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“Rescinding DACA Is Inhumane,” Quakers Vow To Keep Fighting For Immigrant Rights

30 members of faith communities pray #LetThemStay at ICE office in Manchester, NH on Sept 5th. Image from Arnie Alpert Twitter.

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE —The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that has worked for immigrant and refugee rights for almost 100 years – condemned today’s decision by the Trump administration to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that has provided temporary deportation relief to almost 800,000 people who came to the U.S. as children, including nearly 1,000 in New Hampshire.

“The decision to rescind DACA is an inhumane attack on young people, their families, and our communities,” said Maggie Fogarty, co-director of the organization’s New Hampshire Program. “This decision puts thousands of young people at risk of deportation, and a six-month delay does nothing to mitigate that. We support DACA because we strongly believe that no one should be deported.”

Fogarty received the news while standing outside the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office in Manchester, where dozens of immigrants were given deportation orders today.  “We will continue to support individuals and families threatened with deportation,” she said.

Since the DACA program was announced by executive order in 2012, AFSC has been involved in helping people sign up for the program, providing know-your-rights information,  advocating for DACA expansion (which was effectively blocked by the Supreme Court in 2016), and mobilizing constituents to contact their congress people in support of the program.

“DACA has created opportunities for young immigrants to work, pursue educational opportunities, and support themselves and their families,” said Arnie Alpert, the NH Program’s other co-director. “In the absence of just and humane immigration policies, the program has provided some necessary relief for thousands of people. These protections should be expanded, not rescinded.”

Many DACA recipients have also spoken out about how DACA has impacted them and why future programs or legislation need to be expanded. “As an undocumented student, I was able to benefit from DACA. This enabled me to continue my education, get a job with AFSC, and pursue a master’s degree,” said Jesús Palafox, Regional Administrative Associate in AFSC’s Chicago office. “DACA has been very helpful to me, but I am just part of a tiny minority of millions of people living in this country who need to be able to adjust their status. We need solutions that include everyone.”

Despite the setback, AFSC and immigrant rights groups across the country say this movement for immigrant rights, family reunification and social justice is not over. “We will continue our work – in the courts, in our communities, and in the streets – until everyone has access to legal status,” said Fogarty.

Quakers to Trump: Sanctuary, Not Walls

AFSC speaks out on executive orders, urges congressional action

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, President Donald Trump announced sweeping executive actions that would expand the border wall, cut federal funding to sanctuary cities and increase the number of people Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will target for deportation. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that has worked for immigrant and refugee rights for almost 100 years – denounced these policies as dangerous and divisive.

“For more than two decades, border wall infrastructure has contributed to the deaths of thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and violence who are forced to cross through deadly terrain,” said Pedro Rios, director of AFSC’s U.S./Mexico Border Program. “This human rights disaster will only be exacerbated with more miles of border walls and excessive, unaccountable enforcement.” While Trump’s executive action paves the way for wall construction, additional congressional action will be needed to fully fund the project. AFSC is calling on Congress to do everything in their power to stop wall construction and to protect the human rights of migrants and those in border communities. 

Trump also signed an executive order limiting federal funding to “sanctuary cities.” More than 350 jurisdictions across the country have enacted policies prohibiting local officials from taking actions like asking people about their immigration status, holding people so ICE can detain them, or sharing information with ICE. 

“Limiting collusion between ICE and local law enforcement has been an essential first step to keeping our communities and families safe from unjust deportation policies,” said AFSC’s policy impact coordinator Kathryn Johnson. “We’re calling on congress to respect the Fourth Amendment and oppose legislation that punishes ‘sanctuary cities.’” 

The executive orders also dramatically expand the number of Customs and Border Patrol agents, call for aggressive immigration enforcement within the country, and for mandatory detention at the border – including of children and families. 

“These policies are immoral, astronomically expensive, racially discriminatory, and threaten to tear apart families and communities” said Johnson. “That’s why AFSC and our partners across this country and around the world are standing together to demand congress oppose these priorities.”

