Peace & Justice

Wednesday afternoon at Modesto Peace/Life Center

Wednesdays, the Peace/Life Center is usually open from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. Bring brown bag lunch. Come by for some coffee or tea or to chat or to see a film or browse through various books and magazines. Beverages will be provided.


Saturday, February 23, 2008
Peace Life Center
720 13th St., Modesto
8:30 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.

            8:30 AM                     — Coffee and Conversation

            9:00 AM                     — Business Meeting:

                                                            • Financial Report

                                                            • Committee Reports

                                                            • Election of Board Members

                                                — Discussion:

                                                            • Action plans, ideas and strategies

            12:30 PM                    — Adjournment

For 37 years the Modesto Peace/Life Center has been a meeting place for people concerned about peace, justice, equality, and a sustainable environment.

While the Center is most widely known for its opposition to war, Center programs have also provided education on government policies, and worked to make our community and world a more peaceful and equitable place.

Our newsletter, published for 19 years, provided information on local peace and justice events and was, during the California Nuclear (energy) War of 1970s and ‘80s, a trusted source of information about nuclear power and alternative energy. Replacing the newsletter in 1989, the newspaper format of Stanislaus Connections allowed us to invite more of the community to submit articles and calendar items.

From the first, the Center hosted other organizations: National Organization for Women, Friends Outside, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Committee, Stanislaus Safe Energy Committee (the proposed East Stanislaus/Waterford nuclear reactor was not built!), campaign headquarters for statewide initiatives such as the Nuclear Freeze and the bottle bill (recycling), a Sierra Club consultant working on water issues, and, currently, the League of Women Voters, American Civil Liberties Union.

The Modesto/Peace Life Center, like any volunteer organization, is only as strong and diverse as those committed to working together. Please join us!

My few Americans - Peace Essay Contest 2008 Awards


What issues do local students think are important for our presidential candidates to address?

That is the topic of the 2008 Peace Essay Contest, and 759 fifth to twelfth graders in Stanislaus County have submitted their concerns. Finalists have been chosen and the judges will gather to pick the winners in early February.

We have invited each political parties listed on the Stanislaus County ballot to send a representative to the awards reception in March to receive a set of all those 759 essays.

ACTION: Join us as well on Friday, March 7, 7 p.m. at the Mary Stuart Rogers Student Center on the Modesto Junior College West Campus, 2201 Blue Gum Ave., Modesto

Internationalism, American nationalism, and the anti-war movement

Peace activists have constantly been labeled traitors and anti-American by their political opponents. From time to time, flag burning and anti-American rhetoric has been enacted by individuals at peace demonstrations. This has solidified a stereotype-dichotomy of the USA-loving pro-war camp vs. the USA-hating anti-war camp. This is a false dichotomy but the peace movement has not worked hard enough at addressing this perception.

Many peace activists are internationalists and promote the idea that all humans have the same value regardless of the country they are born in. The concept of internationalism sounds the most inclusive but is just as ambiguous as any “ism” without a clear definition. Some activists have overlooked the fact that Globalization and Neo-Liberal Capitalism are generated by a class of staunch internationalists; an elite group of business leaders and politicians that have a universalized set of interests.

So what is the internationalism of the anti-war movement? If it is an idealistic all-inclusive internationalism: rich and poor are all one organic circle of human society that must pacify each other into “peaceful coexistence”; then it varies little with nationalist fascist idealism; put into an internationalist context. If it is internationalism based on the solidarity of the average working masses vs. the internationalism of the rulers then internationalism is not all inclusive but sets the world stage in a Marxist context of class conflict. No matter how it is defined, the majority of the US population is rarely motivated by the ideals of internationalism in any context. Nationalism is an international ideology that ultimately motivates the political inclinations of any nation and Americans are no exception. 

