Updates-A Story of Realistic Hope

Celebrating 30 Years of Nonviolence International

Barbara Wien

Check out this video produced by our friends at

Nonviolence International NY.

Barbara Wien, professor at American University and peace educator of the year, discusses the effectiveness of nonviolent protest. Barbara tells us about the many nonviolent movements she has worked with, her students, and how protests can shift the conversation.

This is part of a series celebrating our proud history and calling us to do even more in the years to come.

Please check back for more. 

The Many Faces of Nonviolence - Isaiah Project

Written by David Hart

Nonviolence International Welcomes The Isaiah Project

We are thrilled to welcome our latest fiscally sponsored partner - The Isaiah Project. Please be on the look out for much more about their important work in the months to come. 2020 is the 40th anniversary of the Plowshares Movement and there is some exciting news coming about how we can celebrate together. 

Many months ago, I dreamed of a series of profiles on our website that could begin to tell the story of a powerful, diverse, creative nonviolent movement growing all over the world. A movement that inspires us to continue taking daily action to build Nonviolence International and thus strengthen our capacity to make a difference in this brutal world. 

Tonight I’ve been reading about seven amazing nonviolent leaders and giving thanks that they are now, in a way, part of the Nonviolence International family. I hope you will join me in learning about these guiding lights at: https://kingsbayplowshares7.org/about/bios/ 

They inspired me to draft a piece about them and their witness against the most horrific weapons in the world. In his history of the Plowshares Movement, Art Laffin reminds us that we are, “trying to build a new world within the shell of the old.” This is a challenging and essential task. The old world is fading. If the new world is not born quickly, the decay of the old may crush all our hopes. 

Today I had the opportunity to work with the amazing Interns at Nonviolence International and a new friend, former NVI staff, and Plowshares leader, Paul Magno, to create a donation page for The Isaiah Project.  

I love the beautiful graphic Meagan Hanlon, NVI Intern, found on the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 website. Together we decided to use this image of painted rocks as the background photo for the new donation page. I don’t know who took this photo, but I can see that the collection of rocks is not just a colorful image to make a webpage pop; it is also the result of committed people coming together to create something unique and precious together. I imagine many hands painting their messages on these rocks.

Maybe someday I will learn the true story of this photo. Now as I ponder this image, I see it as a reflection of the inspirational Plowshares movements that have taken shape over the last 40 years. 40 years we’ve spent in the wilderness. It is time to come home to peace.

There is a rock painted with the words, “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” One that reads, “Friendship Not Warship.” Another says “Seek Peace.” And one made me laugh with the simple power of its truth, it reads, “It is not ok to kill people.” 

When we realize that we are all part of one another killing people doesn't seem like a good idea. As a Jew, I remember hearing the question - what would we have done if a concentration camp was being built in our neighborhood. I celebrate these faith leaders who decided that they would take it upon themselves to notice the ultimate horor of nuclear weapons being built and deployed in our communities and do what they could to knock down these crematorium towers rising among us.

The Jewish prophet Isaiah said, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

40 years ago dedicated peacemakers inspired by the disarmed Jesus took action against evil. They didn’t know what ripple effects would come of their bold, creative, nonviolent direct action, but they decided they would witness in a way in keeping with their heart’s calling for peace. So armed only with love, they beat the most destructive weapons in the world into plowshares.

Without any expectation of future actions they created an international movement that has challenged runaway militarism for decades. The movement has shifted and grown in a variety of ways including actions in the US, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, New Zealand and Australia. I predict more to come in additional regions of this beautiful and broken world.

Decades after that first action, Nonviolence International is proud to welcome the Isaiah Project as our latest fiscally sponsored partner. The Isaiah Project is actively supporting the Kings Bay Plowshares 7. You can learn more about their much needed work at: https://kingsbayplowshares7.org

And starting today, you can donate to support this work right here on our site. https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/donate_isaiah Check out the photo of the colorful rocks, be inspired by their actions, donate, and spread the word. And, ponder what you can to put your values into action. How can you live out the beliefs that are core to who you are?

I’m still asking myself these questions and while I find no perfect answers, I celebrate the inspiration in the light shining from those whose commitment to peace seems to know no bounds. Thank you to all the Plowshares activists who for decades have declared that the world can be better than it is today and who, by their actions, have shown us a path out of the darkness and into a future of peace, justice, and environmental sanity.