AFSC’s programs outside the U.S. are also voicing concerns. “Through our work in Central America and Mexico we know that many people fleeing to the U.S. are doing so because of violence and extreme poverty,” said Douglas Juarez, AFSC’s Regional Migration Program Coordinator. “Closing the U.S.’s doors to these children, women and men puts their lives at risks as they are returned to the danger they fled. These problems must not be addressed through security and militarization, but through following international law and respecting everyone’s right to migrate.” 

But AFSC and other organizations are not just waiting for congress to take action. They have launched a campaign, called #SanctuaryEverywhere, to help everyday people protect each other from these attacks. According to Lori Khamala, who directs AFSC’s immigrant rights program in North Carolina, they hope to equip thousands of people with training and tools to create sanctuary wherever they are. 

Says Khamala, “whether we are welcoming refugees or working to stop deportations; protecting religious groups who have been targeted and attacked; working to ensure that Black Lives Matter by interrupting anti-Black violence; or protecting the rights of LGBTQI people, we are all in this together.” 

NH Groups to Conduct Silent Vigil During Trump Swearing-In on Friday

 CONCORD NEW HAMPSHIRE—Several groups concerned about a rising tide of intolerance and violence will conduct a silent vigil in front of the New Hampshire State House during the time Donald T. Trump is taking the oath of office as the nation’s 45th president on Friday, January 20.

“At the time of the swearing in, we will gather to recommit to the values we hold dear and to stand with those who are marginalized, threatened, and afraid,” said the Rev. Gray Fitzgerald of Concord.  “We recognize that at the moment of the vigil we are entering a new epoch in the history of our country. We are joining together to acknowledge that reality and to reaffirm our commitment to multiculturalism, GLBTQ and women’s rights, an economic system that works for all, immigrant rights, inclusion of all people, respect for those with disabilities, racial justice, love and care of the planet, inclusion of all spiritual and religious traditions, and justice leading to peace.”

The Silent Vigil of Hope and Concern will take place from noon to 12:15 PM. 

The vigil will be preceded by a short program beginning at 11:45 AM.  It will also be followed by a short program.  Afterward, participants will adjourn to a nearby office for hot beverages and conversation.

Rev. Fitzgerald said all are invited who share these stated values and who want to join with others in a ritual of recommitment.  “It is our intention to stand even more strongly for these principles in the coming days. As we face this new period, we gather in solidarity as brothers and sisters reaffirming what we stand for regardless of who is president,” Rev. Fitzgerald added.

The Vigil of Hope and Concern is sponsored by the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ NH Conference, the American Friends Service Committee, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, NH Peace Action, and the Equality Center.

AFSC-NH’s Testimony Against SB 11, “Right To Work”

Statement on SB 11, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union

January 10, 2017 

I am Arnie Alpert, Co-Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program. I am also a member of UNITE-HERE Local 66L and the UNITE-HERE New England Joint Board. I am pleased to be able to appear before you today both as a union member and as a representative of my employer to urge your rejection of the so-called “right to work” bill.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that turns 100 years old this year. Throughout almost our entire history, going back to 1922 when we provided humanitarian assistance to unemployed coal miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, we have assisted working people who have sought to better their lives and working conditions. In 1936, a year after President Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act, the AFSC Social-Industrial Section drafted a statement “on the attitude that the AFSC should take towards organized labor.” The statement noted, in part:

Collective bargaining by groups of workers with employers is therefore desirable in order that workers may meet management on something like equal terms when they bargain for rates of pay, conditions of work, and security of employment.

Since then, from the textile mills of North Carolina to the orange groves of Florida to the grape fields of California, to the maquiladora factories along the Mexican border, and in countless kitchens and construction sites, the AFSC has stood with people who have sought employment, living wages, and dignity on the job.

