PEACEBUILDING AT THE CA DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION IN LOS ANGELES
By Nancy Merritt, CA Peace Alliance
The California Democratic Party (CDP) adopted language by the California Peace Alliance calling for promotion of national institutions “based on the organizing principles of violence prevention and nonviolent conflict resolution, utilizing and developing a network of ‘best practice’ peacebuilding policies and programs, both within UN member states, and externally among nations.”
We took our message of peacebuilding to the recent CDP convention in Los Angeles (March 7-9, 2014) and succeeded in getting new peacebuilding language into the 2014 CDP Platform, and in retaining most of our 2012 CDP Platform language.
We also collected letters to almost all of California’s Congressional delegation — to 51 of 53 CA Representatives — urging them to cosponsor Department of Peacebuilding legislation (DoP/ HR808), which was introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) in February 2013. The letters generated interest in the “building” aspect of the Department of Peacebuilding. Letter writers included three generations from one Southern CA family.
|CDP as a whole voted to include our new 2014 Platform language, stating that the Party will:
Amidst the chorus of causes, concerns and candidates, we connected with current and potential public servants and with convention delegates and attendees about the DoP legislation, the Youth PROMISE Act (HR1318, S1307), restorative practices and peacebuilding in general. We advocated that violence prevention is the right thing; it saves lives and money; and is more efficient and cost-effective than dealing with harm after conflict erupts into violence. Our display, our message, our volunteers were compelling enough that one delegate called a friend who was at work and told her to brave the Los Angeles traffic to visit our booth. She did that and she wrote a letter to her member of Congress.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) stopped by our convention booth, thanked us for our peace work, and advocated for members of Congress to cosponsor the Department of Peacebuilding bill (see video). We interacted with many other members of Congress including Ami Bera (CA-07), Alan Grayson (FL-09), Mike Honda (CA-17), Scott Peters (CA-52), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Maxine Waters (CA-43) and others.
From the moment we walked in and were issued hotel room key cards plastered with candidate information, to the last bus ride from convention center back to the hotel – where one of our CA Peace Alliance volunteers talked peace with an Oakland foster care advocate – we connected with hundreds of people to build upon our history with the CDP. The weekend was a potpourri of people, peacebuilding and policy.
I. POLICY MATTERS & THE CDP PLATFORM
Policy matters. It impacts our world and reflects our dreams and our nightmares. Where we focus our resources – our time, our energy, our money – speaks to who we are and what we want to be as individuals, as a nation and as a world community. Building peace includes prioritizing peace as a part of our public agenda. Peace is personal and peace is policy.
Two years ago, the CA Peace Alliance achieved our long-time goal of infusing the CDP 2012 Platform with peacebuilding ideals. Last summer, we succeeded in getting the CDP to endorse DoP legislation as one of its five pieces of endorsed federal legislation. The DoP legislation calls for peacbuilding measures to address the cycle of violence both domestically and internationally. In July 2013, the CDP also adopted our “Resolution in Support of Peacebuilding.”
That resolution acknowledges that “violence in America cuts across age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, ethnicity, religion, and nationality, and negatively impacts the quality of life, erodes social values and standards of morality, deteriorates national morale, and creates a culture that systematically reproduces violence by the use of force and violence as means of defense and security domestically and internationally.”
In adopting CA Peace Alliance resolution, the CDP “encourages state and national legislatures to support research by government agencies and NGOs to identify and address the root causes of violence in our society, and supports the implementation of education and training programs in nonviolent conflict resolution in public agencies and in public schools and supports policy initiatives that will advance peacebuilding domestically and internationally on the local, state, and national level.”
Only days before the CDP convention, the Canadian Liberal Party adopted in its Platform a call for establishment of a governmental institution for peace, stating that Canada has a constitutional responsibility for “peace, order and good government … making the federal government’s pursuit of peace an obligation, not an option,” and elaborating that “peace can prevail and endure only if we create institutions dedicated to promoting a culture of peace and non-violence …”
Peace is an obligation of the government, not an option. Peace can prevail and endure only if we create institutions dedicated to promoting a culture of peace and nonviolence. That’s the message we took to the CDP 2014 Platform committee.
