Fighting for Climate Justice, in the Streets and in the Court

by Melinda Tuhus, PAR reader and environmental activist

I was one of 15 elders arrested back in June for sitting in rocking chairs in the street for about a half-hour in front of JP Morgan Chase’s credit card headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. It’s an impressive building, with an impressive sculpture of an eagle with outstretched wings flying from a tall pedestal – a perfect spot for two of us to unfurl a big banner calling on President Joe Biden and Chase Bank to do the right thing and stop investing in fossil fuel projects. Chase is by far the biggest investor in such planet- and people-killing practices.

In our trial for disorderly conduct that took place on November 12 – the last scheduled day of the COP 26 global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland – Judge Kerry Taylor allowed the 11 pro se defendants (acting without a lawyer) to submit reports about the climate crisis and the role of banks in funding it.

We pursued a “choice of evils” strategy, which under Dela-ware law allows someone to break the law to prevent a greater “imminent” harm. The prosecutor, who was the arresting officer, kept asking defendants who took the witness stand how their blocking the road prevented “imminent” harm that would justify the inconvenience to motorists who were delayed for a short time. Defendants testified to the drastic “imminent” harms already occurring due to climate change, like the fact that on the day of the protest, temperatures reached 108 degrees in the Northwest, part of a multi-day heatwave that killed at least 600 humans and a billion sea creatures.

Getting this documentation into the record was historic, as judges almost never allow a choice of evils defense – also known as a necessity defense. It was part of our carefully crafted four-prong strategy: presenting the science; present-ing an expert witness who talked about the health impacts of the climate crisis; presenting documentation about the role of banks and Chase Bank in particular in funding the crisis; and presenting another expert witness who testified about the success of taking nonviolent direct action in winning climate concessions from a different bank.
After all that, Judge Taylor found us guilty.

I am more committed than ever to having a regular presence outside the Chase Bank branch in downtown New Haven in the month of December to continue putting pressure on the bank to stop funding fossil fuel projects, as part of a national campaign. Please contact me at melinda.tuhus@gmail.com. Put CHASE in CAPS in the subject line if you would like to help.

For the full story in the New Haven Independent: www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/why_we_rocked_for_climate_justice

Dangers of Tweed Airport Expansion

by Rachel Heerema, 10,000 Hawks

10,000 Hawks is an all-volunteer group of neighbors and concerned citizens working together for a high quality of life for all in East Haven and New Haven. We have many shared concerns and wishes for our families and future generations.

Right now, the most significant impact on our lives is the proposed Tweed expansion. Go to www.10000hawks.org to review primary documents and news articles.

Here are the bare bones of our concerns with the Tweed Airport 5-year Master Plan:

  • Six gates in a new terminal sited on extant wetlands with harmful impacts on wildlife and water
  • 15-16 flights a day with +3,000 cars a day on residential streets
  • Noise and air pollution in a 5-mile radius
  • Tweed floodplain will be underwater by 2050, due to estimated sea level rise of 20′
  • East Haven and New Haven home values will drop, and long-time residents may leave
  • The recommendation that the main runway should be extended to 7,600′ within the next 20 years

Additionally, the 43-year lease agreement contains language that supports eminent domain procedures and cargo flight approval processes.

Join us. Here are two email addresses to know. 1) 10000hawks@gmail.com to sign up for weekly updates and join weekly advocacy calls. 2) hvn-ea@mjinc.com to make a public comment on the Environmental Assessment currently underway.

The best comments to make ask questions that the Assessment should investigate and consider.  Contact Rachel Heerema at 10000hawks@gmail.com with questions.

Employment Opportunity: Part-time Director of Development, Flexible Hours

by Susan Bramhall, NHLSCP

The New Haven / Leon Sister City Project is seeking a part-time Director of Development to join our team as employee or self-employed. We are passionate about our work to connect and support the people of New Haven and Nicaragua. We are looking for a mission-driven, well-organized person who seeks to use great communications skills to connect the people of New Haven to the people of Nicaragua.

