Fight for health, housing and education! Reject militarization!

Report by Keenan Murray

On Saturday, June 8, 2024 around 200 people gathered for a People’s Summit Against US-Led War event at da Vinci Middle School with the theme of “Fight for health, housing and education! Reject militarization!” and eight demands including canceling the Rim of the Pacific naval exercise which takes place in the Pacific and involves the US and its allies. Other demands were JROTC out of Portland Public Schools, ending violence against women and cutting ties with war profiteers. The people’s summit was followed by an action on Sunday and is part of a build up to a larger mobilization that will take place in San Diego on June 29 and 30.

The day kicked off with an initial orientation; the keynote speaker was Brandon Lee who is a Chinese-American environmental and Indigenous rights activist who moved to the Philippines to support the struggles of Indigenous people. Stating that he could only speak to us as “one of many victims of US backed war crimes in the Philippines,” Brandon Lee described his journey from protesting the US war in Afghanistan, to traveling to the Philippines where he joined Nestle workers on their picket lines and learned about the lives of peasant farmers who are forced to subsist on low wages without owning the land on which they toil. The Indigenous peoples of the Cordillera region of the Philippines, collectively known as Igorots, are threatened by large scale mining, hydroelectric, geothermal and wind energy development.

Lee would return to the Philippines after his first trip to spend 3 months in the mountains, and eventually met his partner there and raised a child. He discussed the violence against women and teenage girls that is perpetuated by militarism in general and is connected with US bases in the country. Lee’s activities made him the subject of government surveillance and repression and on August 6th, 2019, he survived an attempted assassination by members of the 54th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He is now a quadraplegic and lives in the US where he continues to speak about US funded human rights abuses in the Philippines. He framed his attempted killing in visceral terms by stating that “I’m certain the bullets in my spine were purchased with US tax dollars.” The brutal regime in the Philippines is directly linked to US military aid and activists have for years been attempting to pass the Philippines Human Rights Act which would restrict this aid until the human rights situation improves. 

This speech was followed by a panel on national liberation movements where five activists with different backgrounds spoke about struggles around the world from Palestine to the Philippines to Africa to Kashmir to Hawaii and how to build international solidarity. After lunch there were two blocks of workshops in the afternoon that included “Youth Resistance Against US Militarism,” “Faith in Action: Understanding the Roots of War and Confronting Growing Militarism” and “Defend Land Defenders! Solidarity with Indigenous Struggles against Climate Imperialism.” I attended a workshop titled Women’s Organizing Against Militarism that discussed the violence done against women, trans and other folks with marginalized gender identities from the high rates of assaulting and human trafficking associated with the hundreds of US bases across the world, to ways that women have organized to resist colonization and oppression. We talked about the cases of sexual harassment and assault that have taken place within JROTC programs such as the one that Portland Public Schools is trying to implement. Lastly the day finished with a musical performance and closing speech.

On Sunday there was an action starting at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge that included speakers from various solidarity organizations, Veterans for Peace, and other groups. The idea was to emphasize the harm done by militarism in our communities by drawing attention to fleet week and the priorities that it represents. annie spoke for XR and discussed the connections between militarism, the rights of immigrants, how the climate crisis increases migration, the need to welcome refugees instead of militarizing our borders and the ecological cost of the military including greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution. After listening to the speakers we marched up along the bridge to chants of “US out of everywhere!” and “Palestine will be free!” before dropping a banner from the railing with “Fight for health, housing and education! Reject militarization!” on it. Kayaktivists from Mosquito Fleet hoisted a banner on the river adjacent to coast guard boats there as security for the naval vessels. After a while we headed back to the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge and people began heading home from there. Overall it gave me a lot to think about, and I was able to do some networking for future organizing. It is critical to continue making connections between the fight against the climate crisis and the fight against capitalism, colonialism and militarism. By rejecting these forces of oppression we can create a world where health, well being and true safety are possible.


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