Tuesday, July 12, 2016

First Amendment on Trial: Our Democracy Spring

Contact: For Immediate Release
Pete Perry, 202-704-3963 July 12, 2016


Democracy Spring Activists Conclude Their First Amendment
Trial, Await Judgement


Washington, DC -- Four activists who took part in Democracy Spring’s week of peaceful protests at the Capitol Building calling for corporate money to be removed from the American political process are waiting a decision in their trial before D.C. Magistrate Judge Diane Lepley.

On Monday, the government prosecutor and the defendants concluded their closing arguments. Lepley scheduled the decision in the case for 9:00 a.m. Friday, July 15, in D.C. Superior Court, Room 116. Defendants Peter Perry of Philadelphia, Manijeh Saba of New Jersey, and Helen Schietinger of Washington, D.C. are defending themselves in court. Defendant Alexander Park of Virginia is being represented by Attorney Mark Goldstone.

The four activists participated in Democracy Spring’s week-long protests on Capitol Hill, resulting in more than 1,400 arrests. This included the largest single protest arrest on the Capitol grounds since the Vietnam War.

“We came to the Capitol Grounds to peacefully petition our government to ban vast amounts of unaccountable corporate dark money flooding our political process,” said pro-se defendant Perry in the defense’s closing argument. “Our intention was never to block or impede anyone, or incommode any entranceway, and we did not. Our intention, as we all testified, was to exercise our First Amendment rights.”

The defendants are being charged with Crowding, Blocking and Incommoding on the Capitol Grounds and Failure to Obey a Lawful Order.

“Too much power is being handed over to the police, we must defend our rights. These rights are enshrined in the Constitution, which I took an oath to protect and uphold when I was granted citizenship 40 years ago,” said pro-se defendant Saba. “I already lived through two dictatorships in Iran, and would not wish that on anyone else. I am committed to defending and protecting our democracy.”

In her opening statement, Schietinger asserted that "the rule prohibiting protests in this traditional public space is an unreasonable and arbitrary violation of our Constitutional right of free speech.” She compared the Democracy Spring sit-ins at the steps of the U.S. Capitol — the People’s House — to the June sit-in by members of Congress in the House of Representatives demanding a vote on gun control. "They actually stopped the business of Congress. They were not arrested. They should not have been arrested. But neither should we.”

Democracy Spring is an organization formed this year from a coalition of citizen groups deeply concerned about the influence of big money in American politics, and committed to making voting more accessible for all citizens. It plans to participate in the protests during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25-29.

Democracy Spring’s current campaign is the Equal Voice for All Declaration, which calls on current members of Congress and candidates for public office at any level of government — from President to City Council — to commit to fight for reform to save our democracy and ensure political equality. The Declaration is a tool to establish public commitments from elected officials or candidates that can be used to demonstrate the breadth of support for reform, educate voters about what candidates to support, and hold candidates-elect accountable to honor their commitment by fighting to pass reform.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Philly Restaurants -- My first two reviews!

Bruno and I are enjoying ourselves as we settle into our new home city. Future posts will cover my recent activism and my life-work at New Jerusalem Now. But this post will touch upon my great love of exploring new restaurants!

OK, so I love walking the bustling streets of Chinatown Philly! What I have noticed is the boba (or bubble) tea phenomena has exploded in popularity. There must be about a dozen establishments here dedicating their focus to this. Also, where else can you find several Internet Cafes within a five block radius without jumping into a time machine and journeying back to the mid to late 1990s? A bit odd. But perhaps I will explore those two types of businesses in future posts. Now back to food. Honestly, I love Chinese food and would not have a problem eating it every day if given the chance!

Pho 20 -- Located up on the northern end of Chinatown Philly is this family run establish with generous hours (unlike many places in the neighborhood, this one actually stays open past 10pm). The summer rolls were delicate, paper thin rice pastry like it should be and the fillings were fresh and extremely tasty. For pho I ordered the beef flank, and it was truly a special experience. The broth was sublime and absolutely pleased the palette as soon as it touched the tongue. The beef seemed fresh and cooked medium, which is just right -- moist, not overly rubbery or dried out.