The primary work of the NH/LSCP in León, Nicaragua is to support community-based initiatives in the rural communities of Goyena and Troilo and to facilitate programs and projects that improve public health and community-based education, support women’s rights, and address root causes of poverty. In New Haven we work to build new projects and coalitions to confront the climate change crisis. In both communities we work to build local leadership and capacity and address causes of poverty and injustice.
Patty Nuelsen, our long-time Director of Development, will be retiring in the coming months. We believe that we have the opportunity to increase our use of social media and technology, along with person-to-person contact, to carry our work and message of connection to a new generation. The position can be largely remote and the hours can be flexible. This is not a traditional siloed non-profit development position – our Director of Development will be connected to the work we do and the people who are doing that work. We think this opportunity is ideal for someone skilled at organizing projects, who wants to work with a wonderful team delivering important change in the world. Our Director of Development will use communication and networking skills to connect current and future supporters to our values and mission.

Please don’t be shy! We are very interested to hear from you if you are interested in this position. Please see newhavenleon.org/nhlscp-job-opening-pt-director-of-development for the full job announcement.

Reminder: People’s World Amistad Awards, Saturday, Dec. 11

As reported in PAR last month, this year’s People’s World Amistad Awards will be held virtually Saturday, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. The theme is MAKING GOOD TROUBLE Together We Rise for a Hopeful Future.

This year’s awardees are in the forefront of fighting for the rights of essential workers and all workers regardless of immigration status during the COVID pandemic, and organizing for spending priorities that address racial equity, climate change, voting rights and the common good. They represent the kind of unity, solidarity and vision needed to build the movement that can transform our country to put people, peace and planet before profits.

Awardees are:

State Sen. Julie Kushner, Senate Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee; Pastor Rodney Wade, Senior Pastor of Long Hill Bible Church in Waterbury; and Azucena Santiago, a courageous leader with 32BJ SEIU in the fight for union rights and health protections for service plaza workers.

The Awards are hosted by CT People’s World on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of the Communist Party USA. As part of this celebration, there will be a special tribute to Art Perlo for his dedication and work in the struggle for equality, peace and justice.

There will also be a special “IN SOLIDARITY” recognition of the contract fight of unions at Yale, and the AFT/community struggle to keep maternity services at Windham Hospital. Spanish language interpretation will be available.

Register here.  Or, please call (203) 624-4254 or email CT-PWW@pobox.com.

Have an Idea to Clean Up Your Community? Want Funding for It?

by Lynne Bonnett, Greater New Haven Green Fund

The Greater New Haven Green Fund is now receiving applications for small community grants up to $10,000 that engage and empower citizens and organizations to help create clean, healthy and environmentally sustainable communities in New Haven, Hamden, East Haven and Woodbridge.
If you are interested in applying for a grant please visit our website: http://www.gnhgreenfund.org for more information and to access the application.

We can be reached by emailing us at info@gnhgreenfund.org to set up a time to chat or answer any questions that you might have.

The online application is open now and will close at the end of Jan., 2022.

Kensington Playground Halloween Party and Update

by Susan Klein, Friends of Kensington Playground

On Sunday afternoon, October 31, Friends of Kensington Playground (FOKP) hosted a hugely successful Halloween Party. For three hours, while the park was filled with happy children and families playing games, decorating pumpkins, eating and talking and laughing, the playground’s potential became a reality. This is what that space can always mean to the neighborhood, and it’s wonderful that people came out to make it so.

We thank Chapel West, Greater Dwight Development Corporation, Brick Oven Pizza, El Coqui, MaMa Mary’s, Stop & Shop, Triple AAA Pizza, and individuals for their co-sponsorship.  Thanks also to the Parks Department, Health Department, and Youth Services Department of the City for their help with permits and advice on COVID safety.

Games were set up on the grassy area along the fence; costumed kids of all sizes tossed rings over pumpkins, threw bean bags at orange balloons, spun hula hoops, and decorated 50 pumpkins. It was heartwarming to see the playground used as intended. Kids ran around in the sunshine while parents snapped photos or sat on park benches and chairs in the shade of KP’s 25 tall trees. The neighborhood was alive and connected and having a great time outdoors, the same as in other parks the city maintains and improves. The vibe was similar to that at Goffe Street Park’s new splashpad ribbon-cutting two weeks before, just as joyful and well-attended.