Ron Paul, 2008 Republican presidential candidate, has proven that flag waving—even gun toting NRA member—Americans can support an anti-war candidate and an anti-war position. During interviews and public debates he has blamed U.S. foreign policy for creating hatred for Americans and the cause for 9/11. He has stated over and over many things that the political Left has for years. Some do find his views offensive but his patriotism has rarely been called into question and, in actuality, his anti-war stance has been viewed by many as a legitimate nationalist position. The reason is due to the fact that he expresses his anti-war rhetoric as an American and in the context of American interests.

This subtle but important difference must be highlighted and analyzed. For example, if a person says, “Killed Iraqis and killed US troops is terrible,” it is different than saying, “Killed US troops and killed Iraqis is terrible.” Both statements are humanitarian and anti-war but the subtlety is critical. For many U.S. citizens it is the priorities of politics that count. To put America first and another nation second frames the political commitment firmly in the best interests of the United States. What does it matter to a foreigner overseas experiencing the violence of U.S. foreign policy if the violence is abated due to an American nationalist—America first—movement? Furthermore, what good is a politically correct and “ideologically pure” anti-war movement if it can’t stop the war? 

Once an anti-war movement can find itself truly entrenched as an authentic nationalist movement it can find an audience to redefine what it means to be American juxtaposed to the official nationalist ideology of those that rule the country. American politicians constantly play on our nationalist sentiments to get the aspirations of their individual interests met. They constantly put international corporate interests ahead of American interests. They get away with this treacherous behavior because they pose as believable vanguards of the American people. There is a great nation called America; it must remain and become even greater. Its current warmongering vanguards and political institutions stand opposed to our further development; not for it. It is time for the anti-war movement to make this painful reality an American issue that the American people finally want to change.

New elected Modesto City Schools Board member proposes local ROTC revival


Former Modesto City School Board member Steve Grenbeaux won a seat on that board in the last November election after taking some years off.

Writing in December issue of MTA Best, the newspaper of the Modesto Teachers Association, the Empire Elementary School teacher championed the return of ROTC to Modesto schools:

“There are three primary issues I feel must be addressed by the board for possible action: student homelessness, peer monitoring, and the ROTC program.

“The military is a great career field for some of our students, and they need an opportunity to learn more about to make informed decisions about their future. ROTC is a program that can help t do that for students and must be revived in our high schools.”

Sammy Galvan wrongful death trial comes to Fresno
Community Alliance

Why was Sammy Galvan shot to death by Modesto Police? The case has led to demonstrations against police brutality, numerous newspaper stories in the Modesto Bee, and now a wrongful death lawsuit will be heard in the Federal Courtroom in Fresno. The jury trial is expected to begin on March 11.

What both the Modesto Police Department and the Galvan family agree on was that Sammy was shot and killed by police officers in the early morning hours of August 24, 2004. According to the complaint filed in court by the Galvan family, Sammy and his girlfriend Yesenia had been arguing. Susan Galvan, Sammy’s mother, called 911 because she wanted Yesenia to stop yelling and banging on the door. Sammy lived in a cottage in the back of the Galvan residence.

When the police arrived, Sammy’s father, Ramon Galvan, unlocked the gate to the cottage. Sammy and Yesenia were by that time in the cottage and everything was quiet. Ramon began to lead the officers to the cottage, but was prevented from getting to the door. Ramon then went out of the back yard to retrieve his dogs and that is when he heard the gunshots. He yelled at the officers asking them what was happening and saw Yesenia being removed from the cottage.

The complaint filed in Federal Court describes what happened inside the cottage:

When the officers appeared at the cottage door to Sammy’s cottage, Yesenia had been inside for a long period of time. The yelling had stopped. Seated on the floor at the foot of the bed, Yesenia saw two police in the doorway next to each other. She stood up and approached them. Each had flashlights shining, which illuminated the otherwise dark room. As she approached to within about two feet of the officers, she saw their guns pointed. Then she looked around; Sammy stood up with a knife in his hand. Sammy was far away from both Yesenia and the officers. He stood between the bed and a wall. A dresser with a television on it, along the wall past the foot of the bed, separated Yesenia and the officers from Sammy. Yesenia heard “put it down”. About the same time, Yesenia also said to Sammy “put it down,” as she lowered herself toward the floor. She was going to kneel down. The officers fired immediately. Bullets flew near her head.

