The Occupation Project: A Campaign of Sustained Nonviolent Civil Disobedience to End the Iraq War
Voices for Creative Nonviolence is initiating the Occupation Project: A Campaign of Sustained Nonviolent Civil Disobedience to End the Iraq War. The campaign begins on February 5, 2007 and will run for eight weeks. The campaign challenges Representatives and Senators to publicly declare that they will vote against any further funding for the war in and occupation of Iraq.
We invite you to join with us and others around the U.S. in organizing sustained nonviolent civil disobedience at the offices of Representatives and Senators who do not publicly pledge to vote against war funding.
President Bush is expected to submit to Congress yet another request in early 2007 for supplemental war funding for the Iraq war. Already, the military services are requesting $160 billion in additional war funding for the current fiscal year, which just began on October 1, though modest reductions will likely be made before being submitted to Congress in early 2007. The funds will be for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the so-called Global War on Terror. [Note: Since this call was originally crafted in October 2006, it has been reported that the supplemental spending request will likely be in the range of $100 billion]
In Chicago, a coalition of organizations and individuals will conduct weekly occupations inside the offices of elected Representatives and Senators beginning February 5. Campaigns are also being organized in Wisconsin and Iowa. We ask your participation in the Occupation Project campaign in your own locality—building a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience focused upon your own Representative and Senators.
The campaign is nonviolent, consists of actions which risk arrest and is based upon affinity groups. An affinity group is a grouping of individuals who come together for a specific action or for a longer period of time to make decisions together and support each other through a campaign of nonviolent resistance. Each affinity group will determine the type of c.d. action in which its members engage.
The location and frequency of the actions will vary. One possibility is to focus upon a specific Senator or Representative because of their position on the war or in Congress (especially if they are on the Appropriations Committee which will initially vote on the war funding). Another possibility is to rotate the action from one office to another: week one is at Senator A’s office; week 2 is at Senator B’s office; week 3 is at a Representative’s office; week 4 is back to Senator A and the cycle is repeated. Some may act once a week, others every other week. If 16 people are willing to risk arrest, consider having 4 people risk arrest each week throughout the campaign, rather than all at once.
The type of action will also vary as affinity groups decide what to do, so long as the action is based firmly within the nonviolence guidelines and principles of this campaign. Affinity groups within a locality or region may coordinate with each other—perhaps using the model of one affinity group acts at an office one week, followed by a different affinity group the following week, and so on.
One action within an official’s office is to read the names of U.S. and Iraq dead, tolling a bell for each name read, until all names have been read or until the Senator / Representative publicly pledges to vote against any additional war funding or participants are placed under arrest and removed from the office.
Another action within an official’s office is to toll a bell once each minute for each Iraqi and U.S. person who has died since the U.S. led invasion. The number of Iraqis who have died as a consequence of the war will quite probably never be known. However, it is established that the number of Iraqis who have died since the invasion number at least in the tens of thousands, if not in the hundreds of thousands. The tolling of the bell would continue until it is tolled once for each person who has died in Iraq or until people are placed under arrest and removed from the office.
Other possibilities include an interfaith prayer service; a silent vigil; posting of the names of Iraqi and U.S. dead; bringing in photos of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq; etc.—all occurring within the Representative’s or Senator’s office and continuing until such time as he / she publicly pledges to vote against additional war funding or the participants are removed from the office by law enforcement.
In laying the groundwork for the Occupation Project, VCNV encourages you to contact your Representative and Senators to seek a public pledge to oppose war funding. Delegations should be formed to meet with Representatives and Senators as soon as possible—but prior to the February 5 start date of the Occupation Project’s sustained campaign of civil disobedience. Ask them to publicly pledge to vote against any additional funding for the Iraq war. You should be in contact with the Mandate for Peace campaign’s efforts in this regard. If she / he makes such a public pledge, please let VCNV know so that this can be noted on the campaign website. The VCNV website includes the following legislative resources: background information on prior supplemental spending bills; the voting records of Representatives and Senators; members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee; and information on the legislation which Representatives and Senators co-sponsored in the current Congress (though, please be aware that all pending legislation dies with the end of this Congress in December).
Voices will maintain a website listing all of the places where activists are participating in “the Occupation Project.” On this website, activists will also find sample press releases, fliers, informational updates, announcements of actions happening across the United States, and nonviolence guidelines / resources to assist with participation in the campaign. Voices will also provide a basic guide to the arrest and court process for those preparing to risk arrest during this campaign.
During the coming weeks, we plan to be in touch with people and groups who have organized previous nonviolent efforts to end economic and military warfare in Iraq. We plan to continue to work in collaboration with other organizations which promote nonviolent civil disobedience to end the war in and occupation of Iraq, especially the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance and the Declaration of Peace, each of which is organizing actions to take place in early 2007.
Voices for Creative Nonviolence was established in 2005 by individuals who previously worked to end the brutal economic sanctions imposed against Iraq by the U.S. and U.N. Many traveled to, and supported those who traveled to, Iraq to bring medicine and other humanitarian supplies to ordinary Iraqi citizens in a campaign of civil disobedience. VCNV calls for the immediate end to the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq; the unconditional cancellation of all odious debt incurred by Saddam Hussein’s regime; the unconditional cancellation of the war reparations charges imposed against Iraq by the U.N. following the Hussein regime’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990-91; and the full payment of war reparations by the U.S. to Iraq for the reconstruction of Iraq following 15 years of economic and military warfare against Iraq.