I can't wait to return to Pho 20. The price was very reasonable, and probably the best summer rolls and pho I have ever had. 234 N. 10th Street, at the corner with Winter Street. Rating 4 Stars

Tom's Dim Sum -- Formerly known as Dim Sum Garden, this establishment is not in a very attractive location. It is across from the Hilton Garden Hotel, where 11th Street is covered, trapping in a lot of exhaust fumes. And on the same block as Jefferson Station for the SEPTA Regional commuter trains. I had seaweed salad, fishball soup, and a vegetable bun for $12.10! The seaweed salad seemed fresh and tasted just as good as any of the same dish I have had at some upscale Japanese restaurants. The fishball soup was delicious, aromatic and intensely favorable broth, the veggie steamed bun was also great, some nice filling featuring among other things minced mushrooms and seitan.

I also look forward to my next trip (will order the scallion pancakes which I was happy to see on the menu) to this little casual place with a modern and very clean decor. 59 N. 11th Street. Rating 3.5 Stars

1 Star is like McDonalds. 4 Stars is the best there is for its cuisine.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

2016! And why I didn't have a post in 2015...

I know it has been a long time since I have written in this blog, I guess some might have written it off as long-dormant, and probably to be forgotten. 2016 will certainly bring changes into my life and more spiritual development. I look forward to the remaining 358 days.

I joined a community house in Syracuse, and tried to make it a Catholic Worker house of hospitality. I faced a lot of disagreements, and the various ideas for a mission, from the individuals involved, were never on the same page. Then there was anger and a lot of frustration. Now there is a lot of uncomfortable silence. There were some personality clashes (I accept my role in that). I am not pointing any fingers. Maybe I was wrong to push my vision. The house here has been many things over its 40 years of existence. But it seems like its longest running mission was being a part of the Central American Sanctuary movement and offering hospitality to that affected community on a family scale for about 10 years (mid-80s to mid-90s). This time around it did not gel and the former occupant, the organizational founder, Jail Ministry, will move its offices back in here this summer (it moved out a year and a half ago).

I will in the short-term be living with my sister and her husband in Philadelphia. Bruno, my most awesome and very loving basset hound, will of course come with me. I will be there during a search for a community to join. I still lean toward a Catholic Worker community, but it does not have to be one. I have been making contacts and tentative plans to visit communities that are dedicated to working with and for the poor in Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia. Of the three, Connecticut is sort of lowest on my preference list, as I would like to be significantly closer to my parents than I am right now in Syrcause. Their health is not well, particularly my mother.

This move to Philadelphia will happen in six weeks. I am excited about it. Hope to explore the city and get to know and possibly volunteer with Sr. Margaret McKenna. She co-founded and runs the New Jerusalem Community, and she is a well-respected peace and social justice activist.

Currently spending a lot of time with Bruno and reading (right now Francis and Jesus by Bodo). Also praying for continued guidance and inspiration. Already thinking about my next blog entry!

Lastly, I am grateful to all my friends and family who have been supportive of me as I stumble through life, trying to follow God. I also hope that the anger here will subside and we can wish each other well as we part ways.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Visiting communities and the election in DC

On Tuesday, I returned from a 16-day journey to the Midwest to visit two Catholic Worker communities. The first was in Kansas City and the second one was in Davenport, IA, and I must say they are very different. I loved KC and I would probably want to live there if it was on the East Coast. They provide breakfast, showers, laundry services, and free second-hand clothes to homeless folks three times a week. In addition, they have a small urban farm, which includes more than two dozen egg-laying hens, honey bees, fruit trees, okra, bell pepper, and much more! I also think the four regular CW members: Jodi, Eric, Allison, and Lonnie are remarkable people. Davenport on the other hand is small, basically two houses of hospitality for long-term guests run by one amazing CW member, Michael. I will be upfront in saying that I developed quite a crush on Michael, but I think I am growing past that now. For a number of reasons, I don't think Davenport would be a great fit for me over the long-run. I also witnessed a lot of good resources for the homeless in the Quad Cities area, so I think that there are many urban areas with severe unmet needs, and I would be more drawn to those places. Also, there's a lot to be said for living as part of a larger group of f-t Catholic Workers. And, as for my early comment about the East Coast, I think with parents aging and becoming more vulnerable, I do feel called to be within a less than 10-hour drive of them. So with that said, the next two CW communities I will be visiting next month will be on the East Coast, and while not really close to D.C. -- significantly closer than Iowa or Missouri.