I am grateful for the Plowshares Movement and all those whose spirits move them to take bold creative nonviolent action.



Rabbi and Rev. Talk Peace

Rabbi and Rev. Talk Peace

We are proud to share this wonderful video featuring our partner

Rev. Amy Yoder McGloughlin.

The roots of Zionism run deep in Christianity and Judaism, and their impacts are felt in Palestine. In this webinar, Rabbi Linda Holtzman and Rev. Amy Yoder McGloughlin share stories about their recent trip to Palestine, and how they see Zionism impacting this occupied territory.  More at: https://www.cpt.org





Courage Along The Divide

Courage Along The Divide

Want to be inspired by decades of deep commitment to nonviolence?

Check out this video from 1986 featuring our founders Mubarak Awad and Jonathan Kuttab

(see photos below the video)


Courage Along The Divide

Produced and Directed by Victor Schonfeld, 1986 




The Many Faces of Nonviolence - Ann Wright

Written by Maegan Hanlon

Ann Wright was on an assignment in Mongolia when she resigned from the State Department in March 2003. Having served in the U.S. Army for over two decades retiring as a colonel and in the U.S. Foreign Service for sixteen years, she knew the devastating effects of war. Ann was opposed to the Iraq War and felt that she could not in good conscience represent the United States in the conflict. Because of this, she resigned from the U.S. Department of State to dedicate herself to promoting nonviolence. 

Ann decided to shift her efforts to peace and nonviolent protest. She started working with organizations that were trying to stop the United States government from using war as a first resort. When talking about using war as a way to solve global issues she says, “use of the military and war seldom results in stability.” She knew that there had to be a nonviolent way to solve international disputes. As a result, Ann began a new adventure working with civilian-run organizations instead of government agencies. She advocated for nonviolence in Washington, DC and around the US talking to tens of thousands of citizens on alternatives to war. Since her resignation from the U.S. in 2004, after nearly two decades of commitment to nonviolence, Ann can testify that most Americans don’t want any more wars, yet U.S. politicians, no matter which political party is in power, still favor war and mobilization. 

Ann began being personally involved in the situation in Israel and Gaza when she left the U.S. Diplomatic corps in 2003. She decided she needed to see for herself what was happening on the ground when Israel first attacked Gaza in early 2009. She went to Gaza in January 2009 to observe with her own eyes the huge level of destruction that a major military power like Israel had done in its 27 attacks on the small, unarmed territory of Gaza. The loss of life-over 1400 Palestinians killed, 5,000 wounded, and over 10,000 left homeless-inspired her to take action. In 2009, she went back to Gaza six times with CODEPINK Women for Peace to bring more people to Gaza so they could meet with survivors, document the damage, and return home to write stories about what they saw. Later in December 2009, Ann and CODEPINK brought over one thousand people to Egypt for the Gaza Freedom March to march in Gaza in solidarity with the people of Gaza on the first anniversary of the Israeli attack. However, Egyptian border police allowed only about 100 people to enter Gaza, and the rest had to remain in Egypt and used a number of nonviolent tactics including staging demonstrations in Cairo to bring international attention to the blockade in Gaza including sit-ins outside the US Embassy. 

In 2010 Ann continued to support Palestinians living under the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza by joining the Free Gaza Movement. In 2008 this organization sent two boats full of people and medical supplies to Gaza and took out of Gaza some Palestinians in need of healthcare. In 2010 the Free Gaza Movement expanded the of challenging the illegal Israeli naval blockade of Gaza by sending no just two boats, but a flotilla of boats to Gaza. This project became the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. In this 2010 mission, they sent three cargo boats of medical supplies along with three passenger boats to Gaza. Ann was on one of the passenger boats when Israeli forces attacked the flotilla for attempting to enter the naval blockade zone. Nine people were executed by Israeli commandos on the boats, and one later died of Israeli gunshots. More than 50 of the unarmed, civilian activists aboard the boats were shot by Israeli commandos. See a list of casualties here. After raiding the boats in international waters, Israeli police arrested nearly 700 people and brought them to Israeli prisons. They were deported which meant they could not return to Israel for ten years. Ann has been deported from Israel three times meaning she technically has a 30 year ban to travel to Israel and therefore also to the West Bank. After her initial deportation, Ann returned to Gaza through the Rafah, Egypt crossing in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is an international organization of 13 national campaigns participating in the movement. In the 2018 flotilla, four boats in the flotilla visited twenty ports before reaching Sicily, from which they travel to Gaza. In each country they visited, they worked with Palestinian solidarity organizations to educate Europeans about the horrors of the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. By stopping at multiple ports to meet with supporters, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition is able to further spread the message about the suffering people endure in Gaza from the Israeli land and sea blockade. The journey to attempt to break the illegal naval blockade of Gaza typically ends about forty kilometers off the coast of Gaza when Israeli forces intercept the flotilla and arrest passengers. The long journey brings international media attention, except in the U.S., and awareness to the suffering in Gaza. With the help of their international partners, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has sent boats to Gaza in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 (an all women’s trip), and 2018. 