The ability of working people to attain a decent standard of living is threatened in our country and in our state. According to the NH Housing Finance Authority, the statewide median rent of a two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire was $1206 in 2016. That means it takes an income of more than $48,000 a year to afford a typical apartment. That’s more than three times what a worker makes at the current minimum wage.

If the purpose of SB 11 was to provide jobs at decent wages so that working people could afford decent housing, we would be enthusiastic about it. But what is called “right to work” is not about ensuring that all people have the right to a decent job. To the contrary, it is about undermining the ability of working people to organize among themselves and bargain collectively with their employers.

By making it more difficult for workers to organize, “right to work” would force down the wage levels of all working people in New Hampshire. The ability to afford health care would be threatened. The ability to pay taxes to support schools would be diminished. The state’s housing crisis would intensify. More people would seek public assistance.

Over the years, in this country and around the world, the American Friends Service Committee has observed that strong unions help their members better their wages and working conditions, but also can be powerful advocates for human rights and a better standard of living for everyone.

If you are interested in reducing poverty and giving more people access to decent jobs, you should recommend this bill inexpedient to legislate.

Tax Day Leaflets Highlight Excessive Military Spending

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MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Excessive spending on nuclear weapons and other military programs was the theme of a Tax Day leaflet that 12 people from NH Peace Action, NH Citizens Alliance, and the American Friends Service Committee distributed today outside the Manchester and Concord offices of Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, and Representatives Frank Guinta and Annie Kuster. 

“At a time when veterans’ health care, infrastructure repair, and other urgent programs are badly under-funded, we want New Hampshire taxpayers to know that Congress has plans to spend a trillion dollars on a new generation of nuclear weapons systems that will do nothing for American security,” said Will Hopkins, Executive Director of NH Peace Action and an Iraq war veteran.

At each location, the activists passed out leaflets with information on the vast amounts the federal government spends on military programs.  They also met with staff inside each office.

“It’s time for a new vision of American security,” said Kary Jencks, Executive Director of NH Citizens Alliance.  “The security of working families comes from decent pay in the workplace, affordable and quality health care, and secure retirement, all of which are imperiled when more than half of the discretionary budget goes to military programs,” she added. 

According to the annual report on global military spending from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, the United States spends more on military programs as the next seven countries, and “four of them are  our close military allies,” said Arnie Alpert, co-director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program. 

“On Tax Day, we are telling our members of Congress it’s time to turn away from excessive spending on weapons and war and to turn toward education, health, and creation of good jobs in the civilian economy,” he said. 

Alpert added that the activities in Manchester and Concord are coordinated with the “Global Day of Action on Military Spending.” 

New Hampshire Issue Advocacy Groups Join Forces, Rally Ahead of Democratic Presidential Debate

Rally and Downtown March Called on Democratic Candidates to Articulate Vision for a Clean Energy Future, Invest in Economic Security for Families and Small Businesses, and Put Voters Ahead of Special Interests

2015-12-19 march 1MANCHESTER, NH – Today, more than 20 issue advocacy groups gathered in Manchester to share a collective vision for a better future in advance of the New Hampshire Democratic Primary Debate.  The march and rally, titled “The Future We Want,” made its way down Elm Street in a show of unity. The march began at the Radisson Hotel, where leaders from across the region discussed how the activist community is coming together to demand action on the issues that matter to New Hampshire and the nation.

“There are so many great organizations doing important work in the state,” said Mike Padmore, State Director for NextGen Climate New Hampshire. “Every group here is working together for justice and progress, by protecting our planet, restoring democracy through campaign finance reform, supporting reproductive rights, investing in economic security for working families and defending the refugees seeking safety and a better life.”

Close to 200 people attended the event. Participants discussed how their work supports a unified vision to move our state and country forward and the importance of working together to ensure a fairer and more just future for all Americans. New Hampshire has a long tradition of using its First-in-the-Nation Primary status to vet candidates on the issues that matter most to Americans and for months Granite State “bird dogs” – issue advocates that follow the candidates and pin them down on the tough questions – have worked the Democratic Primary field. Rally speakers pointed to tonight’s Democratic Primary Debate, happening just two miles away at St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, calling it an opportunity for candidates to be champions of justice and progress.