It is getting down to election time in D.C., and I have had the great pleasure of volunteering for Eugene Puryear's campaign for City Council. His public positions resonate strongly with my own views powered by my belief system. And the good news is he has a fairly good chance of winning! Early voting begins Monday. And I will be working closely with the camping during these last two weeks! This evening, I did a bit of outreach for Eugene at the mayoral debate at Anacostia High.
Anyhow, check out Eugene's Website. If you are progressive like me, I am sure you will love his candidacy.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Changing my life

I surprised myself to realize just how long it has been since I last wote a blog entry. A lot has changed in my life, but I think even greater change is just around the corner. As I type this long-awaited blog entry at a little after 2 a.m. on September 27, I realize my view of the world, and my life in  particular, continues to evolve. I hope my activism becomes much more proactive, rather than reactive. I also want to embrace my share of responsibility for creating more peace and justice in the world. I grow weary of attending protests and vigils where we seem to be just appealing to "the powers that be" rather than seizing the initiative ourselves.

Furthermore, my spirituality which I often silenced or suppressed, has now truly begun to blossom. I now wish to grow and nourish my relationship with God. To me my activism was never separate from my spirituality. My belief in pursuing justice, doing good, and resisting violence in the world has always been very important to me. The causes I have worked on may be political, but my energy and commitment has always stemmed from my core beliefs. These actions and campaigns have been more than just merely political for me. And I am interested in living in community with others similarly committed.

In 48 hours from now I will be more than half way through a Greyhound bus ride to Kansas City. That will be my first stop on a tour of Catholic Worker communities I will consider joining. I don't believe I have been this excited about anything in my life since my move to Seattle when I was 27. I am listening to a voice inside me, and I feel I am heeding a call. Last winter and into the spring I found intense happiness interacting with some of my homeless neighbors. I have shared food and conversation with them. I feel I have gotten to know two of them. I hope to do this kind of work full-time and build community around it. This is to a large degree what the Catholic Worker movement is all about.

In 2004, when I became intensely involved in the anti-war movement, I was always deeply impressed with the Catholic Workers. Their commitment to nonviolence and building a more just world for those most oppressed and ignored in our midst quickly resonated with me. However, I was supposed to try and succeed at a typical career, after all isn't that what I went to school for? Is it not what my parents expect? But you see, I feel disconnected from God when I only focus on my "career," and I feel it puts greater distance between myself and my brothers and sisters I observe just struggling to simply survive. I feel called to act in a way that may help build just a little bit of justice in the world, or maybe it will only result in lessening the suffering of just a couple brothers and sisters. Either way, I want to be present for those struggling with loneliness, hunger, addiction, homelessness. I want to serve, in some small capacity, the stranger who comes to the door seeking refuge.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Perhaps this intention to serve is just a little bit selfish. I don't want an empty life, I wish for it to have more value than just holding a decent job, being a "good citizen," doing what is "expected" of me and for me. Living God's love is doing/being/living for others. Thank you for reading, and God bless.

Monday, December 30, 2013

End of 2013

2013 was not a great year, but there were a few exciting highlights, such as my great trip to Ecuador. As I expected, I loved this small South American republic. I stayed nearly the whole time in Cuenca (except for the first night in the capital city of Quito), which is rapidly becoming a major haven for ex-pats from the U.S. and Canada. It is a charming small city, about one-third the size of D.C. I can easily see myself retiring here in a city with several museums, where you can buy fresh produce from an amazing farmer's market, and have a three-course lunch for under $3. Where you can relax in a nice park next to a huge cathedral for hours and then wander the streets until you find a quaint cafe where you can have a cafe con tinto for $1.50.

2014 will be a better year. I am sure of it. After seven months of unemployment, next week I will begin a digital archives job in downtown D.C. I also plan to begin yoga regularly and continue to live frugally in order to save some money for my next trip to South America. I am very glad I am getting back into the field I want to continue with (archives), and I am also on the host committee for the Society of American Archivists 2014 Conference, which will be here in my hometown this year.

I won't be as stressed out about bills and transportation costs. I think Bruno and I will continue to be happy. Activism will still be around, but it won't dominate my life. Look forward to more gaming and more healthy living!

Here's a great recipe that went over well for Christmas when I made it... Cranberry & Quinoa Bread!