US Boats to Gaza, the United States chapter of The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, is dedicated to educating Americans about the situation in Gaza. Ann and other organizers travel across the United States holding educational events to spread awareness about Gaza. Many educational events help with funding so the flotilla can keep sending ships to attempt to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. The flotilla’s dedication helps Palestinians remain hopeful that the world is not forgetting them. 

Ann Wright came to work with Nonviolence International when she met our co-director, Michael Beer. They ran into one another at a number of peace events around the DC Metro area. Today Nonviolence International serves as the fiscal sponsor of US Boats to Gaza. Ann and Nonviolence International also support We Are Not Numbers, a platform for young Palestinian writers and artists to find their voices and tell their stories as journalists. In fact, We Are Not Numbers has released two documentaries showing the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. The first is an award winning short film, “Six Miles Out,” about fishermen struggling to make a living under the blockade. The other, called “Dreams in the Crosshairs,” is about the permanent disfigurement and amputations many Palestinians suffer under Israeli violence on the people of Gaza. The films help raise awareness and inspire international solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Through all of the suffering she has seen, knowing so many people willing to challenge Israeli and U.S. government policies towards Palestine and are willing to stand up and encourage nonviolent approaches to resolve international issues gives Ann hope. She says, “I know courage when I see it, and I have seen more courage in the brave, determined citizens...than the heavily armed forces arrayed against them.” Grassroots movements around the world show Ann the dedication many citizens have to use peaceful and nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution. She has found that civil society pressures politicians to act peacefully rather than to initiate violence. For example, United States citizens pressured President Obama to refrain from attacking Syria in 2013 over the alleged chemical attacks by the government of Syria. President Trump’s decision not to go to war with Iran also came from civil pressures to remain peaceful and avoid war. Civilian long term dedication to promoting peace and nonviolence gives Ann hope in times of violence and suffering. 

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition has begun its fundraising campaign for the May 2020 Flotilla by hosting fundraisers across the country to raise money to purchase the next boats to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza. To learn more about the campaign visit usboatstogaza.org and to donate please click here

Check out this short video produced by our friends at

Nonviolence International NY.

This is the first in a series celebrating our proud history and calling us to do even more in the years to come.

Please check back for more. 

Response to President Trump's "Peace" Plan

By Mubarak Awad, founder Nonviolence International 

President Trump and his son-in-law’s “peace” plan would worsen the long term subjugation of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and even Israel itself.  This is a plan for extended injustice, second class citizenship, and continuing hatred. Sooner or later, if implemented, it will erupt into the opposite of peace, not to speak of solidifying a deepened antipathy towards the United States.

Many Israelis and Americans don’t support this plan. This is a campaign stunt orchestrated by President Trump to support his own re-election campaign, as well as Bibi Netanyahu’s. This peace plan is akin to one hand clapping,  (or perhaps better said, one hand slapping) since only the Israelis were consulted, and therefore only their interests were considered. 

This plan would give Israel all it has sought during decades of conflict, including nearly all Palestinian land on which Israel has built settlements, the Jordan Valley and almost the totality of Jerusalem . Palestinian leaders have denounced the plan as "a new Balfour Declaration" that heavily favors Israel and would deny them a viable independent state.

Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories, particularly Israel's settlements in the West Bank, has been declared illegal by the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.  . Security Council Resolution 2334 states that Israel's settlement activity constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and has no legal validity. As long ago as 1978, and repeatedly since then,  the U.S. State Department opined that the settlements were “inconsistent with international law”.