“In New Hampshire, we have a unique opportunity to be in the spotlight of the national conversation in the months leading up to the First in the Nation primary” said Will Hopkins, Executive Director of New Hampshire Peace Action. “With that opportunity comes an important responsibility to engage with the candidates and articulate a vision for the future that demands strong leadership on the issues that matter to Granite Staters.”

The participating organizations from today’s rally and march will continue to work together to articulate and demonstrate a fair, just, and progressive vision for America during the Presidential Primary.

2015-12-19 march 2

 

NextGen Climate NH is a non-profit, non-partisan dedicated to averting climate disaster and promoting prosperity for all Americans. NextGen is calling on our elected leaders to get America to 50% renewable energy by 2030.

350 Action is pushing presidential candidates during the New Hampshire Primary to keep fossil fuels in the ground. It empowers New Hampshire residents to use creative direct action and bird dogging to influence our leaders.

Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems.

People For the American Way is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American: Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts. The American Way. Our operational mission is to promote the American Way and defend it from attack, to build and nurture communities of support for our values, and to equip those communities to promote progressive policies, elect progressive candidates, and hold public officials accountable.

Moms Clean Air Force is a community of parents working together to combat air pollution, including the urgent crisis of our changing climate – to protect our children’s health.

The American Friends Service Committee’s “Governing Under the Influence” project is a non-partisan, educational effort to raise awareness about the excessive power held by the ultra-wealthy and major corporations, especially those that profit from militarism and incarceration.  To date the project has trained more than 1000 NH people to be effective “bird dogs,” brought its giant GUI banners to dozens of political events, sponsored educational programs with hundreds of participants, and engaged all major presidential candidates in substantive discussions about nuclear weapons spending, the immigrant detention mandate, the influence of the military industrial complex, and other issues.

The cross-partisan NH Rebellion has mobilized thousands of citizen rebels to #FightBigMoney in politics by walking the talk for democracy all across the Granite State – 30,000 miles and counting. #NHRebellion educates candidates and voters on how our democracy could be fixed through its We the People pledge,  including overturning Citizens United, ending the Legislator to Lobbyist revolving door, requiring donation transparency, and other reforms. #NHRebellion is part of Open Democracy, the nonpartisan organization founded by legendary reformer Doris “Granny D” Haddock.

The New Hampshire AFL-CIO is a strong statewide voice for all working people, bringing together the unions of New Hampshire under one banner to fight for economic and social justice in our workplaces and communities.

Rights and Democracy is bringing people together to take action to build healthy communities and make the values of our communities guide the policies of our government. Together, we create change through grassroots organizing, educating and mobilizing around the issues that affect our communities, recruiting and training candidates to run for office, and working through the political and electoral process to advance progressive policies that lead to happy, healthy, and just communities for everyone.

New Hampshire Sierra Club represents over 15,000 Members and Supporters who care about the environment and the future of the Granite State. NHSC supports pollution-free clean energy future that can benefit the local economy and create jobs, like energy efficiency, wind and solar energy. Our goal is to have a zero carbon polluting economy by the year 2050.

The members of New Hampshire Peace Action are dedicated to making a contribution to world peace. We envision a world in which nuclear disarmament, mutual security, global understanding, international cooperation and respect for human rights create social, economic, and environmental benefits for all humanity.

Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in New Hampshire. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including legislative education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy. Follow us on Twitter.

After nearly 40 years NH Citizens Alliance continues to lead the movement for social and economic justice in the Granite State. We focus on creating a more engaged electorate through issue education, leadership development and voter engagement and mobilization. Central to our work is a women’s economic justice framework. We must take action now to ensure that women have equal rights and receive fair treatment on the job, in health care and in the new economy.