A. CDP PLATFORM & CA PEACE ALLIANCE WORLD PEACE LANGUAGE
Our quest to permeate the CPD Platform with peace began in 2011 and 2012 when we succeeded in interspersing peacebuilding language throughout the CPD 2012 Platform. In the fall of 2013, we submitted new language for the 2014 Platform and worked to retain our 2012 language in the new Platform. When the draft 2014 Platform was released in January, we began the process of submitting, advocating for and working with the Platform Committee on peacebuilding amendments to the World Peace and International Relations Plank.
We testified before the Platform Committee on the first day of the convention, and, throughout the weekend, we checked back to make sure our language was incorporated into the final version of the 2014 Platform. (This involved some detective work to keep track of the individual who was finalizing the Platform document.)
While Platform Committee policy does not permit reference to specific legislation, such as the Department of Peacebuilding legislation, the committee accepted our language into the World Peace plank and the CDP as a whole voted to include our new 2014 Platform language, stating that the Party will:
- Support the advancement of programs that will end the cycle of violence to ultimately promote peace, rule of law, and human rights for increased security and prosperity at home.
- Actively promote the establishment of national institutions based on the organizing principles of violence prevention and nonviolent conflict resolution, utilizing and developing a network of “best practice” peacebuilding policies and programs, both within UN member states, and externally among nations.
B. RETAINED CA PEACE ALLIANCE PLATFORM LANGUAGE
In addition to the new World Peace Plank language, we resubmitted our peacebuilding language which was incorporated into 7 other planks of the 2012 CDP Platform, including the following planks: Business and Economy, Children, Criminal Justice, Education, Energy, Agriculture and Food Safety, and Veterans and Military Families.
Examples of our retained language include:
- Our Children’s Plank language provides that CA Democrats commit to “promote policies and support agencies that are responsible for providing mental health services, domestic violence prevention, gang prevention, anti-bullying programs, substance abuse prevention, parenting skills, and other social services that are critical to the health and well-being of children and families in need.”
- Our Criminal Justice Plank language provides that CA Democrats commit to “support community-based groups to work within existing social and criminal justice programs to foster communication with law enforcement; oppose using prisons and jails as de facto mental health facilities and fight to adequately fund community mental health and substance abuse programs; promote strong families and communities by reducing prison recidivism and making rehabilitation, education and job readiness priorities within our state prison system.”
- Our Education Plank language provides that CA Democrats will “ensure a safe educational environment and school culture where students and staff do not feel threatened, and are free from bullying and harassment, by providing training and education in, tolerance, mediation, peaceful conflict resolution, and counseling.”
- Our Veterans and Military Families Plank language mandates that CA Democrats “insist that the federal Department of Veterans Affairs provide comprehensive and timely, wrap-around health and mental healthcare to all veterans and their families, including those with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which will decrease incidents of domestic violence and suicide.”
C. OTHER PEACEBUILDING LANGUAGE
- The Anti-human Trafficking Plank states, in part, “every person is endowed with inalienable human rights, including the right to individual autonomy and to be free from violence and exploitations.”
- The National Security Plank recognizes that our national security depends primarily upon a strong economy, a stable federal budget, a stable environment and our perception in the world as a responsible member of the world community. “We are opposed to the notion of world domination and are committed to a foreign policy that holds the use of military force as the last option for national defense, to be used only when available diplomatic and preventive options have been exhausted …”
II. THE PEOPLE
The delegates, the office holders, the candidates, the voters … they were all there, the people of the party, the party in the people.
