Anne Wright against militarization of SR sister city
November 10, 2011
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Internationally renowned peace activist and retired U.S. Army colonel Ann Wright gave a sobering lecture on Oct. 26 in Newman Auditorium about the proposed militarization of Jeju Island, an internationally recognized South Korean Island of World Peace. Home to more of the United Nation’s World Natural Heritage sites than any other single geographical location on earth, Jeju Island is sister city to Santa Rosa.
Don Taylor, local restaurateur and honorary citizen of Jeju Island, opened the event with a brief talk about the Santa Rosa-Jeju sister city program and his love of the island and its people.
Jeju City gifted Santa Rosa with two hand-carved “Dolhareubang,” or “Stone Grandfather” statues, placed near the Luther Burbank Gardens on Sonoma Avenue in 2003, and one “Woman With a Water Jar” statue, placed on Fourth Street, Downtown Santa Rosa in 2006.
In July of this year, the City of Santa Rosa reciprocated with a bronzed “Snoopy” statue, which was personally presented by Taylor.
The purpose of the sister cities program is to increase international understanding and foster goodwill and world peace by furthering international communication and exchange.
Since 2007, residents of Jeju Island’s coastal fishing and farming village, Gangjeong, have unanimously opposed the construction of a Naval base, which if allowed to be completed will facilitate 18 ships and two submarines. But building the base will mean destroying a pristine shoreline and endangering marine wildlife, including a soft coral reef and dolphin habitat as well as private farmland cultivated by local families for several generations.
The people of Gangjeong have attempted to block construction both through bureaucratic channels, and in some cases by physically chaining their bodies to construction equipment. As Wright spoke she displayed images of the most recent events on Jeju.
Kang Dong-Kyun, mayor of Gangjeong Village, was one of five residents arrested Aug. 24, 2011 during a nonviolent demonstration. Shortly after the demonstrations, sirens wailed into the countryside signaling citizens to quickly abandon their work in the hot houses and groves of tangerine trees and go block the main gate of the base with trucks, cars and their own bodies. About 60 people surrounded the police car in which the mayor was held. The other four people who were arrested had already been moved to the local jail.
About 60 police reinforcements arrived shortly after, pushed their way through the crowd and formed a protective ring around the police car.
“The police seemed to be new recruits who were doing their obligatory government service,” said Wright in an account of the event on Facebook. “They were very young, and looked very scared.”
In 1947-48, more than 30,000 people were killed on the island by the right wing government of Sigmund Rhee, in what is now called the April 3rd massacre. Many of the police officers’ relatives were victims of the massacre and did not want to be seen as “heavy handed,” Wright explained. Remarkably, the otherwise unarmed police, did not use their batons on the demonstrators. The standoff lasted nearly five hours.
“The Mayor’s wife got on top of a vehicle, telling the crowd to protect her husband, and then dove into the police line,” Wright said. She had pictures to prove it.
By midnight the police had made a deal with demonstrators, promising that if officers were allowed to book Kang at the local jail, he and the other four arrested protesters would be released the next morning. The crowd reluctantly allowed the police car to leave, but the next morning was informed that the mayor would not be released after all. The chief of police was later fired for being too lenient.
Wright has many similar experiences to share. She is most noted for being one of three State Department officials to resign in direct protest of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although she served 13 years in active duty in the U.S. Army and another 16 in the Army Reserves prior to her resignation, her ideals have remained continuous throughout.
After receiving a master’s degree in National Security Affairs from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, Wright was stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where she drew up contingency plans for invading several countries, one of which was Iraq. Her eventual resignation was in response to what she considered the dismissal of such carefully laid plans in the 2003 invasion.
Since then she has spent her time organizing protests and demonstrations for peace. She has been willingly arrested several times for taking part in anti-war demonstrations. She has stated in previous interviews that she does not remove the arrest bracelets attached to her wrists during processing; instead she collects them.
Wright is currently on trial in Syracuse, New York along with 37 other protesters who were arrested in April at the New York Air National Guard Base at Hancock Field for protesting the use of MQ-9 Reaper drones, which are piloted by remote control, and have been flown from Syracuse to Afghanistan since late 2009.
In an interview on Democracy Now on Nov. 3, Wright said, “Citizens have a responsibility to take action when they see crimes being committed. And this goes back to World War II, when German government officials knew what other parts of the German government were doing in executing six million Jews in Germany and other places, and they took no action–and they were held responsible later, through the Nuremberg trials. And that is the theory on which we are acting, that we see that our government is committing crimes by the use of these drones, and that we, as citizens, have the responsibility to act.”
More information on Anne Wright and her current trial can be found at www.democracynow.org.
Wright’s work can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.