Better Future Project works to build powerful grassroots movements to address the climate crisis and advance a rapid and responsible transition beyond fossil fuels in Massachusetts and beyond.

350 Massachusetts for a Better Future is building a powerful statewide social movement to confront the climate crisis, hold our politicians accountable and undermine the destructive influence of the fossil fuel industry.

 The UNH Peace and Justice League is a social justice advocacy group.  We have worked on issues ranging from the student debt crisis at UNH to the nationwide issue of money in politics.

Divest UNH is pressuring the University of New Hampshire to divest their endowment from fossil fuels.  No one, especially universities, should be profiting of the devastating effects of climate change.  Our goal is not just to push the University of New Hampshire to divest but to create a long lasting student movement to fight for climate justice.

At the Organic Garden Club we manage an organic farm on campus.  Our goal is to provide a place for students to learn how to garden and to educate our community on where their food comes from.

The UNH Student Environmental Action Coalition is a collaborative of sustainability initiatives and committees seeking to promote a better environment and a stronger community

350NH is a climate movement of neighbors. We work as a community to turn off new fossil fuel infrastructure and turn on New Hampshire’s potential for a renewable energy future.

End Governing Under The Influence, Stamp Money Out Of Politics

Stamp Stampede, an organization founded by Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s, held a rally at the State House in Concord on July 30 to bolster efforts to “stampmoney out of politics.”  I was one of the speakers.  The following is based on my prepared remarks.  Click here for a video of what I actually said.

Quakers say no one has all the truth and everyone has a piece of the truth, soP7300025 we need to look for truth in unusual places.  It’s interesting that one of the prophets we look to now is Dwight Eisenhower, a 5-star general, who warned about “the acquisition of unwarranted power by the military industrial complex.”

Pentagon contractors invested $27 million in candidates for Congress in the 2012 election cycle.

Just the top ten Pentagon contractors spent $23 Million on politics.  For that they received $202 billion in contracts last year.   Not a bad return on investment.

The Pentagon contractors spend $128 million a year spent on lobbying, conducted in many cases by former members of Congress, former Pentagon officials, former high-level Congressional staff members.  This is what we call the “revolving door.”

They hold job fairs for retiring generals and admirals looking for lucrative careers selling weapons back to their former colleagues. 

They sponsor trade groups, such as the Aerospace Industries Association, the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition, the Submarine Industrial Base Council, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems (the trade group for drone makers), the Shipbuilders Council of America, the Surface Navy Association, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, and more.

They sponsor “think tanks.”

They sponsor the media, for example Politico’s “Morning Defense” newsletter, brought to me each day by Northrup Grumman.

They even donate to the pet charitable projects of spouses of members of the Congressional armed service committees.

P7300029This is a classic case of what we call “governing under the influence,” or GUI.

And it’s not just the military industrial complex:

It’s the Wall Street industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, the pharmaceutical industrial complex, the fossil fuel industrial complex, and more,

They are all practicing GUI to corrupt the political process and serve private interest at the public’s expense.

If DUI is a hazard to the people on our roads and sidewalks, GUI is a hazard to democracy.

If DUI needs to be approached as a public health problem of great importance,GUI needs to be seen as a political health problem of the greatest importance.

But while DUI is a crime, GUI is entirely legal.  And it’s gotten more legal due to the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions which further opened the gates for floods of cash to flow into the political system from billionaires aP7300017nd corporations. 

The rich are getting richer.

The mega-rich are getting mega- richer.

The giga-rich are getting giga-richer.

And it is easy for them to recycle their wealth into the political system to generate policies that generate more wealth for themselves, leading to higher inequality, less democracy.   

Eisenhower said only “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing” of industrial might with democracy’s needs.

Article 10 of the New Hampshire Bill of Rights says:

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government.

We say people power can be stronger than corporate power and we say today we have not yet exhausted all other means of redress.  

