…to organize war resister support in your community
By Courage to Resist. November 7, 2008
Support networks are a vital part of the war resistance movement: providing political, emotional, and material support to military objectors and helping amplify their stories of resistance lays the foundation for a strong movement and ensures that resisters do not have to go it alone. Through collective aid and alliance, we can act directly to stop unjust war and occupation.
This document contains suggestions about how your local community can get involved in these efforts. Please keep in mind that this is not meant to be a blueprint for what your organizing must look like, but rather, a collection of ideas and possibilities, to provide a starting point for those who are not sure how to begin. Courage to Resist would love to work with you in the future to figure out how these ideas best fit in with your community.
1. Organize regular letter writing parties to show support for war resisters in prison
War Resister Letter-Writing Parties provide a concrete way to show emotional support for war resisters and establish human connections between civilian support networks and troops refusing to fight. The idea is for a group of people to come together and write letters of support to war resisters who are either in prison, awaiting trial, or about to refuse service. However, you are welcome to get as creative as you want with your letter-writing party. You could write letters to the Canadian government asking them to let war resisters stay or to resisters’ families providing them emotional support during a hard time. It is up to you!
One of the benefits of a letter-writing party is that they are relatively easy to pull together. All you need is a space to hold it, paper, envelopes, stamps, and people to attend. We will provide you with a list of profiles and contact information for war resisters and instructions on how to get the letters to them.
Here is our process for organizing a letter-writing party:
- Set the time, date, and location.
- Do outreach via email lists, flyering, local radio and newspapers, and word of mouth
- Set up the space: provide envelopes, stamps, and paper; leave blurbs, articles, and photographs featuring the resisters in a place where all can see; provide snacks; pass around a sign-in sheet with space for email addresses and phone numbers. If you feel comfortable, we would love to get any contacts you make at these events (names, email addresses, phone numbers, as long as folks are willing to share that info with us). That way, we can integrate people into our broader G.I. support network.
- During the actual event, it is up to you how you want to proceed. You might want to leave time at the beginning to speak about each resister and/or have a moment of silence for all of those who have gone to military prison for refusing to fight and those civilians and troops who have died in this war. You also might want to have featured speakers.
Hosting letter-writing parties on a consistent basis is an effective way to build your local war resister support community. If you want to start people thinking about this issue but do not know how, letter-writing parties are a great way to start.
2. Host a War Resister Speaking Event
Bringing a war resister to your community is a great way to raise local awareness and support for the G.I. resistance movement, put anti-war activists in touch with each other, and directly support war resisters. These events can be held in community centers, indymedia spaces, churches, infoshops, or union halls and can incorporate a diverse lineup of other speakers, musicians, and other performers.
We are in touch with several resisters around the country who would be happy to do speaking events. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Please contact us with as much advance notice as possible. At least a month’s notice is ideal, but we will not turn anyone away for contacting us too late. There will not always be someone available to do a speaking event, but we will do what we can to meet your community’s needs.
- Try to give yourself at least three weeks to do outreach for your event, which should include flyering, sending emails, radio PSA, newspaper calendar, and word-of-mouth communication.You can also try and schedule radio interviews with your local station talk shows and the resister.
- Courage to Resist will work with war resisters to decide on honorariums and travel expenses on a case-by-case basis. But please keep in mind that many of these folks have to take time off of their jobs to do these events and would greatly appreciate it if some of their expenses could be covered. You can either ask people for donations at the door or pass a basket after the talk.
3. Help raise money for resister support
Raising funds is an incredibly important part of this work. We currently rely on approximately 2,000 contributors across the U.S. The average donation we receive is just over $40, and about half of our budget goes directly to supporting individual resisters.
Anything your community can do with helping raise funds, either for Courage to Resist or for individual resisters, would be greatly appreciated. Here are some fund raising ideas:
- Host a benefit show
- Hold a raffle
- Host a speaking event
- Throw a fund raising house party
Contributions can be made directly on our website at: www.couragetoresist.org/donate or mailed to our office at 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, CA 94610. Please get in touch if you have any questions or want to throw around fund raising ideas.
4. Create your own media
Helping spread the word about war resistance is an essential component of the G.I. movement against the war. There are many things you can do to spread the word in your local community. Here are just a few:
- Write Op ed letters expressing support for war resisters.
- Do interviews with war resisters and publish them in local indymedia
- Syndicate our war resister radio show on your community radio station
- Write stories and articles and try to get them placed in local media
- Help spread the word about war resisters as their cases arise
- Contact your local radio talk show hosts and see if you can schedule interviews with resisters.
5. Build a base of support for war resisters in your local community
Each of the above organizing points serve the larger goal of building a base of people to provide war resister support in your local community. In the G.I. resistance movement, many emergent situations arise. Resisters might find themselves in need of a place to stay, legal funds, assistance with a family problem, or moral support. A national support campaign might call for rallies throughout the country, letter-writing to Canadian parliament, or speaking tours around the country. Building a community of allies ensures that there is a base in your community that can be mobilized in an emergency.
Keeping these communities intact is important. Hold regular events to keep the issue of war resistance on the mind of your local community. Start a war resister support organization. Get in touch with your local Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and Veterans for Peace (VFP) chapters to find out how you can support them. Be prepared to organize rallies or vigils in support of war resisters when the need arises. And please stay in touch. We always appreciate knowing what you are up to and getting the contact information of allies in your area.
If you are interested in talking with Courage to Resist about organizing war resister support in your community, please send an email to: [email protected]