Palestinians and the entire world will resist. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has  rejected US President Donald Trump's recently unveiled Middle East plan. The 57-member body, which held a summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on February 3 to discuss the plan, said in a statement that it, "calls on all member states not to engage with this plan or to cooperate with the US administration in implementing it in any form.” The European Union is also in opposition.

With the announcement of the Trump administration's "deal of the century" on January 28, the Palestinian Authority (PA) sprung into action. Within hours of the White House ceremony, at which US President Donald Trump released the details of his plan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, "a thousand no's to the deal of the century”.

But we need to understand the Palestinian context in which this imperial decree is landing.

By now, many Palestinians have lost trust in the Palestinian leadership. They see the PA--despite its protestations against the Plan--as in many respects little more than an Israeli cat’s paw in their oppression.  For example, many know that the PA's threats to cut ties with Israel's intelligence agencies are empty ones. In 2017, the PA announced that it had cut ties and it was subsequently found that 95 percent of security coordination with Israel was maintained.  Apart from clamping down on Palestinian dissent, the Palestinian leadership, whether in the West Bank or Gaza, has also sought to control mass mobilization for its short-sighted political goals. The PA and other Palestinian factions and political parties consider Palestinian protest to be a weapon only when it suits them or is led by them.

The PA’s attitude, along with years of suppression of nonviolent dissent and harassment of civil society has added another layer of repression - on top of the Israeli occupation- leaving Palestinians disenchanted and damaging their ability to effectively mobilize for their rights and dignity.  Over the years, many stopped seeing a reason to take to the streets because their nonviolent protest would either be brutally cracked down on or co-opted by political forces they see as illegitimate. It is no wonder then that when the PA called for mass mobilization in the streets against the "deal of the century" few turned up. Today, the PA is only able to mobilize those loyal to its political structures and its partisan arm - Fatah. To get a crowd in Ramallah, it had to bus people in from outside the city.

But despite the political and moral bankruptcy of their leaders, Palestinians have not despaired. They will continue their struggle for justice, rights, and the end of the Israeli occupation and apartheid. They continue to mobilize despite their leaders’ complicity with Israel.

The spirit of the Palestinian Street is alive, and it can no longer be manipulated by duplicitous political forces. It will only come out in defense of the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people. 

Palestinians have no choice but to unify across party and geographic lines. Hamas and Fatah and civil society must start talking with each other and publicly speak with one voice. Palestinians facing apartheid in Israel, exile in refugee camps, occupation, and prisons, must increase cooperation and mutual support.  Internationally, countries and civil society must stand up for human rights and international law. The Arab street is unified in support of Palestinians and their governments must support Palestinians or face peril.

Palestinians should ignore the Trump administration. They must talk directly to Israelis and find ways of communicating in good spirit both by action and deeds. Israel’s efforts to use US dominance to impose its will in the Middle East will end in a disaster for everyone.

As a long time leader for a two-state solution, I am calling on Palestinian intellectuals to help the Authority to develop a different plan that focusses on a  “ONE STATE SOLUTION.” Israel has twisted a two-state option into Gaza as a rump Palestinian state connected to a Bantustan-like polity on the West Bank.  A one-state democratic solution means all will be equal; Israel can call itself a Jewish/Israeli state and Palestinians can call it an Arab State. Mutual respect and equal rights are the only way to end apartheid, and to end the violence and hatred between the two sides. Genuine equality is far more important than the names and titles given to political entities.

I call on Americans and Israelis to reject this campaign stunt and to support genuine equality and mutuality as the basis for peace.  As Dr. Martin Luther King said, we can choose nonviolence or nonexistence. Let’s choose nonviolence.


Season for Nonviolence

January 30th to April 4th

Our friends at the M.K. Gandhi Institute
for Nonviolence remind us to celebrate the

Season for Nonviolence

They write, "The Season, launched at the United Nations in 1998, marks the annual 64 calendar days between the memorial anniversary of the assassination of Mohandas K. Gandhi on January 30 and that of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4.

The Season teaches that every person can move the world forward in the direction of peace through daily nonviolent choices and actions."

Their site includes a Nonviolence Pledge, suggested readings, and many resources including suggested Daily Practices for each of the 64 days during this Season of Nonviolence. 