Besides holding bicycle, clothing and school supplies giveaways in KP, FOKP has obtained written approval from eight Community Management Teams for a resolution to present to city officials, mandating at least one playground per neighborhood with playscape, splashpad, and tall trees.

Our ongoing lawsuit over lack of due process in the decision to develop KP has led to a change in the developer’s plans, enabling renovation of their existing properties to proceed independently. We remain hopeful that our efforts will result in the city reclaiming/saving this valuable and irreplaceable neighborhood greenspace. Please visit our website at www.kensingtonplayground.org to get involved, sign our petition, and donate toward our lawsuit to save Kensington Playground.

NHFPL Hosts Holiday Bazaar

by Gina Bingham, NHFPL

The New Haven Free Public Library invites all residents to support small businesses and entrepreneurs this holiday season and is excited to host a holiday bazaar featuring participants in the library’s Ives Squared Make to Sell program.  The Make to Sell Holiday Bazaar will be Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Main Ives Library, 133 Elm Street. Products featured include bath and body luxuries, candles, baked goods, leather accessories, face masks, and more. Please note that some vendors may only accept cash.

Vendors who will be present at the bazaar include:

  • Dimitri Cotman of Z.Nith Point LLC
  • Shelara Pullen of Glam-TShields
  • Zara Salmon of CRAVEinfused
  • Jordan Taylor of LegallyBlack
  • Donna Berlanda of Sustainable Accessories and Fiber Art
  • Michael Ziff Leather Goods
  • April Snell of Cake Confessions

The Make to Sell program is a new endeavor by NHFPL’s Ives Squared team in conjunction with CT Next and the New Haven Innovation Collaborative to help provide underserved, early-stage entrepreneurs with concrete tools to build and launch online sales businesses. Fifteen individuals were selected for the first Make to Sell cohort and have worked diligently to launch their small businesses by taking classes taught by local small business experts, meeting with library staff mentors, and consulting with an onsite Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Creative-in-Residence.

Ives Squared inspires and augments the vibrant civic and entrepreneurial culture of New Haven by offering open access to a free business coworking co-op and makerspace.

For more information, please contact Gina Bingham: (203) 946-8835; gbingham@nhfpl.org.

Community Mobile Crisis Response Team Is Hiring

by Annie Harper, PhD, Program for Recovery and Community Health

JOB ALERT!! People from New Haven – come work for the new Crisis Response team. CommuniCare is hiring for multiple positions for a Community Crisis Response Team being developed with the City of New Haven, CMHC, Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health, and The Consultation Center.

Jobs include Community Crisis Coordinator LCSW (FT), Community Crisis LMSW (FT/PT), Community Crisis Peer Supporter (RSS or Recovery Coach) (FT/PT).

Info: communicare-ct.org – look for the jobs titled ‘Community Crisis…….’

In Memory of Robin Latta Tweedy (1950-2021)

On October 23, after a 20-month battle with ovarian cancer, our friend, sister activist, humanitarian Robin Latta Tweedy passed on. Many PAR readers knew her and worked alongside her for years in numerous campaigns for peace, disability rights, affordable housing, universal single-payer healthcare, prison reform, immigrant rights, etc.

Although Robin lived in Branford, she was often in New Haven to be part of rallies and actions. Through the years she would buy PAR subscriptions for friends so they could learn more about the various struggles of the activist communities and find opportunities to become involved.

Robin was a pace-setter, one of the first women to work at United Illuminating, first as a meter reader, and later in “the Underground.” The men on her job learned that their chauvinism was no longer to be tolerated. Thank you, Robin, for making the way easier for all the women who followed you in the previously-called “non-traditional jobs.”

She later got a degree in social work, and merged her career with her concerns for bettering people’s lives and fighting for justice.

When her parents could no longer care for themselves in Florida, she moved them to her home and was the caregiver for them both. She will always be remembered for her love, sense of justice, and willingness to help people on all levels.

When Mary Johnson, one of PAR’s founding members, was in CT Hospice in March, 2016, Robin asked for, and received, permission to have an International Women’s Day party there. Because of Robin’s stellar idea, twenty people celebrated International Women’s Day with Mary (who was discharged from Hospice later that week and lived until August, 2017).