We are calling on the candidates to tell us what they will do to end the GUI system.

We are asking:

What will they do to make sure the corporations that profit from building weapons of mass destruction are not determining our foreign policy?

What will they do to make sure corporations that own and manage prisons are not running our immigration and corrections policies?

What will they do to make sure our police departments don’t become just another profit center for the military industrial complex?

What will they do to make sure our political system is based on the principle of one person one vote, not the principle of one dollar one vote?

So far we have trained more than 500 people in NH and a couple hundred more in Iowa.  The GUI project is putting the candidates on the spot and documenting their responses.

The GUI system is strong, but not invulnerable.  It has a crack that opens in NH and Iowa.

We have a little over six months to make sure the candidates hear from us.

End GUI.

Stamp money out of politics.


 

This post originally appeared at InZane Times, a blog run by Arnie Alpert. 

 


 

Ben Cohen, founder of Stamp Stampede

P7300048

The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

Governing Under the Influence: NH Recap of Clinton’s and NH Peace Action Conference

NH Labor News Editor’s Note: This is the first, of hopefully many, posts from Eric Zulaski, who is an organizers with the American Friends Service Committee’s “Governing Under the Influence.”  GUI is also working to highlight the overwhelming amount of money in our political system and going directly to candidates in the First in the Nation Primary and asking them about what they plan to do about getting money out of politics. 


NH Recap: Clinton and NH Peace Action Conference

Granite Staters got a big serving of national politics last week. Let’s pause a moment to recap the highlights before we look ahead.

In brief, Hillary Clinton dashed from Keene to Concord; activists hgui_logoeld a conference in Plymouth on building a culture of peace; nineteen Republican Presidential candidates flocked to their party’s leadership summit in Nashua.

On Hillary Clinton’s tour, she said, “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all — even if it takes a constitutional amendment.” That led one NH bird dog to ask Clinton about the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, which says that corporate spending on elections is protected speech. Clinton responded, saying a constitutional amendment could create more problems.

If you get the chance to see Hillary Clinton on her next visit, ask her this question:

I’m glad you share my concern about unaccountable money in our political system. It makes politicians accountable not to the people but to corporate campaign donors and their lobbyists. How will you fix this dysfunctional system?

wilkerson_NashuaIn Plymouth, we co-sponsored NH Peace Action’s conference featuring Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson as the keynote speaker. His military and State Department background makes him a powerful critic of war profiteering and Pentagon contractors’ control over security policy. AFSC sponsored Col. Wilkerson’s speaking tour of the state. He also spoke in Durham, Portsmouth, Concord and Nashua.

We’re still processing audio and video of his talks to share with you. In the meantime, you can hear the podcast of his latest interview on WNHN in Concord. His segment starts at 28:35. It includes a discussion of the privatization of war-making.

In Nashua, Paul Revere rode alongside our friends, NH Rebellion, to deliver their message of campaign finance reform to Presidential candidates at the GOP summit. Thanks, in part, to their efforts, the Washington Post reported that big money in politics is becoming a serious campaign issue.

Coming up next week: Donald Trump has four events on Monday, including Salem, Hudson, Henniker and Concord. Carly Fiorina, who announced she will announce her candidacy, will tour the state with ten events in three days, including Northwood, North Haverhill and Manchester. Check our candidate calendar frequently for updates. Call or email Olivia, our bird dog coordinator to discuss question topics and talk tactics.

Sincerely,

Eric

On Tax Day, Small Group Of Activists Explain Where Your Tax Dollars Are Going

Tax Day at Kelly Ayotte

On Tax Day, April 15th, a small group of activists took to the streets to inform citizens of how their government is spending their tax dollars.

Tax Day Flier 2015 IMAGE‘Activists affiliated with NH Citizens Alliance for Action, The American Friends Service Committee New Hampshire Program’s Governing Under the Influence project, and NH Peace Action stood outside Senator Kelly Ayotte’s office on Tax Day to draw attention to what they see as the Senators, “Misplaced Priorities”.