For more information, please see:


64 Suggested Daily Practices - from the Association for Global New Thought


Doomsday Clock Closer Than Ever to Midnight:  Active Nonviolence Can Still Save Us

By David Hart, Co-Director Nonviolence International 

The world is facing a series of devastating interrelated crises. Our friends at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have just updated their well known and respected Doomsday Clock. No surprise to those following the news, but their Science and Security Board has declared that we are closer than ever before to apocalypse. They are announcing this news not to freeze us in fear, but instead to offer us a chance to act while we still can. And, act we must. 

The time for small ideas is over. History has proven that powerful people’s movements can make what once seemed impossible become inevitable. Again and again we have seen that when people rise up together and declare they see a path out of the darkness, the world can change in major ways. 

The crises we are facing provide us with an opportunity to create real and lasting change. Below, you will see that the Bulletin rightly considers the threats of climate change and nuclear weapons to be existential threats to our very existence. True, and only part of the picture. We also face a crisis of avoidable suffering worldwide. We can and must do better. For the future and for those suffering now. 

Many people may see this clock ticking closer and closer to midnight and wonder what we can do. We often seem so small and the problems seem so vast. At Nonviolence International, we proudly declare that the world can be better than it is today and it up to us to direct that change.  

Nonviolence International serves as a backbone organization of the global nonviolent movement. We provide fiscal sponsorship to some of the most amazing bold, creative, hardworking nonviolent movements worldwide. And, we provide much needed resources to activists and scholars all over the world. 

Our Nonviolence Training Archive is live online now built in partnership with Kurt Schock and the Rutgers International Institute for Peace. This is the world’s largest archive of training material on nonviolence. Check it out at: http://nonviolence.rutgers.edu/s/digital

Within a few months, our longtime Executive Director, Michael Beer, will be publishing his first book - an update to Gene Sharp’s seminal work The Politics of Nonviolent Action, with our friends at the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict. This monograph, which was blessed by Sharp, includes 346+ powerful tactics of nonviolent action. We are developing an online database that will allow activists and scholars worldwide to learn from this resource. It will be a living document that grows as friends and allies provide feedback and new ideas. You can get a preview of the online database at: https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/tactics

When we say… we are Building a Global Culture of Nonviolence and Building Hope in Troubled Times… we mean it. 

2020 is going to be a pivotal year for our planet and we know active nonviolence can prove once again that it is indeed a force more powerful. 

Please read the post below, share it, and commit to take action now and throughout the coming year to help create a better future for all. 



It is 100 seconds to midnight

Editor’s note: Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 13 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains.

To: Leaders and citizens of the world

Re: Closer than ever: It is 100 seconds to midnight

Date: January 23, 2020

Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.

In the nuclear realm, national leaders have ended or undermined several major arms control treaties and negotiations during the last year, creating an environment conducive to a renewed nuclear arms race, to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and to lowered barriers to nuclear war. Political conflicts regarding nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea remain unresolved and are, if anything, worsening. US-Russia cooperation on arms control and disarmament is all but nonexistent.

Public awareness of the climate crisis grew over the course of 2019, largely because of mass protests by young people around the world. Just the same, governmental action on climate change still falls far short of meeting the challenge at hand. At UN climate meetings last year, national delegates made fine speeches but put forward few concrete plans to further limit the carbon dioxide emissions that are disrupting Earth’s climate. This limited political response came during a year when the effects of manmade climate change were manifested by one of the warmest years on record, extensive wildfires, and quicker-than-expected melting of glacial ice.

Continued corruption of the information ecosphere on which democracy and public decision making depend has heightened the nuclear and climate threats. In the last year, many governments used cyber-enabled disinformation campaigns to sow distrust in institutions and among nations, undermining domestic and international efforts to foster peace and protect the planet.

This situation—two major threats to human civilization, amplified by sophisticated, technology-propelled propaganda—would be serious enough if leaders around the world were focused on managing the danger and reducing the risk of catastrophe. Instead, over the last two years, we have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats—international agreements with strong verification regimes—in favor of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain. By undermining cooperative, science- and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity, these leaders have helped to create a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe, sooner rather than later.

Faced with this daunting threat landscape and a new willingness of political leaders to reject the negotiations and institutions that can protect civilization over the long term, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board today moves the Doomsday Clock 20 seconds closer to midnight—closer to apocalypse than ever. In so doing, board members are explicitly warning leaders and citizens around the world that the international security situation is now more dangerous than it has ever been, even at the height of the Cold War.