Sammy never moved beyond the bed. He never had a chance to comply with the officers’ command. He fell back. He did not move. His face had an expression of shock. Yesenia saw Sammy on the floor. The officers immediately grabbed her and forcibly put her out of the room.

At no time while the police were on the scene at Sammy’s cottage described above, was Sammy disorderly, or a threat to the safety of himself or that of others. He did not commit any criminal offense.

In the moments after the shooting, as Ramon was standing in the front yard with his dogs, he was told by arriving officers to put his hands behind his back. As he complied with the officer, he said that he had done nothing wrong. Ramon was pushed to the ground and handcuffed. The complaint describes the scene: An officer yelled “I got him! I got him!” to the others, some of whom giggled and laughed. Officers grabbed Ramon by his hands, cuffed now behind his back, and pulled up. His shoulder and arm were injured, and he suffered immediate, sharp pain. An officer placed Ramon in a police car, where he waited for an indeterminate time. While there he saw an ambulance come and take away the body of his son, Sammy.

Ramon, now with his arm broken in three places, was taken to the emergency room of a local hospital where he was interrogated by the police. The lawsuit, which has been filed in the Federal Court in Fresno, will also address the issue of the injuries Ramon sustained the night his son was killed. The case was moved to Fresno in an attempt to get a fair trial.

The police officers involved in the shooting of Sammy are expected to say that they believed their lives were in danger. The knife in Sammy’s hand could have been there because the startled young man grabbed something to protect himself and his girlfriend from the intruders breaking into his house in the middle of the night. That is what the court will decide — if this was a wrongful death or not.

There have been other police shootings in Modesto in recent years. In an incident that happened on September 13, 2000 an officer with the special weapons and tactics team shot and killed 11 year-old Alberto Sepulveda. This happened during a drug raid at the boy’s home. An investigation found the shooting was an accident and the Sepulveda family was paid $2.55 million by the city and another $450,000 by the federal government for its role in the shooting. According to Modesto Anarcho, there have been 9 people fatally shot by the police in Modesto between 2000 and late 2006.

According to organizers of the October 22 Stop Police Brutality demonstration in Fresno, over 44 people have been killed by Fresno police since 1997. When asked if any of these case resulted in a wrongful death judgment by the courts, Ellie Bluestein, who has worked for years to establish an Independent Police Auditor to Fresno said, “I’ve never seen a police shooting declared a wrongful death, but then I’ve only lived here since 1964.” This includes a case where four young Fresnan’s allegedly stole beer from a market in southeast Fresno. They drove a short distance away and then their van was pulled over by the police. All but one of them surrendered, stepping out of the vehicle. Julian Celaya got into the driver’s seat and tried to drive away, but was shot to death in a wall of gunfire — witnesses say 30-40 shots were fired. A young man, 25 years of age was accused of stealing two 12-packs of beer, was shot to death, and the police were found to have used justifiable force in the situation.

The death of Everardo Torres, who had his life stolen on the night of October 27, 2002, is another tragedy. Torres was arrested, handcuffed, and put into the back of a Madera police car. A short time later, police officer Marcy Noriega came over to the car that Torres was in, pulled her service revolver and shot him to death. Noriega says it was all a big mistake, she thought she was using her Taser gun. Torres’s family says Everardo was murdered by the police and they want justice.

The Sammy Galvan case will be watched closely by those concerned with justice and police accountability. For more information about police accountability issues in the Fresno and Modesto area, contact:

Central California Criminal Justice Committee PO Box 4555, Fresno, CA 93744, (559) 229-9807;

Fresno Copwatch, 453 N. Fresno St., Fresno, CA 93701; (559) 498-6033,

Modesto Anarcho,;, PO Box 3027, Modesto, CA 95353.