Robin led the Coalition for People’s campaign in demanding the main branch of the New Haven Library do the necessary upkeep for the handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and that they also remove the extra set of very heavy glass doors that were in front of the wheelchair-accessible doorway.

Robin was part of Fight the Hike, which demanded an end to exorbitant electric rates. She met with Branford legislators as well as state legislators, and presented testimony in public hearings in Hartford, often referring to corporations’ practices of waste and ineptitude that she witnessed when she worked at United Illuminating.

Robin was also a dedicated animal lover and had a number of pets. For years she rescued feral cats and found homes for them. Robin believed every creature deserved a home, comfort and love.

She was a supporter of union struggles, demonstrated in peace rallies, stood up to racists, fought for justice, and in all ways loved being an activist. She took part in the weekly vigil of the New Haven Peace Council with activist Jim Pandaru. We at PAR thank Jim for allowing us to reprint his condolences when he learned of Robin’s passing.

We are heartbroken to learn that Robin, our dear friend, sister activist, and a uniquely spiritual human being, has passed away. I believe that the sad emptiness we now feel without her presence will soon be replaced by all the wonderful memories and her lasting legacy of who she was and what she stood for in life. Carrying on where Robin left off will be a lasting tribute to her.

We in the Peace Council will surely miss her friendship and unwavering commitment, presence and camaraderie in helping us distribute flyers at our Friday vigils every single week for over two years before COVID-19 hit. May she rest in peace and her memory be eternal.

At this time the date for a memorial gathering has not been finalized.

Her husband James Tweedy predeceased her. Our condolences to Robin’s sister, Pat Latta of Thornton, Colorado, dear friends Debbie Elkin and Janis Underwood, devoted caretakers of her cats (and of Robin) Jennifer Ford and Gary Cimmino, and all who knew and loved her.

North Haven Forum on Climate Change Convenes Forum to Reduce Fossil Fuel Use

By Kenny Foscue, North Haven Clean Energy Task Force

One of our North Haven Clean Energy Task Force’s successes is that we meet quarterly with our 1st Selectman Mike Freda and collaborate on campaigns, etc. We recently decided it was time to “circle back” to town residents to make sure they are making the link between human-caused climate change and the many storms, tornadoes and floods that have plagued our town. We wanted to present “news you can use” about what you can do, with a focus on the home.

Last week, we sponsored a forum on climate change, with a focus on Connecticut, with information about what residents could do to reduce fossil fuel use. Robert Klee from the Yale School of the Environment and Yale Law School, and former DEEP Commissioner spoke; Mauro Diaz-Hernandez of the Yale Center on Climate and Health presented on environmental and public health impacts of climate change, and I presented on specific measures and programs for residents. The forum was taped by the local cable TV station and was “not filmed before a live audience” because of COVID concerns. The link is below and also on our town’s home page. We have been promoting it on Facebook and other sites. Please take a look – we think it might be a good model for other towns – a way of trying to make sure we are continuing to “bring folks along.” vimeopro.com/northhaventv/nhtv-on-demand-videos/video/643697440

In Memory of Marge Van Cleef (1935-2021)

Many PAR readers from New Haven during the ’80s through early 2000s worked with and were greatly influenced by long-time New Haven activist Marge Van Cleef. On October 26, Marge passed on in Philadelphia.

Marge was an organizer and activist in many peace and justice groups and international solidarity organizations, a teacher and a church organist. She introduced many activists to the need for non-violent civil disobedience in the course of various protests, and wrote many articles and leaflets. She was tenacious and consistently urged people to pay attention in the struggle for justice.

In the 1980s, Marge was in Educators for Social Responsibility, and, along with Sally Joughin (who helped found PAR years later), visited classrooms to discuss with the students the views of Soviet children, nuclear weapons, how government decisions impact the students and how students can impact the government. Marge and Sally developed a full curriculum and got permission from social studies teachers to talk with over 100 classrooms.

