Advocates push for a series of bills embracing peace and opposing war

The Just Peace RI coalition championed five pieces of legislation in support of a more peaceful world.

Rhode Island News: Advocates push for a series of bills embracing peace and opposing war

June 2, 2023, 8:04 am

By Steve Ahlquist

Just Peace RI, a coalition of Rhode Island based organizations that promote peace and oppose war, held a press conference outside the Rhode Island State House on Thursday afternoon to call attention to bills, introduced this session in the General Assembly, in support of a more peaceful world. The event was emceed by Jonathan Daly-LaBelle, a Just Peace RI organizer.

See video here:

Just Peace RI supports numerous "peace bills" at State House press conference

The bills include a resolution welcoming the Golden Rule Peace Boat (H6173/S0674), a “historical icon and a symbol that continues to sail as a testament to its message of peace.” The Golden Rule is scheduled to visit Narragansett Bay, resting at India Point Park, then at Rockwell Park in Bristol Harbor, June 11 to June 13.

Robert Watt, a Just Peace RI organizer, cited fellow veteran and Quaker, Albert Bigelow, the original captain of the Golden Rule Peace Boat back in 1958:

The Golden Rule did not change the course of history,” said Watt. “It did express a need for change. We were not heroic. Our hardships were minor, our suffering did not amount to much. We were not unusual. The only unusual thing is that it should be thought unusual to stand up for principles. That’s what we are all brought up to do, isn’t it? The human experience is to stand for a principle, is it not? It was the idea that was important. We were guided to the right approach: an appeal to decency and fair play. We really couldn’t lose. We held a trump card. The suit was hearts. What the Golden Rule said was, ‘We are not telling you what to think, but we are saying, in the most dramatic way we can, that there is a need to think.’

Watt added, “We need to think about what is the practicality of our nuclear expansion at a time our priority should be nuclear abolition.”

Another piece of legislation promoted by Just Peace RI (H6312/S0865) would require the state investment commission to identify pension fund investments in military weapon manufacturers, whether held directly or indirectly. This legislation, say Just Peace RI, has the support of General Treasurer James Diossa.

“This pension identification legislation is fairly simple, designed to get this sense of where our investments are and how they are performing. We are glad to have the support of General Treasurer Diossa’s office,” said Senator Tiara Mack (Democrat, District 6, Providence). “More broadly, there seems to be growing interest and greater awareness that to improve quality of life in this country we need to move away from our massive military spending. Funds for the expansion of our nuclear arsenal means less money to address poverty, less toward education, and desperately needed housing and health care. Does military spending at our current pace really make us safer? Nearly one in seven children in America are living in poverty, which is a real danger to Americans’ well-being.”

Senator Tiara Mack

A third bill, related to holidays and days of special observance (H5452/S1017) would change the name of the holiday on the second Monday of August from Victory Day to Peace and Remembrance Day.

“Rhode Island is the only state in the United States that has Victory Day. Why can’t it be the first state to affirm a commitment to work for peace and remember all the men, women and children who suffer and die in military conflict?” asked Representative Jennifer Stewart (Democrat, District 59, Pawtucket) “Teaching United States history means grappling with the concept of total war and engaging with the numerous wars in which the United States has been involved. During these conflicts, a constant has been civilian suffering. Although our advancing weaponry and technology might lessen the need for many soldiers fighting on the ground, it has not lessened civilian misery. By changing the name of this holiday, we can remember what so many Americans fought and sacrificed for – military and civilian alike. They did not fight and sacrifice so we’d later end up like our opponents – unable to engage in honest reassessments of our past and unable to question our policies and priorities.”

Representative Jennifer Stewart

A fourth bill would finalize an initiative begun last last year urging the federal government to pursue a broad range of measures to reduce the danger of nuclear war. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) resolution (H5973) is sponsored by Representative Mia Ackerman (Democrat, District 45, Lincoln). The resolution urges the Federal government to spearhead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons in a “first strike” – ending the President’s sole authority to launch a nuclear attack, taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, canceling any plan to replace or modernize its nuclear arsenal with enhanced nuclear weapons, and actively pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. The resolution also urges the President and the Senate of the United States to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. A matching resolution from Senator Mack passed the Senate on a 32-4 vote May of last year.

The final bill supported by Just Peace is a joint resolution from Representative Enrique Sanchez (Democrat, District 9, Providence) (H5727) that would create a special legislative commission to study and provide recommendations to safeguard Rhode Island against nuclear weapons. If passed, the commission would hold at least five public hearings in different parts of Rhode Island to solicit testimony from the public and to inform citizens and legislators about the humanitarian consequences from the use of nuclear weapons. The topics of employment, technologies, and industries within Rhode Island devoted to both nuclear weapons and climate change shall be addressed.

Representative Enrique Sanchez

Just Peace is a coalition of local and national advocacy groups including Just Peace RI, East Bay Citizens for Peace, Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign, Code Pink, Pax Christi RI, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, BLM RI PAC, No Endless War or Excessive Militarism, and the ANSWER Coalition.

“Recent research shows that poverty is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States,” said Peter Nightingale, from the Rhode Island’s Poor People’s Campaign. “The climate catastrophe and a nuclear holocaust are existential threats to humanity as a whole. It is long overdue that we cast national security and our spending priorities in terms that respect these facts.”