the pages of the mainstream press in any but the most sensational and distorted coverage. We have a few copies of the following books left, which you can get from us directly for $30 each — less than the standard price in bookstores or online. Contact us if you are interested.

  • Crossing the Line: Nonviolence Resisters Speak Out for Peace
  • Doing Time for Peace: Resistance, Family, and Community

 

perpetualcalendarcover_2013smWar Resisters League update

CCA is the Oklahoma affiliate of the War Resisters League, which just celebrated its 90th year of working for peace by ending the scourge of war. They have published a perpetual calendar, which is a beautiful and useful tool for remembering historic events, and planning your own activist schedule. They can be ordered online for $14 each.

 

 

 


 

Keep up with the CCA’s work by following us on Facebook or Twitter (note that our Twitter handle has changed).

Thank you for your interest in and support for CCA. Have the happiest of holidays, and may 2014 bring us all the gift of real, transformative peace — at home, in our communities and across the world.

Gratefully,

Rena Guay, Executive Director

James M. Branum, Legal Director

We widen our mission, focus on the local … and change our name

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OCCPR's Legal Director, James M. Branum, and its Executive Director, Rena Guay, join protest against war with Iran on 2/2/12

The Center for Conscience in Action (CCA), formerly the Oklahoma Center for Conscience, is engaged in the historic and continuing struggle to bring to our nations policy and civil society a better understanding and expression of true justice and real peace. We are a pacifist organization and the state affiliate of the War Resisters League. Our work is funded by individuals, faith communities and foundations who share our dream of a world where human dignity and rights are valued more highly than property, wealth or military power.

We were founded in 2004 as a project to support conscientious objectors, and over the years we built on that foundation to create fuller anti-militarism, pro-peace set of objectives, including a legal support program for resisters that worked closely with the GI Rights movement across the country.

Most of those goals and projects remain a part of our mission, though they continue to evolve in reaction to changes in US military activities and policy. So, in 2013 we decided to take another step towards a more comprehensive philosophy and program that could better respond to the realities of the culture we are part of – where the impact of violence comes not just from the machine of war, but the other machines that are endemic to our lives – the ones shooting carbon into our atmosphere, pumping tar sands through our neighborhoods, gunning down our children at school, or stealing our self-respect with unfairly compensated work in unhealthy conditions.

What is our response to this constant violence in our lives? How do we keep from becoming inured to the constant sense of dread it breeds? How do we overcome the isolation that is part of it, and rebuild community bonds that foster individual growth and civic engagement?

As always, we want to find or build a connection between personal conscience and action for change. In one way we are looking at a larger field for our work, beyond the state of Oklahoma, although we remain rooted in our connections here. We want to grow a regional network of activists and action organizations, so we can share resources and support in an ever more challenging world.

But we also are zooming in on the small scale work that makes big changes possible by planting seeds and building confidence and skills. It is on the local level – in a neighborhood, a school or organization – where concrete and dynamic action, if given encouragement and minimal resources, can immediately and directly impacts participants, the community and the planet.

Grant Program Development

To begin one new branch of our work, we are developing a small grant fund that will launch in 2014.  Our grants will help launch small local projects that spread nonviolence, seek justice or foster sustainability. We have commitments from a diverse group of community leaders and activists to support this program, review applications, provide oversight and assistance in their area of expertise, and otherwise guide the programs grantees to assure that their project can succeed.

Donations for this fund are requested. Even small contributions, pooled together, can quickly create enough for a small grant to be awarded and work to begin. We especially encourage ongoing monthly or quarterly donations to the grant program in order to give it stability over time.

Traditional Peace Activism and Coalition Building Continues

CCA’s executive director, Rena Guay, is a long time organizer who coordinates, or works with others to coordinate, demonstrations, educational forums, and advocacy campaigns in central Oklahoma. She is a founding member of Americans Against the Next War, serves on the steering committee of the Military Law Task Force, and the advisory board of Under the Hood Café and Outreach Center, a GI Rights coffeehouse in Killeen, Texas near Ft. Hood.

