While the Netroots Nation Convention commands the attention of many who are tuned into activism this weekend, there is another gathering of significance that is happening in Albany, NY--the United National Peace Conference.
The conference, co-sponsored by 31 different peace and justice organizations, is, as Teresa Gutierrez characterized it, a "visionary event" that is filling a vacuum. Activists have gathered to deliberate and come to a meaningful consensus on what can be done "to end the U.S. wars, occupations, bombing attacks, threats and interventions that are taking place in the Middle East and beyond" and to discuss where the U.S. peace movement is today and where it must go from here.
The organizers are united behind the following demands: immediate and total withdrawal of U.S. military forces, mercenaries and contractors from Afghanistan and Iraq; funds for jobs, health care, education, the environment, infrastructure and other human needs; compensation for peoples whose countries have suffered from U.S. attacks and occupation resulting in loss of lives, suffering and massive destruction.
The conference began Friday night with a panel discussion called "Strategies and Tactics in the Struggle to End the Empire's Wars and Occupations."
Panelists included: Medea Benjamin (CODEPINK), Michael Eisenscher (National Labor Coordinator of U.S. Labor Against the War), Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report), Chris Gauvreau (Administrative Body, National Assembly to End US Wars and Occupations), Teresa Gutierrez (International Action Center), Kathy Kelly (Voices for Creative Nonviolence), Nada Khader (Palestinian-American and Exec. Director of the Westchester Peace Action Coalition Foundation), Bianca Misse (Graduate Student, UC Berkeley), and Debra Sweet (National Director, World Can't Wait).
Medea Benjamin asked the audience if they had ever been called un-American or unpatriotic for engaging in "antiwar work." She suggested there was a shift going on where that was no longer the attitude. She talked about leaving the halls of Congress to go to a rally where librarians were saying they needed money. She connected that to war and ran back in with a group of activists and, unable to contain themselves, they shouted at Carl Levin for the activity going on in Congress to spend another $30 billion on war and called support for more war funding "downright unpatriotic."