While I continue to worry about the people of the U.S., I am generally happy with the direction my life is going in. But I think it is terrible, and a crime, that unemployment benefits were suddenly cut off for 1.3 million of my fellow citizens over this past weekend. And I am aware that between 50 and 60 million of my fellow citizens are living in poverty. Meanwhile the richest 1 percent owns more than 40 percent of the wealth. Here's a great data visualization illustrating the wealth inequality. A significant, and revolutionary, change is over due.

Now I am looking forward to ringing in the New Year. And having brunch with my buddy Steve and a couple other friends on 1/1/14! Cheers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Anarchism vs. The Green Party

"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." ~ Emma Goldman, anarchist leader and philosopher
"It's time to bring the global pro-democracy movement into the belly of the beast." ~ Howie Hawkins, co-founder of the Green Party U.S.

During the last three years, I have on occasion described myself politically as an anarchist. And now I have a confession to make. I am not a very good anarchist. I write this now, as I believe there is still some utility to voting within the current capitalist-imperialist structure of the U.S. government. I vote for Green Party candidates. I have thought for a while now about this internal conflict of mine. I do believe that most humans have come to a point in their evolution where they don't really need a large centralized government managing their social customs, enacting laws over their lives. We certainly can now handle direct democracy and find it far more preferable over the corrupt and quite literally broken (well, it's not broken for the elite) form of representative government we have here in Washington, D.C. Well, we citizens of the District of Columbia don't even have that representation. So, why do I vote Green, and why am I recently becoming more involved with the local D.C. Statehood-Green Party if I call myself an anarchist?

Philosophically there is a lot in anarchism that I deeply agree with. However, I am not convinced that our society has completely lost all need for government. I think our society no longer needs, nor deserves, this current government. I think the poor and most vulnerable, and the most oppressed by The State, deserve protection. They deserve support from the community as a whole. And, no, small collective communities practicing their own direct democracy assemblies are not adequate at this point to fulfill these needs on their own. Perhaps sometime in the distant future when we have reverted, or are in a post-revolution landscape, have gone back to smaller, mostly agrarian communities we will be able to do this. But we don't have this capacity, or sadly in many cases, the willpower to provide this safety net.

Here in the imperial U.S. we live in a highly materialistic society where we love our small electronic gadgets built from minerals mined in places such as the Congo (the most violent place in the world thanks to armies owned by various corporations) and constructed by near-slave labor in China. I sometimes find it absurd and tragic when I find myself bemoaning materialism and what drives it -- capitalism -- with my other progressive friends via our smartphones. And this current capitalist-imperialist government continually gives corporate tax breaks and subsidies to these same multinational corporations who violate human rights in the name of profit.

Even many of my progressive friends who have adopted and supposedly fully embraced anarchism, pay taxes. They may not vote, but they still pay taxes -- lest they be put away inside the prison industrial complex in the imperial U.S. Why vote if you don't want to support or partake in "the system," but yet you still pay taxes to this monster which spends more than 50 percent of its discretionary spending on past, present and future wars abroad, and the police/surveillance state here at home?

I guess I vote, because I want to overturn the current imperial-capitalist structure by any means necessary. Yes, any means. I still protest. I still organize with others from various backgrounds and groups/organizations. And I see my involvement in the D.C. Statehood-Green Party also as an avenue to organize for a far more progressive, non-capitalist future, beyond simply the ballot box. [Because this coming revolution will rely on good old fashioned people power.] Although the ballot box is still part of my picture. I also, quite frankly, find myself in full agreement with the Green Party's Ten Key Values.

Although I have often shared the cynicism and rage against Election Day that Emma Goldman posits in the first quote in this essay, I think voting does/can make a significant difference in society, particularly to those most vulnerable. I spent a good part of today with Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, as they were recognizing that today was Human Rights Day; 65 years ago the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights was enacted. They demanded that the out of control military budget be cut, so that rights -- such as a right to food and a right to health care be preserved. Nearly half of all Americans are now living in poverty. That should be an eyeopener if it isn't already.

I also want to recognize the importance of anarchy in many social movements from the labor movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, to more recently Occupy. However, Occupy was not inspired by anarchy -- although its form of organizing and decision making borrows from the anarchist model. It was inspired largely by the pro-democracy movements happening around the globe, most notably the Arab Spring. Those movements were driven primarily by young people, many anti-authoritarian, but I would suggest they were not anarchist. They simply wanted to overthrow outdated, horribly corrupt, elitist regimes. As do I.