Swarthmore, PA Brandywine Peace Community
Message Organization: Brandywine Peace Community
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BRANDYWINE PEACE COMMUNITY
30 YEARS AND COUNTING
"The revulsion against war not too long hence will be an almost insuperable obstacle for us to overcome and for that reason I am convinced that we must set in motion the machinery of a permanent war economy...It must be an ongoing program and not the creation of some emergency..." - Charles E. Wilson, president of General Electric July, 1944, speaking before the U.S. Army Ordinance Association. Throughout its history, Brandywine has referred to this statement as Wilson's Wish, for this is, in fact, the economy in which we live.
Formed in the Fall/Winter months of 1977 by a group of Vietnam war resisters, 2007 marked the 30th Anniversary of the Brandywine Peace Community.
Brandywine was formed amidst the social exhaustion of the post Vietnam war period, as the U.S. reeled from its defeat in Vietnam by announcing a new nuclear weapons build-up and a policy of nuclear first-strike. We knew that militarism would continue to be the underlying driving force of U.S. culture and economy. We knew in our experiential bones from the Vietnam war resistance that our continuing commitment to nonviolent resistance needed to be on-going, focused, and rooted in faith, spirituality, risk, and community.
"The greatest crime of our age is making life and death realities abstract" - Jean Paul Sartre
Brandywine's campaign of nonviolent resistance to General Electric, the nation's preeminent nuclear weapons producer, began in 1978 at the General Electric nuclear weapons plant at 32nd & Chestnut Streets, what is now the site of upscale condominiums and restaurants, and began an area-wide and national reference for nonviolent direct action campaign in resistance to nuclear weapons and the war economy. One peace researcher at the University of Florida, called Brandywine's campaign at GE "the longest pageant of protest in U.S. history."
Brandywine conducted weekly vigils at the GE weapons plants in both Phila. and Valley Forge, walks of conscience, vigils and fasts, involving people "sleeping-out" at GE in large GE cardboard refrigerator boxes, in which connection was made between weapons profits and unmet human needs, national presence and action at GE shareholder meetings, initiation and involvement in the international boycott of GE consumer products, and, at the center of our campaign, nonviolent civil disobedience and resistance.
There were, of course, the blockades and sit-ins, walk-ons, and die-ins, in which hundreds and hundreds of people challenging the legitimacy (and legality) of GE's nuclear weapons work entered onto GE and were arrested. There were also the "higher risk" actions of the Plowshares 8, the GE 5, the Rooftop Peacemakers in which small groups of people actually entered into (on top of) corporate weapons facilities, damaging nuclear weapons components, or pouring blood on related test equipment. People were arrested, tried, went to jail.
Then in 1993 in the largest "defense industry merger" of all time, GE sold its Aerospace Division to Martin Marietta. Martin Marietta doubled in size and two years later merged with Lockheed to become Lockheed Martin, the world's largest weapons corporation, whose creation was announced in defense industry magazines with the slogan "And this is just the beginning" atop row upon row of pictured weapons systems.
For the past 14 years, we've been at Lockheed Martin with nonviolent resistance and various expressions of direct action (but no Consumer Boycott because more than 80% of Lockheed Martin's income is in Pentagon contracting and the rest is in other government contracting.) In the wake of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, Brandywine (as one of the few continually functioning and staffed peace groups in the Phila. area) initiated a number of peace responses: the Phila Peaceful Response; the Delaware Valley Faith-based Peace Network; and, along with the Delaware Co Pledge of Resistance, WILPF, and others, the Delaware Co. Campaign for Peace & Justice (which later became Delaware Co. Wage Peace & Justice.)
As Bush became increasingly hell-bent on invading Iraq, Brandywine became a national convener of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance [IPOR] and the Delaware Valley organizer of IPOR, signing up thousands who promised to resist the war on Iraq, and, on March 20, 2003, organized the largest act of nonviolent civil disobedience in the history of the Philadelphia area in which 107 people were arrested for closing down the Phila. Federal Building as more than 500 people stood with them in loud outcry against the war. Many of those arrested served time at the Federal Detention Center at 6th and Arch Sts. One of these was Lillian Willoughby, who was in her 90's and in a wheel-chair at the time.
For the past 6 years, Brandywine has been at the direct action center of regional protests and nonviolent resistance to the U.S. war of occupation in Iraq: the Dover - DC Trail of Mourning & Resistance (which launched Military Families Speak Out), National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, and the Declaration of Peace campaign, around the themes of "Mourning to Resistance", "Bush Won't Listen, Congress Must Act."
War in Iraq has, of course, been very good for the war makers, chief among them Lockheed Martin, which is the Iraq war's chief profiteer. While we've organized protest after protest, marked the mad milestones of the war (U.S. dead: 500, 1,000, 2000, 3,000; Iraq Dead: 100,000, 650,000) and nonviolent resistance to the war (at the White House, at Senators and Congresspeople's offices), initiated the "Don't Spy on Me" Campaign with the ACLU, organized protests of Guantanamo Bay, and the assault on civil liberties and the constitution, we continue to resist Lockheed Martin. (Read about our 2009 protests.)
Join us in resistance to the war and the war-maker!
--Robert M. Smith, staff coordinator, Brandywine Peace Community
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