Marge was active in many groups and was looked to as a leader. Some of the groups are the Pledge of Resistance, the Coalition to Stop Trident, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, New Haven Coalition Against War in the Gulf, and Peace and Justice News and Views.

Her activism continued when she moved to Philadelphia in 2004. The Brandywine Peace Community shared these words from Tina Shelton, Marge’s colleague in the Philadelphia branch of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom:

Marge died on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, at the age of 86. Our friend, leader, challenger, organizer, valiant and tireless peace activist has breathed her last.

Her intellectual prowess was admired as much as her steadfast hold on her ideals. She read widely and integrated her constant learning into her action. She challenged our opinions and helped us to take another look, while staunch-ly advocating for anti-capitalism, anti-racism, and against all war and violence.

She and her partner, Bill Dyson, created a monthly vigil against drones, recognizing that drones were potentially able to gain acceptance as a less lethal form of warfare, a view that she was determined to work against.

Her communities, including Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom [WILPF], Greater Philadelphia Branch and the National Disarm Committee, Brandywine Peace Community, Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition, Catholic Peace Fellowship and others, valued her political and intellectual expertise, consistently speaking truth to power through civil disobedience and demonstrations…

The following excerpts are from her obituary notice. It can be read in its entirety at https://hrfuneral.com/tribute/ details/876/Marjorie-Van-Cleef/obituary.html

Marge was a teacher and advocate for social justice. She was committed to a world without weapons, to the protection of the environment, and to equal justice. This led her to vigil and demonstrate, and to be a witness through civil disobedience when necessary. She participated fully in many peacemaking groups – as an organizer, strategist, teacher, and friend. These groups are too numerous to mention, but included Women Against Military Madness, the Trident Coalition, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Atlantic Life Community, Witness for Peace, and SANE/Freeze. She amassed several collections of significant documents related to this work and those collections are housed at colleges and universities in the United States.

In lieu of flowers please send donations to The Native American Rights Fund, 1506 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302-6217; Partners in Health (identify Haiti), P.O. Box 996, Frederick, MD 21705-9942; and Women for Women International, P.O. Box 9224, Central Islip, NY 11722-9224.

Our condolences to her partner, Bill Dyson, her children Christopher Van Cleef and Elizabeth Van Cleef and their families, her stepchildren Sonia Mack, Will Dyson, Eric Dyson, Michael Dyson and their families, and her brother David Noll and his family.

A memorial gathering in New Haven is being organized.

End Support for Warmongers at Yale

by Daud Shad, 2021 Yale College graduate

Members of the Yale community and beyond are joining the call for Yale to End Support for Warmongers! The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has renewed public scrutiny of the global military-industrial complex and the War on Terror, which has directly killed more than 900,000 people and cost over $8 trillion while completely devastating countries.

The recent resignation of Yale Professor Beverly Gage from the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy brings that public scrutiny even closer to campus. Professor Gage re-signed due to donor pressure to teach the program “the way Henry Kissinger would” and include Kissinger as advisor.

Kissinger, though admired by many in the American political elite, exemplifies all that is fundamentally wrong with the prevailing conception of “grand strategy”: the agency and precious lives of millions of people in foreign countries are disregarded for a chance at long-term hegemony for the most powerful country in the world. The devastation in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan are major examples of what practitioners celebrated by Yale, beyond Kissinger, have been instrumental in.

There’s a deep issue at the university where credentialism often trumps humanitarianism. In its foreign policy instruction, Yale seems to value the fame or title of an individual over a record that exemplifies care for human lives (e.g., no involvement in war crimes!). Tragically, many of the world’s poorest communities suffer from war and its immense consequences. Simultaneously, leading warmongers evade basic accountability and receive prestigious positions.

There are three policies we urge Yale to immediately implement in order to begin to disentangle the university from warmongering and imperialism: [1] Prevent donor conditions on academic freedom; [2] Adhere to a standard for Yale affiliation that would disqualify those involved in war crimes; [3] Refuse to invest in defense contractors.

Read the petition and sign it at tinyurl.com/YaleEndWar. Daud graduated from Yale College in 2021. As a student, he was co-coordinator for Dwight Hall at Yale. You can reach him at  daud.shad@yale.edu.

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