Report on the UNAC 2017 Conference
As activists met in Richmond, VA for the UNAC conference entitled “Stop the Wars at Home and Abroad: Building a Movement Against War, Injustice & Repression,” the US military was shooting down another Syrian plane from the skies over Syria, and the cop who murdered Philando Castile was being acquitted. Despite these realities, the conference and the movement took a huge step forward, as over 300 people registered for the conference, bringing together people from 31 states as well as nine foreign countries: Canada, Columbia, Hungary, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and Venezuela. The conference was the most diverse by age, race and geography of any antiwar conference or meeting in recent history.
Hosted in Richmond by the UNAC-affiliated Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality, the Friday night through Sunday conference presented a number of panels and workshops on the wars abroad and the wars at home on people of color, workers, immigrants, Muslims and others. The entire conference was professionally live-streamed and recorded by Other Voices, Other Choices, with producer Wilton Vought. The recordings can be seen and heard here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLatnOpu3eZimt5YieDM5MFzDPGe0ZQgzI.
This was the first time that UNAC attempted a conference in the South and away from the major East Coast metropolitan areas. This was due to the number of groups from the South that have recently joined UNAC and an increased pace of struggle in that area of the country.
Speakers at the conference recognized that we are at an extremely dangerous time with current expanding, unending wars, millions of displaced refugees, more than 800 foreign U.S. military bases, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and climate destruction. At the same time, at home, the social safety net is being ravaged, repression of dissent is rising, mass incarceration accelerates, wages and standard of living stagnates and the obscenely wealthy are raking it in. Now, more than ever, we need a strong unified coalition of antiwar and justice movements to fightback against the imperialist war system and win!
We are at the eve of a new movement in this country…I believe that this conference, this coalition will be able to lead and build the kind of anti-war, anti-Imperialist movement that we have to build in this country…As part of that process we have embarked on a new endeavor. We are attempting to build the Black Alliance for Peace, which is a new formation that is committed to reviving the traditional antiwar position of the Black community…which is critical if we are going to build an antiwar movement in this country…but make no mistake, while we are a peaceful people, we believe in peace, we understand that there cannot be peace without justice. – Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace, former VP Candidate of the Green Party
A number of panels and workshops were held at the conference, which included speakers from UNAC affiliated groups and friends. Each panel focused on international or domestic issues, but all contained speakers who addressed both to draw the connection between the wars abroad and the wars at home.
In 2003… I was a member of an international delegation that traveled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi workers…[they told] us how things were worse under the Coalition Provisional Authority than under Saddam Hussein…I came back and I began to organize in my own union, and four years later we were able to shut down all 29 ports on the West Coast. – Clarence Thomas, past Secretary-Treasurer ILWU local 10, San Francisco
One of the key space technologies being used today is so-called “missile defense,” which is actually a key element in US Pentagon first-strike planning. The idea is that the “missile defense” would serve as the shield after a US first strike attack… “Missile defense” used to be illegal under the US/Russia ABM Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that George Bush withdrew the US from. – Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.
Two sessions of workshops were also held and included topics on NATO expansion, building the antiwar movement, drone warfare, environmental justice, the “color revolutions,” the peace process in Columbia, youth activism, the Black Alliance for Peace and more.
US troops are still conducting military games on our lands. American facilities are now being constructed because of the Asia pivot and the New Deal in 2014, and right now the US is mysteriously undertaking anti-terror, anti-ISIS activities in Mindanao. Meanwhile, a war is raging in our homeland; there is a vibrant mass movement resisting US military intervention. – Raymond Palatino, Chair, Metro-Manila chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Manila, Philippines.
North Korea has repeatedly offered to freeze its nuclear weapons development in exchange for an assurance from the United States that it will not attack. There is a double standard that the US employs in relation to North Korea. While it condemns North Korea for its missile tests, the United States continuously tests ballistic missiles. – Hyun Lee, Managing Editor, ZoominKorea
The final panel of the weekend, held on Sunday morning, was called “Building a More Powerful Movement for Justice and Peace.” The panel can be seen and heard here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vyvAkBLPMI&index=10&list=PLatnOpu3eZimt5YieDM5MFzDPGe0ZQgzI. On this panel, leaders of several organizations with different experiences brought their ideas to the conference in the hope of building a stronger movement. This panel was followed by the presentation of an action proposal and an open mic to discuss the proposal and how we could best move forward. Based on the discussion, the unanimously adopted proposal was modified. The final version can be found here: http://nepajac.org/actionproposal2017.htm. .
The action proposal started with a reaffirmation of the founding principles of UNAC: “UNAC reaffirms its commitment to the organization of independent, mass action, united front mobilizations against all U.S. wars at home and abroad. Unity in action against the endless imperialist wars for power and profit is inseparable from the same necessary unity at home against the inherent racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-working class policies generated by a society ruled by the one percent.” The proposal went on to assert that UNAC will organize and support actions along these lines and will expand our leadership bodies to broaden and strengthen our coalition.
I’m so glad to be here once again for the UNAC conference. The people’s Organization for Progress considers itself a member of UNAC, and we are encouraging other organizations at the local level to join UNAC because today, more than ever before, we need a peace movement…but the peace movement will not rise to the level that it needs to rise unless it is closely and directly connected with the Black Liberation struggle … and let me say this, the Black Liberation movement will not be able to achieve its goals unless we are connected with the peace movement and the other movements that exist here in the United States of America. – Lawrence Hamm, Peoples Organization for Progress.
UNAC has demanded an end to the wars abroad and at home for a number of years now. I’m well acquainted with the leadership and, of course, Margaret (Kimberley), and I know that the leadership is not talking about these wars at home in just the metaphorical sense but they are talking about a real war… Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report.
The conference concluded with a march from the Richmond Conference Center to Richmond’s African Burial Ground in Shockoe Bottom, once the epicenter of the US domestic slave trade, where we declared our support for the ongoing struggle to reclaim, expand and properly memorialize that site.
This [Shockoe Bottom] was the first and only…burial ground where Black people were permitted to be buried in the city of Richmond…Gabriel, who along with hundreds of others, attempted to lead a rebellion on August 30 of 1800 and gave his life on the gallows on this spot…Gabriel’s son and every generation of that family appointed a historian to carry that story forward. Ana Edwards, Chair, Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project.
The conference represented the rapidly changing consciousness of the people of the US. It represented the coming together of the antiwar movement with a significant section of Black leaders and international guests who have a clear understand of what is needed for our movement today and how all the issues discussed are interconnected. There was a consensus that the wars abroad and at home stem from the same source – the integrated corporate, financial, military, political machine at the top. The importance of having a broad coalition and building UNAC was stressed by speakers and attendees throughout the conference. Given the state of the US and the world today, it is essential that we build on this conference by strengthening our movements and our collaborative efforts. We urge all to go to the UNAC web site (http://UNACpeace.org) to join our email list and have your organizations join our coalition
End the Wars at Home and Abroad!
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