Civilization-ending nuclear war—whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication—is a genuine possibility. Climate change that could devastate the planet is undeniably happening. And for a variety of reasons that include a corrupted and manipulated media environment, democratic governments and other institutions that should be working to address these threats have failed to rise to the challenge.

The Bulletin believes that human beings can manage the dangers posed by the technology that humans create. Indeed, in the 1990s leaders in the United States and the Soviet Union took bold actions that made nuclear war markedly less likely—and as a result the Bulletin moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock the farthest it has been from midnight.

But given the inaction—and in too many cases counterproductive actions—of international leaders, the members of the Science and Security Board are compelled to declare a state of emergency that requires the immediate, focused, and unrelenting attention of the entire world. It is 100 seconds to midnight. The Clock continues to tick. Immediate action is required.

Much more at: https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/

MLK Day - A Trip to Richmond with our Gun-Toting Fellow Citizens

Michael Beer, Director, Nonviolence International

I could have done a river clean-up on Martin Luther King Jr. day, or gone to a celebration of his life, but instead I thought the best way to honor Dr. King would be to stand up to injustice. I decided to spend the day focused on gun violence.

I went down to Richmond Virginia on January 20th, Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day, to lobby and counter a pro-gun rally. At 8am, I left Arlington Virginia in a Prius with a friend from Moms Demand Action ( a group opposed to gun violence). We had intended to support counter-protesters.

I was expecting enormous pro-gun crowds and feared that parking would be difficult. But we kept driving to the capitol and found mostly empty streets with some charter buses. In a parking garage, we pulled our little car into a space between two gigantic pickup trucks. There were many such large gas-guzzling vehicles with many out-of-state license plates.

We walked to the capital and passed many police working for the State, the city of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. We talked to 2 African American men in their 30’s with big orange stickers that said “guns save lives.” We said we were going to join a lobbying event focused on the needs of people of color.  Unfortunately, this event was cancelled. They said they were veterans and wanted guns to provide home security. We wandered through the streets of the capitol that were shut off to traffic. We greeted some with “Happy MLK Day”.  We always got courteous responses, despite my colleague’s pussy hat and my buttons of progressive causes. We waded through crowds of men who were dressed up like soldiers and carrying semi-automatic weapons.  Looks like people were really into showing off their hardware.

I was afraid that some folks would see my anti-gun button and mob us. So I kept moving, kept my eyes down and never had anyone pay us attention.  People were happy to be there and everyone was polite. Luckily we didn’t see any Neo-Nazi flags and just a few confederate ones. We were surprised at the paucity of Trump stuff.

Everywhere we looked there were identical orange stickers that said “guns save lives”. It was surprising to see so few hand-made signs, although many folks wore t-shirts, hats, and jackets that had various messages.  There were almost no children but quite a mix of adult ages. Also, mostly men, and overwhelmingly European American. As a veteran of hundreds of protests, I’d say there were 6 to 8 thousand people, much fewer than I anticipated.  Folks did some chants of USA…and “Northam Out” but there were not many bullhorns. We took some selfies with the crowds in the background to post on our social media pages to let our friends know where we were…and then decided to get out of the crowds and go see our legislators. Unfortunately, the capitol was difficult to get to because of the crowds.

At 11am, we waited in a short line at the Pocahontas building, went through a metal detector, and headed up the stairs to cheer-up and lobby our legislators. None of the legislators were there, so we decided to thank the offices of 11 legislators who we have relationships with. Many had large groups of pro-gun advocates early in the morning, but by noon, the halls were remarkably empty despite crowds outside.  Many wanted to display their guns but were not permitted in the building with them. Perhaps this is because many Americans don’t know how to lobby or don’t see its value. So yes, the rally was burdensome on the government because so many police were mobilized and paid overtime. And yes, many legislative staff stayed home. But actually the overall legislative pressure from the pro-gun crowd was modest.

We thanked staffers (see photo below) for their commitments to end gun violence and talked to them about a range of issues that are important to us.  Many staff didn't want us to leave..and were grateful for our encouragement. Sure enough, the legislators passed gun control measures the very next day.

As we walked back to the car, the streets were rapidly clearing by 1pm. Organizers were picking up trash and cigarette butts off the streets. This is commendable. Rather than use their guns, they used classic nonviolent tactics found in our global database, such as rallies, flags, music, stickers and banners.


Pictured Below: Barbara Wien (center) with legislative staffers




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