A. CONVENTION DELEGATES AND ATTENDEES
We met Democrats from throughout the State who have helped us on our journey through the CDP Resolutions, Legislative, Rules and Platform Committees. Supporters of the DoP legislation include hundreds of CDP delegates and Party and elected officials, such as CA Democratic Party Chair John Burton, State Senator Mark Leno and labor leader Delores Huerta. DoP supporters in the CDP also include: CDP Regions (3, 5, 6, 8, 18); Democratic Counties and Country Central Committees, i.e. DCCs (Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Lake, Madera, Marin, Nevada, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Trinity, Yuba); CDP officials (Sue Gallagher); and clubs (Lake County Stonewall Democratic Club, Nevada County Democratic Women’s Club, Oakhurst Democratic Club, Turlock Democratic Club).
These DoP supporters and more signed on to our “Resolution in Support of Peacebuilding,” including: CDP Regions (3, 4, 5, 8, 16, 18); DCCs (Alameda, Madera, Marin, Nevada, Sacramento, Sutter, Trinity, Yuba); CDP Officials such as CDP Secretary Daraka Larimore-Hall, Carolyn Fowler, Carol Lutness, Susie Shannon, Mike Thaller, Leah Herzberg, Marilyn Grunwald, Dorothy Reik, Mister Phillips, Igor Tregub, Jim Firth; CDP Clubs (Democratic Club of the High Desert, Lake County Stonewall Democratic Club, Los Angeles County Stonewall Democratic Club, Nevada County Democratic Women’s Club, Oakhurst Democratic Club, Turlock Democratic Club, and Yes We Can Democratic Club of Long Beach).
Many of the caucuses, their leadership and their members have partnered with us on strengthening peacebuilding policy within the CDP, including the African American caucus, the Progressive caucus, and the Rural caucus. At this convention, we attended caucus meetings and/or hospitality suites with the following caucuses: African American, Arab American, Computer & Internet, Business & Professional, Disabilities, Environmental, Progressive, Rural, Women’s and Young Democrats. We have also been in contact with others such as the Children’s caucus.
We ran into some long-time Peace Alliance friends including TPA cofounder (and current Congressional Independent candidate) Marianne Williamson, former CA Inland Empire State Coordinator Bobbi Jo Chavarria, and former CA Student Peace Alliance leader Nicole Nabulsi. Marianne Williamson said she was joyful about our progress with the CDP and was glad we were there.
B. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE CANDIDATE KIND
The candidates were everywhere. They lined up to speak at the caucus meeting. They were in the general sessions, in the hallways, in the restaurants and restrooms, at the exhibitor booths, in the hotel lobby and in the elevators. Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Brown, John Perez signs magically appeared at the general sessions amidst signs: “Enact a Fracking Moratorium,” “Healthcare Not Warfare,” “Disclosure Political Funders Here,” “Support a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding.” Candidates and their supporters hosted events, passed out buttons, stickers, candidate baseball cards, flyers, and cookies. We attended candidate hospitality events, including a party thrown by Mike McGuire (CA State Senate District 2 candidate).
But, most of all, current and future policymakers were accessible and open to listening to our concerns. CA Peace Alliance volunteer and CDP Delegate Maggi Koren said, “I forgot about the oodles of networking we can do with friends, strangers, with those who are elected and those who are campaigning. I forgot that everybody is listening deeply because they want our vote especially since they know conventioneers will talk about them when they return home. The CDP Convention is always a work in progress and everyone is hoping that their project will be recognized.” We were there to urge current and future policymakers to support establishment of a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding and to make peacebuilding a national priority.
We spoke with many current and prospective legislators to request their support or thank them for supporting HR 808, YPA and peacebuilding programs and policies, including many of the following:
- Candidates &/ or current members of Congress: Rep. Ami Bera (CD07), Rep. Alan Grayson (FL09), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN05), Democratic Congressional Candidate Heidi Hall (CA01), Rep. Mike Honda (CA17), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA13), Democratic Congressional Candidate Dave Peiser (CA49), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA12), Rep. Scott Peters (CA52), Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA36), Congressional Candidate David Sanchez (CA40), Rep. Maxine Waters (CA43), and Independent Congressional Candidate Marianne Williamson (CA33).
