AFSC to join June 3rd civil disobedience over Yugoslavia

Michael Shell BrightCrow at InfoAve.Net
Fri May 28 19:31:52 JEST 1999


Dear Friends,

At a teleconference of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Board
Executive Committee (BEC) today, May 28, 1999, it was decided that the AFSC
will participate as an organization in an interfaith rally at the White
House on Thursday, June 3,1999.  Jim Matlack of AFSC'S DC office will also
organize a demonstration at the Yugoslav mission which may be joined by
other members of the National Coalition for Peace in Yugoslavia, in order
to visibly demonstrate our concern for the ethnic violence perpetrated by
the Yugoslavs as well as the devastation of the US/NATO bombing.  The BEC
has approved AFSC staff participation in the civil disobedience aspect of
this public witness.

Here is the Executive Committee Draft Minute 5/28/99:

"The Board Executive Committee, in behalf of the Board, approved AFSC
participation in the National Coalition for Peace in Yugoslavia, an newly
formed group.  They also approved AFSC participation in a proposed
protest/possible civil disobedience by this group on June 3, 1999, in
Washington, DC, regarding the escalating violence in Yugoslavia.  While the
Coalition's plans call for a protest at the White House, approval was given
for a simultaneous protest at the Yugoslavia Embassy in DC, and an urging
for other members of the Coalition to join us in this action.  The AFSC
staff were directed to prepare a statement for distribution outlining what
is AFSC's affirmative response to this crisis."

This minute follows an earlier AFSC Board decision minuted in April, 1999:

"We believe that the AFSC should play a pivotal role in bringing together
religious leaders, peace groups and other allies to map out a strategy of
public advocacy for the cessation of all violence in the region, the
implementation of nonviolent responses to the ethnic conflict, and for the
reconciliation and reconstruction that will be essential to achieving a
just and lasting peace in Yugoslavia.  We affirm staff in moving forward to
realize this vision with the guidance of appropriate committees."

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The following is a memo sent to the BEC by Mike Yarrow, AFSC's Kosovo Peace
Education Coordinator, in preparation for today's teleconference:

"On May 6 a group of traditional peace groups and faith-based organizations
with a concern for peace met in New York and decided to form the National
Coalition for Peace in Yugoslavia (see statement and list of member
organizations below).  The meeting was attended by Jack Patterson, Joe
Volk, Michael Simmons, Mike Yarrow and Michael Poulshock from Friends
organizations.  We decided to have a press conference in Washington DC on
May 20.  At that conference Carolyn Matthews of the Europe Program
testified to our work in the region and our concern for peace.  The
conference was attended by approximately 10 news organizations.  There was
an article in the LA Times, but we are not aware of other significant
coverage.

"After the meeting we met and decided in view of the escalating bombing and
threat of a ground war we would organize an civil disobedience protest at
the White House on Thursday June 3rd.  We decided to not postpone the
action too long because of the urgency of the crisis. So far Bishop
Gumbleton of Detroit, John Dear, Director of FOR, and Ann Scott, a Quaker
from the Bay Area, committed themselves to be arrested. On Wednesday, May
26 the Program Team decided to recommend that the AFSC participate in the
civil disobedience.  Last evening, May 27, there was a conference call
which included Jim Matlack and Mike Yarrow from AFSC and Kathy Guthrie from
FCNL to plan the civil disobedience. 

"John Dear of FOR wrote a letter to the president asking for a meeting on
June 3rd.  If our interfaith delegation is invited to meet with the
president, we would not commit civil disobedience.  If we are not invited ,
the plan is to meet in LaFayette Park (we have a permit for this rally),
across from the White House, at 11 a.m. and after statements from leaders,
the leaders will walk to the sidewalk in front of the White House or up the
drive way and be arrested, others would then follow and get arrested
separately.  We are planning that people participating in the civil
disobedience will contact one of the sponsoring organizations before hand
and have non-violence training.  It is evidently illegal to stop on the
sidewalk in front of the White House.  A press liaison has been hired to
maximize the coverage of our message.  

"It is our sense that we are in a very critical period.  Nato has approved
50,000 ground troops in countries neighboring Yugoslavia and Milosevic has
been indicted as a war criminal.  We are afraid the US is turning its back
on the possibility of a negotiated settlement and is pursuing total
"victory."  On the other hand, there is increasing opposition to the war in
this country, in congress and in Europe.

"If the AFSC, through this action, can strengthen the voices of opposition
to this war, encourage staff, board and committee members to a strenuous
effort to effective public witness against all the violence, we may play an
important role.  During the conference call last night, the participants
approved a series of future actions including sending delegations or
individual communications to members of congress during the week of June
7-11, protesting commencement speeches by Albright and Clinton in the
Chicago area in mid June and a variety of local actions on June 24, at the
end of the 3rd month of bombing."

Mike Yarrow
Kosovo Peace Education Coordinator
American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street 
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Tel:215 523-5693
Fax:215 241-7177
E-mail: mnyarrow at afsc.org

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Here is the membership of the National Coalition for Peace in Yugoslavia as
of 5/20/99:

American Friends Service Committee
Church of the Brethren, Washington Office
Episcopal Peace Fellowship
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Fourth Freedom Forum
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Fund for New Priorities in America
Mennonite Central Committee
National Priorities Project
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Pax Christi USA
Peace Action
Sojourners
US-Indochina Reconciliation Project
Veterans for Peace
War Resisters League
Women's Action for New Directions
Women's International League for Peace & Freedom

The following is the Coalitions public statement:

AN APPEAL FOR PEACE IN YUGOSLAVIA

"We speak out of deepening concern and anguish over the continued bloodshed
and human suffering in Yugoslavia.  We call for an immediate end to NATO
bombing and intensified efforts to bring a just peace in Kosovo.  We
condemn the atrocities and human rights abuses committed by Serbian forces
in Kosovo, and we do not believe that NATO bombing will solve the problem.
We are also horrified by the environmental degradation caused by the
bombing, with its long-term consequences for all the people of the region.

"We seek a solution that ends the killing and destruction on the ground and
from the air.  Proposals for diplomatic settlement have been put forth by a
number of governments and institutions of the international community.  We
encourage all efforts made in good faith toward a diplomatic solution and
strongly urge our nation's leaders to pursue nonviolent alternatives.

"We urge an immediate cease-fire; a halt to NATO air attacks; and
negotiations involving all interested parties.  An end to the bombing is a
prerequisite for any peace process to begin.  We support the return of OSCE
monitors in conjunction with the introduction of a truly international
peacekeeping operation that would monitor the activities of the Serbian
military force and the Kosovo Liberation Army."

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Friends, please join with me in holding this concern in the Light.

Michael.




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