Through her work, CCA has been active with the Private Manning Support Network, and in June of 2013, she traveled to Ft. Meade to attend several days of the Manning court-martial. After the sentence was announced, two pro-Manning demonstrations organized by CCA were held in Crescent, OK, Manning’s hometown, and a press release with our position statement was published in the Crescent newspaper and other outlets.

Using the Internet, social media, and our own organizational newsletter, Rena is constantly distributing to CCA friends and supporters current news, resources and action alerts from a diverse assortment of organizations here at home and around the world, including Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, Amnesty International, School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Mennonite Central Committee and many others.


Find CCA on Facebook and Twitter


With the critical assistance of CCA steering committee member Fannie Bates, we hosted a concert by internationally known peace and justice troubadour David Rovics in November, which allowed us to make a contribution to the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance while sharing David’s inspiring music with the local community.

We have also funded local activists to attend national conferences and workshops where they can develop their knowledge and skills for future work. Of this we are especially proud, since they will be the next generation of peacemakers.

Legal Support for Military Resisters Continues

CCA provides, through the funding of an attorney in military law, low-cost legal representation for members of the US military who are seeking a discharge on the grounds of conscience. Conscientious objection discharges are included in the Uniform Code of Military Justice because the military recognizes that servicemembers, even those who volunteered to join, sometimes discover that they cannot, and will not, kill another human being.

Services are provided on a sliding scale by CCA legal director James M. Branum, who has represented hundreds of GIs since 2006, including Robin Long (the first US soldier of the current era to be deported from Canada after refusing deployment), and Travis Bishop (one of the first resisters of the war in Afghanistan). James has given legal support to Under the Hood Café and Resource Center, one of three GI Rights Coffeehouses currently operating near US bases.

CCA’s legal support project enables James to accept cases from those who otherwise could not afford legal services, thus giving them an experienced civilian attorney to guide them through the CO application or even represent them in court-martial if necessary.

More information about this project can be found at conscientiousobjectorlawyer.com.

And, along with work for resisters, we advocate for veterans, that they can receive the benefits they were promised, and the treatment they need. We have worked to remove the stigma of PTSD, and to support the post-service work of veterans in full physical and psychological healing, through activism or creative endeavors.

Education, Advocacy and Outreach

CCA staff stay busy. There are always more challenges in the world to respond to than time and means to do so, but we make the effort anyway. We read constantly to try to keep up with current events and the work of our many ally groups. We write articles and op-ed pieces for national, state-wide and local publications. We develop training materials, or assist ally groups in composing, editing or publishing educational materials. We draft and distribute petitions. We photograph or audio-video record speeches and forums for online distribution. We speak to church and youth groups about myriad peace and justice concerns. We table at events, attend conferences. We work with local organizations in Oklahoma City like The Peace House to respond to worldwide crises, to build support for peaceful, rather than violent responses to them. In short, we try to speak out in our community, and wherever necessary, on behalf of all victims of war and violence.

Oklahoma Conscience Award

Since 2011, OCC/CCA has honored an Oklahoma individual or group that we determine made a significant contribution to our state by exemplifying and practicing the values of peace and commitment to conscience. In 2013, we so recognized Rev. Lawrence Hart, a Cheyanne Peace Chief and Mennonite pastor, in a moving ceremony that borrowed from Native American traditions. This event is the highlight of our year, and in 2014 will be moved from May to February or early March – stay tuned for updates on this soon.

We don’t have all the answers, so we also have to take time to listen, to others, and to the soft, small voice of our own conscience, to discern wisdom for our work. In all, we are guided by that voice to carry on, day to day, year to year, seeking to bring some light to our own circle of concern, and to the big globe of concern we live on.

We hope that your light leads you to donate to our work, or to join our news list, or to get involved, or to just wish us well. We can’t continue without all of that, and we are grateful that all of us are here together here to make things better.

OCCPR to recognize and celebrate Oklahoma conscientious objectors

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Conscientious Objectors of Oklahoma to be remembered and honored by peace group at 5/12 event in OKC

On May 12, the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research will celebrate International Conscientious Objectors Day with its second annual Oklahoma Conscience Award Ceremony and Fundraiser. Conscientious Objectors Day is observed around the world each May 15. This year OCCPR will recognize conscientious objectors from Oklahoma or with an Oklahoma connection (stationed at one of the state’s military bases, did alternative service in Oklahoma, or did time in prison in Oklahoma for refusing to serve), including COs from the 1940s to the present.