There is no denying that we as U.S. citizens are funding the worlds police force, aka the U.S. Department of Defense, with our tax dollars while nearly one-in-three children live in poverty.  The U.S. Government spends $640 billion dollars on the military and only spends $71 on education.  The government has lost sight of it’s priorities and duties to the people. We spend more on the military than the next eight highest spending countries combined.

Some of the reasons our government has lost sight of its true goals is because, lobbyists and military manufacturers are buying politicians.  Defense contractors are spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to win lucrative contracts manufacturing equipment that we may or may-not even need.

Tax Day Flier Backside 2015 CD2-IMAGEOne activist, Iraq War Veteran, and Director of NH Peace Action, Will Hopkins said, “Senator Ayotte received over $30,000 each from Raytheon, Honeywell, BAE, and Lockheed Martin, and it is their interests that she has served in Washington.  We are here on tax day because the Senator has shown that she is willing to support planes that don’t fly, and tanks that go straight to boneyards any time a campaign donor has a profit to make.”

Over $120,000 dollars just from defense contractors here in New England.  Every dollar spent on lobbying returns $720 in return.

The small group stood outside for two hours on Wednesday and handed out leaflets on the federal budget, and US military spending compared to the rest of the world.'(images on the right).

Ben Cohen Speaks About Corporations Buying Our Politicians At #WeRise Event In Concord

20150311_StateHouseWERISE

About 40 activists gathered at the New Hampshire State House as part of the nationwide #WeRISE Day of Action.

Stamp Stampede’s Ben Cohen speaks at “We Rise” Action at State House
National Day of Action to Put People and Planet First

The StampStampede.org joined with NH Citizens Action, the NH Rebellion, American Friends Service Committee, Open Democracy, Granite State Progress, People For the American Way, Every Child Matters and other New Hampshire organizations to protest “a political system rigged on behalf of big corporations and the wealthy.”

“Congress needs to stop acting like a wholly-owned subsidiary of multinational corporations,” said Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben&Jerry’s Ice Cream and Head Stamper of StampStampede.org. “When billions of dollars are being poured into our elections, government stops serving the people and serves the corporations instead.”

031115StateHouseWERISE1207

Stamp Stampede Head Stamper Ben Cohen spoke about the movement to pass a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Cohen cited a Sunlight Foundation study showing that politically-active corporations get back $760 in government benefits for every dollar they spend influencing politics. “People watch this stuff happening, and they’re angry about it.  People in both parties are angry about it.  Our elected officials are supposed to be serving us, their constituents, and instead they’re spending our tax dollars subsidizing corporations.”

“It’s time to take our government back,” Cohen said.  “If ‘We the People’ can’t out-spend the corporations, we can at least out-shout them.  That’s why StampStampede.org is turning US currency into millions of miniature political billboards, by legally stamping it with messages like ‘Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.’” Every stamped dollar bill is seen by about 875 people.  That means if one person stamps three bill a day for a year, the message will reach almost 1 million people.   “It’s a petition on steroids,” said Cohen.

There are over 30,000 stampers across the country and hundreds in New Hampshire.  StampStampede.org has also recruited over 50 small businesses in the state to set up small point-of-purchase stamping stations where customers can stamp their dollars, buy a stamp and learn more about the influence of money in politics.

“Our goal is to stamp 3.4 million bills – that’s 10% of the currency in New Hampshire – before next February’s presidential primary,”  said Cohen, “It’s monetary jiu-jitsu – we’re using money to get money out of politics”

The Concord “We Rise” rally was one of a nationwide series of actions organized in affiliation with National People’s Action, Center for Popular Democracy, and USAction.   “All across the country, families are taking to the streets, parks and state capitols to send a clear message: ‘Our statehouses and our cities belong to us.  It’s time for legislators to enact our bold agenda to put people and planet first.’”

#WeRise

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