- Then, to name a few, there were the candidates &/ or current CA State officials & legislators and candidates for regional and local offices: Jerry Brown (current & candidate for future CA Governor), John Chiang (current State Controller & candidate for CA Treasurer), Teresa Cos (candidate for CA State Assembly District 25), Sandra Fluke (candidate for CA State Senate District 26), Kamala Harris (current & candidate for CA Attorney General), Dave Jones (current & candidate for CA Insurance Commissioner), Mark Leno (current CA State Senator), Mike McGuire (CA State Senate SD02 Candidate), Gavin Newsom (current & candidate for Lieutenant Governor), Alex Padilla (current State Senator & candidate for Secretary of State), John Perez (current CA Assembly Speaker AD53 & candidate for State Controller), Dr. Rita Ramirez (candidate for Superintendent of Schools, San Bernardino County), Tim Sheridan (candidate for CA Assembly District 42), Nancy Skinner (current AD15 & possible CA Senate candidate in 2016), Tom Torlakson (current & candidate for CA Superintendent of Public Instruction), Tony Thurmond (CA Assembly District 15 Candidate), and Betty Yee (current State Board of Equalization member & candidate for State Controller).
- And the Party officials were there: CDP Party Chair John Burton, Vice Chair Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker, Vice Chair Eric Bauman, Secretary Daraka Larimore-Hall, Controller Hilary Crosby.
C. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE PEOPLE KIND
We attended meetings and talked with people everywhere, including the elevators, the bus to convention center, the local Starbucks, the hotel roof top restaurant. We went into the lobbies and we walked the lines of individuals waiting to get into events, such as one featuring Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. There were some touching and inspiring moments:
- A young man from the Disability caucus told us about being beat up two years ago and said he wanted put violence prevention language in the Disabilities Plank.
- A woman from the African American caucus advocated for removing the word “fight” from proposed Platform language. We spoke in support of that and said we like to say call “emphasis” points, rather than “bullet” points. Many definitions of fight include inflicting harm, using physical harm such as blows or fists to over power somebody, going to war. The Platform Committee took time to talk about the importance and impact of language.
- Houston Mayor Annise Parker, in her address to the general session, thanked the State of California for allowing her to marry the woman with whom she has shared her life for 23 years. They wed in CA recently.
- Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, talked about transforming the city of Baltimore from a place of despair, drugs, crime and violence to a community that believed in itself and took the path of cleaning up the trash, closing the open air drug markets, directing people to drug treatment, encouraging mentoring … rebuilding the future, one life at a time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tlWAmBy6Rs [See also www.cadem.org for other convention video presentations.]
- CA Attorney General Kamala Harris talked about growing up with an activist mother and having a stroller’s eye view of civil and human rights demonstrations. She also said, “There is a direct link between public education and public safety.” Children who don’t read at third grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school and 82% of U.S. prison inmates are dropouts.
- On the 400-mile trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles, we encountered many signs in the fields about the CA drought and water crisis. The signs said, “Farm Water Cuts = Higher Food Costs” and “No Water (to) Valley Farms = No Jobs.” Elected officials and others are making the connection between the drought, job losses, the possibility of farm workers being forced to move into overcrowded housing, the likelihood of overcrowding and economic problems increasing incidents of domestic violence, the loss of jobs and stable housing leading to a drop in school attendance and the corresponding loss of State funds by school districts, and the relationship between school dropout rates and prisons … the cycle of violence …
III. THE CA PEACE ALLIANCE MESSAGING & VOLUNTEERS
At our booth – and as we fanned out into the convention – we reiterated the importance of peacebuilding. Our Gandhi/ Martin Luther King poster states, “One dream can change everything … U.S. Department of Peace[building]” and another poster says “Peace: It Takes a Village.”