The event will be held at Mayflower Congregational UCC Church, 3901 NW 63rd in Oklahoma City, starting at 7pm. The program will include a presentation of certificates to COs or their families, as well as a video featuring interviews with Oklahoma COs and current peace and justice activists who are inspired by them. Musically talented members of the local community, many of whom are members of OCCPR supporting organizations or other peace activists, will provide entertainment. Light refreshments will be served.

The public is invited to attend this free event. Donations will be gratefully accepted to assist the organization in its ongoing work.

Rena Guay, OCCPR Executive Director, says that meeting numerous Oklahoma COs this year has been an eye-opening experience. “I’ve been struck by how many COs from past conflicts are among us, throughout Oklahoma, seemingly average hardworking Oklahomans, who once made a very un-average decision about war.”

“They’ve never sought public acclaim for it, and they shy from this attention. Yet, when we speak to them, they say their refusal, sometimes decades ago, to wage war, and to instead “wage peace” through humanitarian service, was something that has continued to impact their thinking and behavior. It is a major milestone of their lives that almost no one knows about. Our small recognition seeks to give to them this missing public value for their act of conscience.”

“We will also have a moment to remember the many Oklahoma COs who remain unknown, or who have already passed away,” Guay said “Their families are invited to join us, or contact us if they would like for their loved one to be recognized in memorium.”

As the local affiliate of the War Resisters League, OCCPR informs the public, especially young people, about military recruitment, peace-oriented career alternatives, and how to document CO status that can be recognized by the Selective Service should the draft be reinstated. It helps prepare documentation for these proactive COS, and works with the Center on Conscience in Washington to archive and preserve them. The group also serves as the Oklahoma representative for the Bradley Manning Support Network, and works with the GI Rights Network, the Military Law Task Force, Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace, the Peace Alliance, SOA Watch, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and other organizations to educate Oklahomans about war and militarism, and positive advocacy and action to end war and to support nonviolent conflict resolution on a global level.

OCCPR maintains a legal support program to assist those in military service who come to realize they cannot participate in war, to provide them with information about the process of obtaining a CO discharge as defined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and, when necessary, to retain legal counsel during appeals. The group has recently broadened its outreach to provide more public education on matters of conscience and war, through its own annual journal, and in op-eds and analysis published in periodicals and on the Web.

In every war, there have been those who, following their conscience, have refused to be trained to kill in what they believe to be an immoral activity. The U.S. military has come to allow for these resisters, through either programs of alternative, humanitarian, service, or, in today’s volunteer military, through a process by which those who have developed deeply held religious or moral convictions against war can be documented and, when accepted as sincere, provided an honorable discharge.

OCCPR was founded in 2004 by members of Joy Mennonite Church, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Veterans for Peace, Oklahoma City Friends Meeting (Quakers) and independent activists. It is funded by Oklahoma religious organizations, peace groups and individual citizens. For more information, see visit centerforconscience.org or call 405-773-4741.

News Release: Oklahoma supporters of Bradley Manning react to his relocation to Ft. Leavenworth KS

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OKLAHOMA CITY – News that Oklahoma native Bradley Manning is being moved to Ft. Leavenworth KS has galvanized supporters in Kansas and surrounding states. Reports of the unexpected transfer prompted hurried planning of protests and other support actions by activists in the region for the alleged Wikileaks leaker who has been imprisoned for almost a year at Quantico Marine Base in Virgina.

The Bradley Manning Support Network distributed a press release (see below) on Tuesday afternoon and listservs and Facebook pages lit up with concern and pledges that the move away from the greater DC area would not lessen public displays of concern for Manning’s wellbeing and demands for his freedom.

Members of The Oklahoma Center for Conscience, which has sponsored a number of Oklahoma City events in support of Manning since last August, were connecting with their members as well as activists throughout the country to build a network that would travel to Ft. Leavenworth for demonstrations.