Survival names ‘terrible ten’: key abusers of tribal peoples’ rights in 2007

From Survival International

To mark UN Human Rights Day (10 December) Survival named the ‘terrible ten’: the key abusers of tribal peoples’ rights in 2007. Indonesia, Australia, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Botswana, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay and Malaysia are all highlighted.

Tribal peoples in West Papua face appalling violence at the hands of the Indonesian military, experiencing killings, arbitrary arrests, rape and torture while their lands are exploited by the Indonesian government and foreign companies.

In Botswana, the government evicted the Bushmen from their land in the Central Kalahari in 2002, and continues to prevent them from returning home, despite a landmark court ruling in 2006 that declared the evictions ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’.

Cattle ranchers occupying Guarani Indian land in Brazil are hiring gunmen to target the Indians. This year two Guarani leaders have been murdered and two Guarani women raped in land conflicts, while at least 26 Guarani have committed suicide.

Peru is home to an estimated 15 of the world’s last uncontacted tribes and all of them are facing extinction as the government opens up their territories to oil companies and illegal loggers flood in. The Peruvian president recently suggested the tribes didn’t exist.

The Ayoreo-Totobiegosode in Paraguay are the last uncontacted Indians south of the Amazon basin. But powerful logging companies are destroying their forest at breakneck speed, and the government is failing to protect them.

In Malaysia, the tribes of Sarawak have had their land taken to make way for logging, dam construction and oil palm plantations. The government has told the nomadic, hunter-gatherer Penan that they have no land rights until they ‘settle down’ and start farming.

Despite supposedly being liberal democracies, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA were the only countries to vote against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was approved by the General Assembly in September this year. 143 countries voted in favour.

Information: contact Miriam Ross, Survival International, 6 Charterhouse Buildings, London EC1M 7ET, UK,

On trust and dialogue: my personal odyssey By MIKO PELED/International Middle East Media Center

IRAQ: An open letter to the U.S. Administration, State Dept. and Defense Dept. regarding Turkish bombing of Kurdish civilians By PEGGY GISH, ANITA DAVID, MICHELE OBED-NAAR, and CLIFF KINDY/Christian Peacemaker Teams

Arizona's Corridor of Death: migrant deaths up in 2007

From Frontera NorteSur (FNS)

Documented deaths of migrants in southern Arizona's so-called "Corridor of Death" rose sharply in 2007. Official statistics from the US Border Patrol's Tucson Sector report 204 migrant deaths during the 2007 fiscal year that ended on September 30 of last year. The death toll represented a 21 percent increase from fiscal year 2006, when 165 deaths were registered.

Sean King, Border Patrol spokesman, attributed the increase in fatalities to the deployment of more Border Patrol agents in the field. King said that with more officers in the field, more migrant bodies which might have gone undetected in the past were recovered.

But Kat Rodriguez, an organizer for the Tucson-based Human Rights Coalition, a non-governmental organization, blamed the additional deaths on tighter US border security measures that encouraged undocumented migrants to undertake risky journeys.

"These deaths are a direct consequence of the militarization of the US border," Rodriguez charged. "So many agents, so much technology is simply forcing undocumented (migrants) to cross through more isolated and dangerous places. We are currently seeing a change of the migration flow towards the desert of New Mexico."

In 2007, the US federal government increased the manpower of the US Border Patrol by 3,000 agents. Washington also expanded border walls in the Yuma, Nogales and Douglas regions, and installed large towers in the region.

Based on reports from medical examiners in the southern Arizona counties of Yuma, Pima and Cochise, the Human Rights Coalition reports a higher death toll for the region than does the Border Patrol. The immigrant rights group cited 237 deaths for FY 2007, a number 32 higher than in FY 2006, when the coalition documented 205 deaths.

In addition to documented deaths, disappearances are a growing problem, Rodriguez added. "It is frustrating to receive the calls of so many people, who only know that their family members crossed through the Arizona desert and then never heard anything more of them," she said.

According to the US Border Patrol, 437 undocumented migrants died in the entire US-Mexico border region during FY 2007.

Source: Frontera/SUN, December 31, 2007. Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico;

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