Cindy Sheehan’s “Tour de Peace” and “No Drones” Action in Fresno

By Cindy Sheehan and Dan Yaseen

We often hear that those who protested abuses of power by President George W. Bush censor such criticisms of Obama. And with many people that’s true; some of them openly admit as much.

But those who have not compromised their activism, those who oppose wars and civil liberties violations today, just as they did several years ago, do exist even if they don’t always have a microphone. A cross-country event this spring is aimed at amplifying their voices.

The Tour de Peace is a bicycle ride from the Vacaville, Calif., grave of Casey Sheehan (killed in Iraq in 2004) to Washington, D.C. Much of the ride follows the historic Route 66, a road that John Steinbeck called the Mother Road in his novel The Grapes of Wrath.

We’re riding because, while we may have a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the White House, we do not have peace. We have expanded presidential war powers, a new type of war fought with flying robots and biweekly meetings in the White House to check names off a “kill list.” We have expanded powers of warrantless spying, imprisonment without trial and retribution against whistleblowers.

We objected to these practices when George W. Bush was president; why shouldn’t we object now?

The U.S. military presence abroad is expanding into new nations with troops and drones. Military spending is draining our economy dry, as every dollar spent on it could have produced more jobs if spent more wisely, such as on education, infrastructure or green energy (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19771950). Is $170 billion a year for foreign bases among the priorities of people in the Central Valley and across the country?

We talk about a war in Afghanistan as if it’s ending while planning to lengthen its duration from 11 years to 13. Most wars didn’t take two years from start to finish. Our new secretary of state once asked how you could ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam. We don’t hear enough people asking such questions about Afghanistan.

We’re riding because, while we have a president who admits that climate change exists, we still have a president and a Congress that work to exacerbate rather than to alleviate it. Fossil fuel corporations are given massive subsidies, and carbon is still not taxed. We’re riding for serious sustainable policies and for government accountability to the people.

We hope to meet many new and old friends along the way, to talk to them about their concerns and to carry those concerns with us to Washington. “This is the beginning,” Steinbeck wrote, “from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into ‘I’, and cuts you off forever from the ‘we.’”

That pessimistic analysis looks ever more accurate, as wealth and power grow ever more concentrated. But we who care about our future together will work to build a broad nonviolent movement among those who do understand the fundamental injustice of a government that does not answer to its people, even while assaulting other people abroad in the name of democracy.

We are extending an open invitation to those who would like to join the Tour de Peace (http://tourdepeace.org) for all or part of the route. We plan to arrive at Arlington National Cemetery on July 3 and proceed from there to the White House. We look forward to being with many of you at our first stop—Fresno!

Peace Fresno, joined by the Fresno Center for Nonviolence and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, will hold a community bike ride and march in Roeding Park on April 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to publicize the Tour de Peace and National Anti-Drone Days of Action in San Diego. You can walk, bike or drive into the park. Walkers and bicyclists enter free; there is a $5 entrance fee per vehicle, and the entry fee is $3 for a vehicle in which a senior citizen (65 or older) is either a passenger or driver.

The event will include a bike ride with Tour de Peace in the park, a march for those without bikes, distribution of information flyers, an opportunity to hear more about the Tour de Peace plans for building and sustaining a peace culture in the United States, worldwide and with Mother Earth, and a focus on building opposition to the latest deadly weapon in the military arsenal—killer and surveillance drones.

The San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice issued a national call for National Anti-Drone Days of Action April 4–7. Peace Fresno is one of the many sponsoring groups. Four Peace Fresno members—Beverly Fitzpatrick, Mike Bridges, Teresa Castillo and Chris Garcia—will be traveling to San Diego to participate in the action.

Why San Diego? San Diego is the drone production capital of the world. San Diego is home to General Atomics, builders of the killer Predator and Reaper drones, and Northrup Grumman, maker of the Global Hawk surveillance drone. Surveillance drones also regularly fly along the border between San Diego and Mexico.

Armed drones are weapons of terror. They kill indiscriminately both suspected terrorists and innocent civilians, children and women. Their presence overhead terrorizes entire communities. Extrajudicial assassinations by killer drones violate U.S. and international law.

Surveillance drones threaten our liberties, spying on communities and borders, invading our personal privacy.

Admirable bike rides are often held to oppose terrible diseases. We believe that war, plutocracy and environmental destruction are diseases with the potential to turn fatal. Ride with us or talk with us when we stop for a breather in Fresno.

*****

Cindy Sheehan’s son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004. In 2005, she began a widely reported protest at then-President George W. Bush’s home in Crawford, Texas.

Dan Yaseen is vice president–membership of Peace Fresno. Contact him at 559-251-3361 or danyaseen@comcast.net.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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