At Joy Mennonite Church, a sponsoring organization of OCC, Minister of Social Justice James M. Branum took note of the large Mennonite population in Kansas, and the Mennonite standing as a peace church, for the prospects of strong support for Manning after the move.

“Bradley Manning allegedly leaked these documents to try to bring an end to the wars. We are reaching out to mobilize the thousands of Mennonites and other Anabaptists in Kansas and neighboring states to act on their peace beliefs in his defense,” Branum said.

OCC Executive Director Rena Guay also thought Manning’s transfer would not lessen the international backlash to his incarceration and condition. “Since last summer, we have been getting a steady stream of global media attention regarding Bradley’s Oklahoma roots and our support for him. Now that he will be quite close, we expect this to increase, and our level of attention to the case and support activity will also increase.” She said she expected many Oklahoma supporters to travel regularly to Ft. Leavenworth for demonstrations.

“Remedying the uncivilized conditions of his imprisonment is but the least of our demands — we want to see his unconditional release and prosecution of the war crimes which have been exposed though Wikileaks,” Guay stated.

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PRESS RELEASE

BRADLEY MANNING SUPPORT NETWORK

www.bradleymanning.org

Jeff Paterson, Kevin Zeese

press@bradleymanning.org

202-640-4388

April 19, 2011

MILITARY MOVES TO FURTHER ISOLATE BRADLEY MANNING WITH TRANSFER TO KANSAS

Alleged WikiLeaks source to be moved away from attorney and DC-area backers; however, Kansas residents already preparing to spearhead support

“The military and Administration has been shocked by the support Bradley Manning has garnered globally–specifically at the gates of Quantico, Virginia. Last month, 500 supporters rallied near the Marine brig where PFC Manning has been held since August 2010. It wasn’t a secret that we were preparing to rally one to two thousand for an upcoming DC-area pre-trial hearing,” explains Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network.

“PFC Manning’s transfer from Virginia to Kansas limits his access to his civilian attorney David Coombs of Rhode Island. It also severely limits visitation opportunities by his East Coast family and friends,” explains attorney Kevin Zeese, an organizer with the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich declared today, “Any move of PFC Manning does not change the underlying fact, which has not been disputed by the Department of Defense, that he has been held under conditions which may in fact constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ in violation of the 8th amendment.”

Ethan McCord, Kansas resident and a former Soldier who appears in the “Collateral Murder” video that PFC Manning is accused of leaking, declares, “Bradley Manning is accused of doing nothing more than heroically telling the truth. I and many others here in Kansas are already planning support actions at Leavenworth.”

“I’m concerned that the military is simply moving to further isolate PFC Manning. The idea that Quantico brig commander CWO2 Denise Barnes, without direction from above, imposed and maintained the current torturous conditions of PFC Manning’s detention is ridiculous. However, we will demand that Army officials at Leavenworth finally take responsibility for correcting this ongoing injustice. I know many hold out hope for them to do so,” adds Paterson.

US Army intelligence analyst Private First Class Bradley E Manning, 23-years-old, has been held in maximum and solitary-like confinement conditions since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010. He still awaits his first public court hearing, now expected to begin in June. Over 300 of America’s top legal scholars have decried PFC Manning’s confinement conditions as in clear violation of the US Constitution. Over 3,500 individuals have contributed over $280,000 towards PFC Manning’s legal fees and related public education efforts. Over 500,000 people recently signed a statement to President Obama calling for an end to PFC Manning’s torturous conditions of confinement. The Bradley Manning Support Network is dedicated to winning the freedom of PFC Manning.

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Finally published! Peace Post, Winter 2011

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Here is the long awaited “We Love Winter So Much We Extended It” issue of the Peace Post. In it you’ll find the announcement of our Mertens Peace Award and fundraiser event featuring entertainment by Peggy Johnson, an article describing out becoming an affiliate of War Resisters League, and and heads up about our upcoming GI Rights Hotline Training. We also welcome Mayflower Congregational UCC Church to our list of sponsoring organizations. And there’s more, so open it up and enjoy!

If you would prefer to receive a print copy of the Peace Post, just let us know.

Peace Post Vol. 2 Issue 1