We created a new “Peacebuilding” poster for the convention that calls for peacebuilding to end the epidemic of violence at home and abroad and elaborates that peacebuilding is practical, preventative, cost-effective, restorative, transformative and evidence-based. “Peacebuilding is endorsed by the CA Democratic Party. Urge our elected officials to make peacebuilding a national priority! Ask them to Support: the U.S. Department of Peacebuilding (H.R. 808) and the Youth PROMISE Act (H.R. 1318, S. 1307).”
Our Peace Alliance banners and postcards included the theme, “Amplify Your Voice.” We displayed information about DoP Congressional cosponsors, endorsing government entities, and endorsing organizations.
One volunteer, Brian Gibbs, videotaped and posted on youtube our messages and Congresswoman Lee’s message:
• Brian Gibbs (San Diego) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9OZVkJEFdA)
• Maggi Koren (Johnson) (Sonoma County) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r4AvNpp8j4),
• Lily Marie (Nevada County) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EheqrqnDLUg),
• Nancy Merritt (San Francisco Bay Area) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3XPSOwjoEo),
• Lorrie Norby (Marin County) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V7jA0KFUgg),
We also connected with many on future collaborations and events.
B. VOLUNTEERS: OUR HEART & SOUL
Volunteers and our long-time peace messengers are the heart and soul of our peacebuilding journey. Peace Alliance supporters traveled from throughout CA to participate in the convention. Others who couldn’t travel contributed ideas, money, posters, postcards, banners, printing costs, supplies, transportation, lodging and moral support. We thank our CA Peace Alliance Democratic Endorsement team, the convention volunteers and those who worked behind the scenes.
CA Peace Alliance Democratic Endorsement team. This team includes Brian Gibbs (San Diego), Maggi Koren (Sonoma), Lily Marie (Nevada County), Nancy Merritt (San Francisco Bay Area), Lorrie Norby (Marin County), Josh Roebuck (Oakland/ Alameda County), and Jerilyn Stapleton (Los Angeles).
At the convention. These folks came to the convention to dialogue, lobby, advocate, network, table, and connect. Most are TPA supporters. Some also represent other groups such as Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), Compassionate Cities, Peacemakers Project, Season for Nonviolence/ Sonoma, the UNA and others: Julie Beezley (LA – So. CA), Marshall Burns (LA – So. CA), Lorna Farnum (LA – So. CA – MFSO), Jamie La Rosa (LA – So. CA – MFSO), Peter Formosa (Woodland Hills – So. CA) (Peacemakers Project), Sally Formosa (Woodland Hills – So. CA) (Peacemakers Project), Jo Ann Gaines (LA – So. CA), Brian Gibbs (San Diego – So. CA), Maggi Koren (Windsor – No. CA) (Delegate), Lily Marie (Rough-and-Ready – No. CA), Doug Merritt (San Francisco Bay Area– No. CA), Nancy Merritt (San Francisco Bay Area – No. CA), Lorrie Norby (Mill Valley – No. CA), and Ida Unger (So. CA).
Behind the scenes. Those who worked behind the scenes and contributed in many ways, include: an anonymous donor (Grass Valley), Pete Beauregard (San Diego), Brian Gibbs (San Diego), Virginia Hilker (Torrance), Judy Kimmel (Mill Valley), Maggi Koren (Sonoma), Lily Marie (Rough-and-Ready), Terry Mason (Los Angeles), Amy McQuillan (San Diego), Doug Merritt (San Francisco Bay Area), Nancy Merritt (San Francisco Bay Area), Kendra Mon (Petaluma), Josh Roebuck (Oakland), Elisabeth Scharbaum (Oakland), Seniors for Peace (Mill Valley), Jerilyn Stapleton (Los Angeles), and Stephanie Thomas (Berkeley).
Thanks to all for peace-ing it together.
Northern CA State Coordinator
The Peace Alliance/
Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding