The Blogful of Salt

Rusty Nelson on Peace and War: Trying to Support the Troops

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Rusty Nelson on Peace and War: Trying to Support the Troops

               It must have been several years ago because the signs we held said “Free Bradley Manning,” and we Vets for Peace didn’t have to defend Chelsea Manning’s transgender rights while bringing attention to the persecuted, military whistle-blower Americans were trying to ignore. At an event in Riverfront Park, I was approached by two burly young men who said they were active duty military and considered Manning to be a traitor. They thought the army intelligence analyst’s reporting a massacre by U.S. helicopter crews was insignificant compared to the release of other classified information to Wikileaks. At least they knew something about the case. But then, they issued a challenge they might like to have back, now. “If you want to do something for an American soldier, put our government to work to free Beau Bergdahl.”

How things change. Private Manning, known now as Chelsea, is serving a 45-year prison sentence while the soldiers she reported remain uncharged and unpunished. Sgt. Beau Bergdahl is back in the U.S. after a controversial hostage/prisoner exchange, awaiting a decision on whether he will be charged with a crime. The story is different from the one several years ago, and several men from his unit want to see Bergdahl punished for being a deserter and putting them at risk. Read more »

We are Tipping into Repeal

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

We are Tipping into Repeal

by Shar Lichty

              While I was working on the freedom to marry campaign I watched the nation reach a tipping point and a flood of states passing legislation following Washington successfully defending it at the ballot. I have been working on the death penalty for nearly 9 years and am witnessing the same thing occurring at a national level –we are tipping into repeal! Read more »

Our 6th Annual Peace and Economic Justice Action Conference

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Our 6th Annual Peace and Economic Justice Action Conference

by Teresa Kinder, intern

March is bringing with it this year’s Action Conference that has become the largest gathering of over 200 progressive thinks from across Washington and neighboring states. This year we will be hosting 24 fabulous workshops on a broad range of issues focusing on education, action, and skill building.

Conference goers tell us the Conference provides a “great variety of programs and the opportunity to meet new people!” Another reported, “I met amazing people the mingle times were so productive and interesting. The energy at the conference and the reception was amazing. Wow! It is hard to feel hopeless about America’s current state when getting together to make a change like this.”

This year come and learn how you can build creative and effective actions in Eric Ross’s ‘Escalation of Creative Nonviolent Direct Action Tactics’ workshop. Also learn how to effectively talk to your legislators with Gloria Ochoa, Blaine Stum, Lori Kinnear, and Shar Lichty.

The Conference will feature workshops focusing locally and internationally. Join David Brookbank and Jan Treecraft in ‘Nicaragua: Cristiana, Socialista y Solidaria.’ Or, travel  with Mary Rupert and Larry Shook in ‘Journey to Afghanistan and Back with a Young Soldier.’

Join us March 20th for the reception before the conference for a great evening of socializing. Then come on Saturday March 21, for the Peace and Economic Justice Action Conference. For full details and to register go to Let your voice be heard.


Meet Our Action Conference Keynote–Judith LeBlanc

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Meet Our Action Conference Keynote

By Shar Lichty

              We are thrilled to have Judith LeBlanc, Senor Organizer with Alliance for a Just Society as our Keynote Speaker at this year’s Peace & Economic Justice Action Conference. Check out our fantastic list of workshops and register now to enjoy early bird rates at

Judith is currently organizing a project to create a national Native leadership network to provide support for strategic planning and capacity building trainings in Indian Country.

She was the Field Director for Peace Action, a national grassroots organization representing 90,000 members committed to a fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy. She coordinated the Move the Money Campaign, an effort to organize grassroots coalitions of community, labor and peace groups to change national spending priorities from wars and weapons to fund jobs and public services as one of the steps towards a “new economy” that works for all.

She has worked on a national level for over 30 years on campaigns ranging from labor rights, racial justice to peace, and disarmament campaigns. She served two terms as a national co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, the national coalition that organized the movement to oppose the 2nd war in Iraq. In 2014 she received the National Priorities Project’s Democracy Champions Award.

Judith is a member of the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma. She lives in Harlem, New York.


Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation member calls for end to death penalty

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation member calls for end to death penalty

by Jamie McDaniel

              The night when PJALS hosted Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation member Pat McCoy proved to be an evening of powerful words which instilled the will to fight for the abolition of the death penalty in the community.

Pat McCoy invited us into his past to be able to see how he, as the loved one of someone who has been murdered, really feels about use of capital punishment on their perpetrators. His story having come out of Spokane made his message even more powerful because it hit literally so close to home. Pat’s sister was murdered in Spokane in 1974, a time when the death penalty was not legal in Washington.

Pat expresses that there is not a single member of his family that wishes the revenge, which the law thinks we all desire, was sought. He said, “We were satisfied that he was convicted and confined.” He expressed to us the importance of closure for the family, which is not done when a murder is put to death, but when the case itself is over so that the family can behind the healing process. With the help of Jason Ortiz, anot

her member of Murder Victim’s Families’ for Reconciliation, the audience was taught about the importance of what the death penalty really means in our society; both fiscally and personally.


Young Activist Leaders Program report: “Justice needs to be done in society!”

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Young Activist Leaders Program report: “Justice needs to be done in society!”

by Jamie McDaniel, intern

             Greetings from your YALPistas! We have had an exciting and educational last few months in the Young Activist Leaders Program, and we are very grateful for our workshops! We are always looking forward to the third Tuesday of every month!

I know first hand that our young activist leaders are the coolest, most interesting and enlightening individuals out there. YALP member Kacy Kräcke says, “I think YALP is very useful when it comes to being a successful organizer. Everyone in this program knows the importance of what justice needs to be done in society.”

Another YALPista, Trung Nguyen, says, “YALP gives the younger generation the chance to truly make a difference in the community. YALP proves that young people want to do more than sit around. We want to make a lasting, positive effect.”

I could not agree more with you guys!


Welcome Social Work Practicum Student Teresa!

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Welcome Social Work Practicum Student Teresa!

by Liz Moore

              Teresa Kinder is a senior at EWU, completing her social work practicum with a Community Organizing Internship at PJALS. “I was tired of seeing people around me thinking they couldn’t make a difference,” she says.

“I’m passionate about lots of social justice issues. Everything is so important, and for me it depends on what has momentum at the moment. I do love LGBT issues, anything around that is my passion.”

Teresa is a graduate of the Mead school district. Her first step to put her values into action was to attend a meeting with Washington CAN. She volunteered with them on paid sick days. “I had worked at Walmart and I saw what it was like to not have paid sick days. It was ridiculous. I saw people who were sick working, and I worked in meats, so sick people are touching your food all the time. I saw people who were taking care of their families, and if they missed a day of work, they wouldn’t be able to afford something for their kids, so no matter how sick they were, they were at work. It was a huge issue.”

“My favorite thing about being at PJALS,” says Teresa, “is hearing from so many people and learning about so many things I didn’t know were issues before. Anytime I see something where people are actually doing something and actually making a difference — I haven’t been around people before who are even trying. I’ve learned about things like race inequalities — I had always heard they were there but had never seen them, now I have learned and now I notice and see things that were always there. Another big issue I’ve learned about has been with people who were incarcerated, that had never occurred to me ever.”

Teresa says she’ll be different after this internship. “I feel like I’m not afraid to talk about issues anymore. I’ll have more skills and knowledge about how to run groups and organize anything in general.”


Welcome Social Work Practicum Student Jamie!

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Welcome Social Work Practicum Student Jamie!

By Victoria Huckabee

           Jamie McDaniel is a senior in the Social Work program at Eastern Washington University. She is from the Spokane area and enjoys spending time with her family and her new dog, Momota.

She is passionate about human rights and loves protesting for anything she feels is a worthy cause. At PJALS she works mostly on abolishing the death penalty.

In addition to being a full time student and intern, she also works as shelter staff at Crosswalk Teen Shelter and is a visitation specialist at Empowring Inc Services. Jamie loves to travel and spent the summer exploring Ghana, the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, France, Manaco, Italy Switzerland, and Denmark.

Jamie is still undecided about her plans after graduation, but she is considering graduate school and joining the Peace Corps.


PJALS at EWU—An Activist in Residence update

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

PJALS at EWU—An Activist in Residence update

By Liz Moore

Young people are curious, interested, have developed their own opinions already, draw on their own meaningful experience, and ask great questions. This is what I’ve observed speaking in classes and holding workshops at EWU last year and this year as the first ever EWU Activist in Residence. In January I spoke in 19 classes over two days, ranging from Philosophy to Chicano History to Feminist Methodology to Criminal Justice to African American Family. I jogged from building to building and spoke to over 300 students about PJALS, about whether the elite hold power or whether it’s in the hands of the people, and the what & why of Smart Justice Spokane’s campaign for criminal justice reform.

In every class and at every Activist in Residence workshop, I share  the Power Elite Model and the People Power Model from Bill Moyer’s book Doing Democracy. Heads nod as I described the power-holders at the top acting upon us through laws, myths, norms, and institutions. When I asserted that we individually and collectively have the autonomy and authority to decide to withdraw our consent and to challenge those in power, students smile and nod again. EWU students experience and assert these two realities on a daily basis as young people, people of color, low-income folks, and other facets of identity.

You’re invited to the final Activist in Residence workshop on Thursday March 5, 3:30 to 5:30 in Monroe 205: “Approaches to Activism: Making the Road by Walking,” a panel discussion with Jude McNeil, Sandy Williams, Blaine Stum, Reb. Deb Conklin, and me. Come join the conversation!

Welcome Social Work Practicum Student Victoria!

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 | 11:11am | Comment on this

Welcome Social Work Practicum Student Victoria!

by Jamie McDaniel

Victoria Huckabee is a full time social work student and single mother of two boys, Luke and Logan.

Her academic journey began pursuing a certification in American Sign Language which led her to the Bachelors of Social Work program at Eastern Washington University. She will graduate this spring. After graduation,  Victoria plans to enter the advanced standing program to pursue her Masters degree.

Victoria is committed to working for social justice on a large scale and push for reforms and improvements in the system. She is especially passionate about criminal justice reform and peace.

A fun fact about Victoria is that she has a pet sheep named Scout who thinks he is a dog!


“The Role of Religious Reconciliation for Stability in Iraq.”

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

“The Role of Religious Reconciliation for Stability in Iraq.”

Thursday, January 29th, 2015,  7:00 pm. at Gonzaga University, Jepson Bldg. Auditorium

Free and Open to the Public

Pax Christi Spokane, the local chapter of the national and international Catholic Peace and Justice organization Pax Christi ( &  has invited Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed, of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) and Mustafa Mahmood, a Gonzaga student from Iraq who volunteered with FRRME last summer, to speak on “The Role of Religious Reconciliation for Stability in Iraq.”   The event will take place Thursday, January 29th, 2015, 7:00 pm. at Gonzaga in the Wolff Auditorium, and it will be free and open to the public, although the main target audience is Gonzaga students. The objective of the event is to raise awareness of the complex situation in Iraq, which affects us not only globally but also locally.

The intended outcome addresses ways in which our community can build a more compassionate, inclusive climate around the cultural and religious diversity.

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation not only provides medical care and humanitarian relief in the heart of Baghdad’s Red Zone, it works to promote peace through inter-religious dialog.   According to FRRME’s mission statement, “Without genuine reconciliation, there can never be lasting peace.”  The foundation works for reconciliation by engaging religious leaders in dialogue, and helping them use their influence to promote peace.  The founder of FRRME, Reverend Canon Dr Andrew White, chairs Iraq’s High Council of Religious Leaders (HCRLI).  “We understand that religion and politics are intimately linked in the Middle East, so a religious track is essential to a balanced peace process. When religion goes wrong, it goes very wrong. But if religion is part of the problem, it must form part of the solution – a wholly secular approach will not suffice.”  FRRME also runs a health clinic which works to reconcile Iraqis at a grassroots level through its model of employing Sunni, Shia, Christian and Jewish staff.

Sarah Ahmed is the Director of Operations for the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) as well as the personal assistant to Rev. White.  She is a peace, human rights, and women’s right activist.  Of her experience in Iraq, Sarah writes, “what is happening to people in Iraq, from persecution to starvation to killing, is affecting the population in more ways than the rest of the world can even imagine.”  Besides her current relief effort aiding Iraqis displaced by ISIS, she also currently serves as a volunteer dentist in a medical center in Baghdad, providing quality health care free of charge to anyone who needs it, and she created the non-profit organization, Because, I Love Peace, which promotes peace through letters of love, hope and support to those struggling in Iraq (

Mustafa Mahmood is an engineering student at Gonzaga, who returned to Iraq in the summer of 2014 to work with Dr. Ahmed providing food and supplies to thousands of displaced minority Christian families.  Not only is Mustafa highly engaged in Gonzaga’s student body, he is also very active in peace and justice efforts within the Spokane community.  Mustafa is also a gifted poet whose writings eloquently communicate what it is like to be a refugee from a war-torn country (  Both Sarah and Mastafa are Iraqi citizens and belong to the Muslim faith.

The presentation on Thursday night will focus on the situation in Iraq, not only regarding the humanitarian crisis, but also most especially the religious conflict that permeates the life of the citizens, particularly regarding Christians and Muslims.  She will talk about FRRME’s work on religious reconciliation.  Mustafa will speak from a personal experience on being an Iraqi citizen, and his work with Sarah.  We hope to get Mustafa to share some poetry as well.  The presentation will conclude with suggestions on how folks can concretely support and nurture reconciliation among international students from the Middle East and those in the Spokane community.   They will end with an open question and discussion period.


Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 | 2:14pm | Comment on this


By Louise Chadez, PJALS Steering Committee member

This is one mantra of the season upon us, the season of giving.  And with Thanksgiving just behind us, let us give thanks for all we have, and for what we might give back to our community, and PJALS.

I am honored to have been appointed to the PJALS steering committee earlier this year.  Since then, I have had an eye opening experience as to ALL that PJALS is involved with in the community.  I have been a member, “on the peripheries” of PJALS since first moving to Spokane in 1981.  At that time, it was located near St. Patrick’s Parish in Hillyard.  My first protest with PJALS was with my good friend and mentor Al Mangan in 1984 to protest the WHITE TRAINS.  (and now it’s coal trains, so some things change very little).  It was also the first protest for my then 2 month old daughter (now 30!!)

A year ago, Liz asked me to consider joining the Steering Committee. In doing so, I have come to realize ALL that PJALS does in the community.  Look on the calendar, and we have numerous events scheduled each week.  AND YOU CAN HELP.  Go to our website and see all the great things we are doing.  But, we need YOUR involvement as an active member of PJALS in order for our events to be successful.

I don’t believe in New Year Resolutions, but I do believe in making a commitment to DO MORE of those things of which I am passionate each year.  Will you join me in 2015, the kick-off of our 40th year, to joining a committee at PJALS?  Will you consider making a greater commitment of both time and money to PJALS, to insure that our great work continues.   And my hope is that we truly BRING PEACE ON EARTH.

 Louise Chadez has been a social worker and community activist throughout her career.  She is passionate about peace, social justice and making a better world for our most vulnerable people. Her mantra? from Pope Paul VI,  ”If you want PEACE, Work for JUSTICE.”  


Why I feel hopeful in Spokane

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

Why I feel hopeful in Spokane

By Liz Moore, PJALS Director

Hope is precious, and when I find it I try to pay attention to it and share it. So I want to tell you about several recent experiences that lifted my spirits, buoyed my energy, and gave me concrete reason for hope.

In October, Shar and I met this year’s Young Activist Leaders–and they are wonderful! They talked about their shared values:  equality, education for all, civil rights and liberties, an attainable American dream, world peace, equitable distribution of wealth! And they discussed what they want to make happen to advance those values: prioritize, begin huge things with strategy and confidence, get other people on board and engaged to participate, and map power, resources, allies, and decision-makers.

These dedicated, passionate leaders of our own community are not kidding around about their values or their plans, and knowing them makes me feel hopeful about what’s happening in Spokane and what will happen in the future! Even better, I really love knowing we can support them to sharpen their skills and hone their leadership for social justice!

Then, I got to facilitate a powerful community gathering on Race, Militarization, Body Cameras, and Police Accountability with speakers Blaine Stum from the Spokane Human Rights Commission, Julie Schaffer from the Center for Justice, and Justin Pimsanguan from Don’t Shoot. The room was packed with members of our groups and others, including three members of our new Police Ombudsman Commission. Excellent points and questions were raised by this engaged, smart bunch of our neighbors and friends. The fact that so many people came together in our community to learn and to share their own questions and ideas left me energized and hopeful.

Smart Justice Spokane’s Community Symposium on Nov 15 culminated an effort that began in May. I was a member of a wonderful planning team that included Greater Spokane Progress’ Anne Martin, I Did the Time’s founder Layne Pavey, Spokane Tribal College director Shelly Wynecoop, GU Law School professor Inga Laurent and student Tim Schermetzler, Bob West from city probation, and others including PJALS members and interns. The synergy we built together was palpable on the day of the event, when 300 people crowded into GU Law School in an energetic commitment to reforming the criminal justice system to address racial disparities, addiction, mental illness, and mass incarceration. I left grateful, invigorated, appreciative, brain-cultivated and hopeful!

There are plenty of reasons we can feel down or angry, and justifiably so. So, when there are concrete reasons to feel a sense of hope, community, and possibility — let’s share those examples and move forward with greater energy!

Pre-emptive and Perpetual Elections

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Rusty Nelson on Peace and War

Pre-emptive and Perpetual Elections

I still like to vote, but I don’t love it, anymore. It’s not a matter of a polling place. I rather prefer voting by mail and don’t understand why it’s not as common as yard signs. I don’t love voting because I detest the system, a sewer of good money after dirty, instead of a river of citizen energy.

Most people don’t vote. Maybe you’ve noticed. And maybe you’ve agonized and organized and been surprised to find community-minded individuals who don’t vote. Becoming a Mennonite years ago, I learned some North American Mennonites still choose not to vote because it might blur their line between sacred and secular and cause them to render something to Caesar that’s none of Caesar’s business. I gradually came to appreciate their integrity, but I remain an eager, if skeptical, voter. My attitude would not be improved if these folks compromised their values and voted, unless certain pious voters forfeited their suffrage.

What I want, I guess, is to blame without polarizing. My scapegoats are the Electoral College and the so-called two-party system. And those feudal institutions share anachronistic roots, although the two-party system tends to dominate every election, while the Electoral College is dusted off only for presidential races. But, for the shipwreck that was the 2014 election, I blame the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

The Electoral College is a hindrance to democracy and has outlived its usefulness by at least 50 years. Any political party interested in “one person, one vote” would work relentlessly to terminate it.

Even the confining EC couldn’t keep order in our young representative democracy. Individual interests arose with such acrimony that the founders’ intentions of nonpartisan government were set aside. Since then, the biggest and bitterest national election squabbles have been the domain of the dominant parties while winner-take-all prevails in all but two states. Maine and Nebraska apportion their electoral votes.

The only midterm news I saw on the EC explained how apportionment in more states might further diminish the popular vote (Is that now an oxymoron?). Incredibly, your presidential vote could be even less meaningful. And you’ve been told voting independent or third party was a waste, as we watch the supported parties spar disgracefully while the country sustains the wounds.

Since no one with influence wants to eliminate the EC, we can whine about our disenfranchisement, again, in two years. Locally, we have nonpartisan offices, but odds are against independents and small parties, not to mention actual representation. Many of us had friends pitted against each other in this year’s primary, where my county commission vote was taken away by reapportionment. I felt like a black man with only two pieces of ID trying to vote in Texas. And, who could resist voting for Breean Beggs for prosecutor? Thousands, apparently, and I’m embarrassed so few voters know who and what Breean is.

The pitiful turnout hurts, and nobody knows exactly why people bail. We generally survey voters, not non-voters, but we know party impressions begin with national media, and ratings show venom draws more interest than facts.

Worse than the influence of Fox News, media apologists for the Democratic Party rarely show inclinations to promote peace and reconciliation over unlimited

I’ve had an affinity for Democrats most of my life, with an independent streak from national elections in which I felt compelled to vote for someone I actually admired. I love the Green Party, but I’ve only had one opportunity to vote Green outside presidential elections. I’d like to help the brave Greens who keep the party alive in this area, but I’m not as feisty a punching bag as I once was. When I was young, I cast some Republican votes, perhaps rebelling against my Democratic parents. Mother’s family was imbedded in Georgia politics, and my father grew up literate and poor in Arkansas. As I was impressed by the likes of Goldwater and Nixon, he carefully told me it was Democrats who had the interests of common people in mind.

It’s hard to imagine an excuse for Northwesterners who aren’t greedy and xenophobic to support Republican causes. Unfortunately, Democrats only grade well in comparison to the GOP. An Idaho Democrat was quoted in the Spokesman Review, saying President Obama could come to Idaho, register as a Republican and get elected without regard to issues. With obvious qualifiers, the point is taken and could apply to Eastern Washington, outside the 3rd Legislative District.

I don’t expect Republican control of the Senate to make much difference in our congressional malaise. Congress members, Democrat and Republican, live in a different economy than most of us, and it’s the economy to which their parties, their patrons and the media cater, demanding an abstract view of human rights and setting aside peace and environmental concerns. It’s a bi-partisan economy that will have its pipelines, for dirty oil and campaign cash.

A comprehensive plan to eliminate our voting dilemmas is problematic. It seems responsible to peck away from outside until major upheaval demands real change, but most voters dread upheaval more than continuing corporate domination. It’s tragic that reform of campaign spending has been stifled, but we deserved to know that the Supreme Court sides with big money.

Our best hope for a healthy party system may be for both major parties to divest elements who demand rescue of the middle class or an end to the wall between military and social funding. That could introduce structure for several parties reliant upon people power rather than big money and the impetus for other leaders to act out of principle over profits. Four or five strong parties would require coalitions for decisions that affect all of us, and I like that idea, even when I see other countries struggling with too many political entities. It’s a more wholesome problem than too many lobbyists and too much money.

Meanwhile, look for better options than the status quo or not voting. I’m sure we agree that Citizens United must be overturned, and buying and selling elections is bad. Reserve your support for candidates who represent your hopes and values. Require parties to address your political aspirations before you commit time, money or votes. Try to avoid sweeping generalities, like the ones I use all the time. Give candidates consideration beyond party and the ability to win, and don’t encourage anyone who puts party ahead of human needs.

When it comes to Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, you don’t have to mark every ballot item. And you can write in candidates. It caused no trouble for me to get a few votes for state legislature, this year, and it was exciting to see primary write-ins qualify for November. There’s no shame in supporting unsuccessful candidates or issues, or losing, even to an inept opponent. It is a shame for an avid voter to depend upon the lesser of two evils.

A single party will never offer all the best solutions, locally or globally. A good party system could exciting to see primary write-ins qualify for November. There’s no shame in supporting unsuccessful candidates or issues, or losing, even to an inept opponent. It is a shame for an avid voter to depend upon the lesser of two evils.

A single party will never offer all the best solutions, locally or globally. A good party system could put the love back into voting.

Building a movement to end the death penalty

Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

Building a movement to end the death penalty

By Shar Lichty

Abolishing the death penalty is the issue that brought me into social justice work and ultimately working at PJALS. For this and many other reasons it is an issue I am very passionate about and excited to have it as one of our top three priorities through 2015.

            With the Governor’s moratorium and increased support for abolition nationally, including from conservatives, we are at the gateway to making history through legislative repeal of the death penalty in Washington State.

Our Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group  works toward  abolition of the death penalty in Washington State through education and outreach, legislative action, rapid response to litigation and imminent executions and collaboration with other organizations. We recently combined our education, outreach, and legislative work with two performances of The Exonerated at Gonzaga University on Nov 21 & 22. The Exonerate is a dramatic reading of the actual words of six wrongfully condemned persons who emerged from death row to reclaim their lives. We were fortunate to have two professional local directors and a cast of local actors dedicate their time and talents to bring this powerful production to Spokane.

I was particularly excited to use the arts as a vehicle for increased public awareness and dialogue on the issue and it proved to be a powerful      experience for all who attended!

 We filled the theatre both nights providing 400 folks with a new perspective on the issue and collecting  hundreds of  postcards that will be delivered to legislators during the upcoming legislative session. Those whom  I spoke with following the performances were deeply affected by the stories portrayed and thanked us for bringing this play to  Spokane. I am honored to have played a role in this production and cannot thank the cast, crew, co-sponsors, volunteers, and  attendees enough for their contributions to its success. We are building a movement in Eastern Washington to end the  death penalty one event, one conversation, one postcard at a time.

To quote MLK, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The arc is bending toward justice  through repeal of the death penalty in Washington State.

As we move forward we want to speak to your faith communities, other organizations and groups, and  are planning to host a national speaker from Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation. We will also be  organizing a delegation to Olympia to participate in Lobby Day and help deliver thousands of postcards to legislators calling for the repeal of the death penalty. If you would like to join us in our efforts please contact me at to find out how you can make a difference as we build our movement together.

Big thanks to our wonderful Exonerated volunteers: Mark Hamlin, Elaine and Ray Thorne, Aaron Crockett, Traci Hauser, Cly Evans, Janine Warrington, Maurina Ladich, Christy Anderson-Crosen, Candice Cullitan, Kevin Carroll, Jeff King, Christina Kamkosi, Alysha Chandra, Deb Svobda, Megan Dicken, Erin Flahive, Tim Connor

Deep appreciation for the Exonerated cast and crew: Mary Alberts, Andrew Biviano, Steven Blount, Wes Dietrick, Denise Hairston, Jeff Mooring, Rusty Nelson, Michael Reid, Jim Sheehan, A’dell Whitehead, Jack Delehanty, Bryan Harnetieaux, and Nancy Nelson

Produced by PJALS Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group with support from: Community Building Foundation, Mary Alberts, Janet Fowler & Tom Schmidt, Myrta & Maurina Ladich, Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, ACLU-WA, Center for Justice, Mary Pat Treuthart, Dennis Medina, Yak Research, Pax Christi, KYRS, Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Criminal Law Society-GU Law School, Spokane NAACP, Veterans for Peace-Spokane Chapter, Student Awareness League of SCC, and EWU School of Social Work.

And huge thanks to producers Shar Lichty and Nancy Nelson for their wonderful work!



No Justice, No Peace

Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

No Justice, No Peace

By Liz Moore

This piece was written primarily with white people and non-Black people of color in mind as readers.

I first heard this chant when I was a first-year student at Oberlin College, when I looked out of a classroom window and witnessed a group of mainly African American students and professors protesting the acquittal of the four officers who beat Rodney King in LA. I remember asking something like “Is it a threat? Or are they saying that without justice there can’t be peace?” I was sympathetic but also suspicious and alarmed.

I became a bit more conscious of my ignorance and privilege in a moment years later when, on the first day of an internship in LA, a fellow Organizer in Training, also white, asked me what race relations were like at Oberlin. I sat in embarrassed silence, realizing that I didn’t really know enough to answer, and I knew just enough to identify the privilege of my ignorance.

Former PJALS intern Alyssa Henderson shared a podcast from Brant & Sherri “On Race and Jesus” where Brant Hansen asserts “Unity isn’t just a thing. Unity is THE thing.” It’s not trivial, it’s not a side project, it’s not a tangent. He also asserts white people do not grieve as we should the damage that our racist past and present has done to people of color; this is necessary before we can move forward.

These reflections have moved me to consider again the relationship between justice and peace. I’ve seen so many admonitions that protestors should be “peaceful” in spite of the outrage and grief African Americans and others are feeling at the injustice of the Ferguson Grand Jury’s failure to bring Officer Wilson to trial for his killing of young, unarmed Michael Brown. Who is peaceful, who is violent? The answer to that question in our culture, in our media depictions, in our early-learned subconscious inner voices,  is a racialized and racist answer.  And that’s not new — for example, Demos’ Donovan Ramsey documents “Long Before Ferguson, Authorities Feared Riots at King’s March on Washington.” (1)

Another permutation: former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper writes in Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing: “Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim ‘color blindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie. In fact, the bigger, the darker the black man the greater the fear. The African-American community knows this. Hell, most whites know it. Yet, even though it’s a central, if not the defining ingredient in the makeup of police racism, white cops won’t admit it to themselves, or to others.” 

Tim Wise, in “Most White People in America Are Completely Oblivious,” shares history of white violence against blacks laid out by Robin D.G. Kelley, detailing ways that “The law has been a weapon used against black bodies, not a shield intended to defend them, and for a very long time.” Who is violent? The history of white domination in America is violent, in daily acts, in legal structures, in culture.

With candles and pictures of African American women and men killed by law enforcement, over 200 people marched together the day after the Ferguson grand jury decision was announced, chanting together, “No Justice, No Peace!” As we walked through downtown Spokane, I greeted friends and acquaintances. What I observed is that I and other whites seemed to respond lightly to the standard but genuine “Nice to see you. How are you?” while African Americans were not feeling light inside. They were in deep and great pain, sorrow and anger, and did not answer “fine.” Instead, a young woman put her fist to her heart, shook her head, and moaned. An older man said he wished we were seeing each other in better circumstances–the kind of answer I have mostly heard at funerals. I take comfort and joy in the unity of marching together. But that is a mark of my privilege. It is not my white sons who may face mortal danger every time they leave the house. Pondering that privilege, no matter how often, does not mean I don’t forget it every time, because that is one way privilege operates.

Tim Wise asks “Can we perhaps, just this once, admit our collective blind spot? Admit that there are things going on, and that have been going on a very long time, about which we know nothing? Might we suspend our disbelief, just long enough to gain some much needed insights about the society we share? One wonders what it will take for us to not merely listen but actually to hear the voices of black parents, fearful that the next time their child walks out the door may be the last, and all because someone—an officer or a self-appointed vigilante—sees them as dangerous, as disrespectful, as reaching for their gun? Might we be able to hear that without deftly pivoting to the much more comfortable (for us) topic of black crime or single-parent homes? Without deflecting the real and understandable fear of police abuse with lectures about the danger of having a victim mentality—especially ironic given that such lectures come from a people who apparently see ourselves as the always imminent victims of big black men?” (2)

The parents of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Renisha McBride and so many others, and African American parents and family members joining protests all over the country, are publicly sharing their pain, fear, loss, and anger.

Rachel Dolezal, writing in the Inlander, says “The flames erupting in Ferguson are the fires burning in the hearts of mothers of black sons in this nation. We cry for the life nurtured inside us those nine months, for the years of tending and mending our child, for the brief pride we felt in his manhood before the light left his eyes. We tell our sons to walk with both eyes open, hands visible and quick feet ready to run. We advise them to keep receipts for everything they purchase, speak politely and dress sensibly. We hoped that the toil of our ancestors would have freed them from the curse of these limitations and the threat of harm, and we dreamed that we would never awake to feel this pain.” (3)

The horrific power of parents’ pain is beginning to transform public dialog by making it more possible for white parents like me and others to witness their heartbreak and to imagine the pain of losing a child to oppressive violence and the fear and anger at the prospect of that possibility. I hurt for the fact that our education is at their expense.




Condi Rice Guilty: Lies, Torture, Lost Lives

Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

Condi Rice Guilty: Lies, Torture, Lost Lives

A great crowd of PJALS members gathered Oct 9 to tell the truth about Condoleezza Rice’s record and legacy as she spoke at Whitworth’s Presidential Leadership Forum. We earned coverage in the Spokesman, Inlander, KHQ, and KREM.

Many thanks to our co-organizers with Occupy Spokane and Veterans for Peace and event co-sponsors IWW and Socialist Alternative.

Special appreciation to our great speakers: Pastor Deb Conklin from The Oak Tree, Rusty Nelson, president of Veterans for Peace of Spokane, and Rev. Georg Taylor. Thanks to our new interns Victoria and Jamie who got to experience the magic of the bullhorn yesterday for the first time! And big thanks to the volunteers who wore those fantastic and hot costumes, led chants, took sign-in, and handed out leaflets to passersby and attendees.


VFP #035 Donates to VFP #160 HOA BINH (Peace) Chapter in Vietnam

Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this


By Hollis Higgins

With the U.S. Government about to spend $65 million rewriting the history of the Viet Nam War that bitterly divided our citizens, you may be interested to know that Veterans For Peace has established the Hoa Binh Chapter #160 in Viet Nam. San Francisco Chapter donated $4000 for Hoa Binh, twice! And it has collected our local chapter’s $100 donation for support of programs. These include:

Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign [, near Hanoi, is an international center providing medical care, physical therapy, education and vocational training.

VFP Spring Tour of Vietnam:  A two-week tour hosted by Hoa Binh Chapter re-introduces VFP members to the Vietnamese people and the war legacies that remain, visiting battle zones, cemeteries, hospitals major cities, and restoration sites. (More:

 President’s letter accompanying our donation:

To Our Cherished Comrades In VFP;

Spokane VFP #035 feels a great affinity for the leaders and members of #160.  Even those of us who never came close to the RVN feel strongly that our lives were altered by our country’s military blundering there, and we want to be part of the reconciliation and peacemaking of our fellow veterans who live and work in Vietnam.

Personally, I have great admiration for Chuck Searcy, whom I met in Thomson, Georgia before we were both deployed to Vietnam.  Through VFP, I have followed his devotion to building relationships to the Vietnamese people, and I’m proud that my brothers and sisters in Spokane feel the need to be even a small part of that work.

Please see that our token gift of appreciation and encouragement is directed to #160, and that the leaders of VFP know that we are indebted to them for creating an environment in which men and women may love and serve their country without the hatred and fear that continues to deteriorate most of our country’s resources.  Any pride we ever had in our military participation can only be sustained by the ability of so many warriors to reject violence and the notion of enemies, and build, against all odds, a peaceful world.

We are proud of our organization and the members of #160.

Peace,  Rusty Nelson, President, Spokane Veterans for Peace #035

You can be part of our work to abolish war. Monthly meetings are 2nd Wednesday, 6:45 PM at the Community Building. See


Condoleezza Rice speaking in Spokane

Friday, Sep 19, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Condi GuiltyWhitworth University is bringing Condoleezza Rice as part of their President’s Leadership Forum on Thursday, October 9th at the Convention Center. PJALS is working with Vets for Peace, IWW and Occupy Spokane to organize a nonviolent protest outside of her event. Gather at 11:00 am at the Community Building, 35 W. Main, to march together to the Convention Center. Our plans include giant heads, street theater, leafletting, and more.

Invite your friends on fb to join PJALS, Veterans for Peace, Occupy Spokane, and IWW to protest and tell the truth about Condi’s record here. Invite your friends to our Peacekeeper Training on Wed 10/1, 5:30 – 8p, here. Invite your friends to our sign-making party on Thurs 10/2, 5:30 – 7p,  here.

Download a pdf turnout flier here!

There are so many reasons to oppose Rice’s visit to Spokane and with military escalations in Iraq it has become very timely. While current military decisions are Obama’s, we must not forget the lies from the Bush administration used to justify the illegal Iraq war. Among the 935 false statements from the Bush administration following 9/11, 56 came directly from Rice. Read more »

Warrior Songs Spokane hosts retreat and “A Public Listening”

Friday, Sep 19, 2014 | 11:11am | Comment on this

There are so many unacceptable costs of war from human life to the “demonic destructive suction tube” draining resources from our federal budget. While we continue to oppose each and every act of war, let us not also tell the truth about the costs incurred by veterans, their families, and our communities resulting from these acts. Please spread the word about this great healing opportunity for veterans with PTSD to anyone you know who may benefit from it. There is also a public event on Saturday Nov 22 for community members to learn more and show support.

Warrior Songs Spokane:
A healing retreat for veterans with PTSD

November 19-23, 2014 Read more »

PJALS Priorities for Action 2014-2015

Friday, Aug 29, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this
Deb Svoboda

PJALS Steering Committee Chair Deb Vangeisen Svoboda

As a collective of activists, PJALS staff, steering committee members, and committee chairs addressed the difficult task of prioritizing efforts when there are seemingly endless injustices being carried out through direct acts and perpetuated through acquiescence and silence.  Prioritizing our work aids us in focusing our “hands, heart, and head” efforts for a period of time for the best possible outcomes, leaving room for rapid response to an ever changing landscape.

As the Steering Committee Chairperson, I’m excited to share with you the three PJALS Priorities for Action 2014-2015. With your support through membership, volunteering, showing up, and lending your voice, PJALS can continue the movement for peace and justice. Read more »

Another Look at the Cycle of Violence

Friday, Aug 29, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

Rusty Nelson on Peace & War

I believe you know that support for capital punishment in this country: is diminishing; was only a foot deep when it was a mile wide; is based upon fear and ignorance rather than common sense or justice, and; is always weakened when executions are honestly examined as factors in the cycle of violence in our communities and institutions.

You should also know that Gov. Inslee’s moratorium on executions is little comfort to the men on our death row in Walla Walla, who believe they are likely to be killed when a new governor takes office. Believing this is a splendid time to ban the death penalty and that public enlightenment is the best way forward, the Inland Northwest Death Penalty Abolition Group wants Spokane to see its new production of The Exonerated on November 21 or 22, at Gonzaga University. The Center for Justice produced two performances of The Exonerated, five years ago at the Civic Theatre, and is co-sponsoring this show, which will, again, be directed by Bryan Harniteaux, Spokane’s attorney/playwright. Read more »

MAIA PROJECT – Gaza Water Purification Unit update

Friday, Aug 29, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

This is a different update from what we originally planned to give, as since July 8, Gaza has been under almost constant attack from Israeli bombing and shelling, and Khan Younis, where “our” unit is located at Atfal Al-Ghad (Children of Tomorrow) pre-school and Kindergarten, has been particularly devastated.

Deborah Agre from our partner Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) told us in mid-August that they don’t yet have a report on the water units there, as the primary concern right now is keeping people safe, recovering the dead and treating the injured. What they do know is that the UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) schools in which the units are installed have been used as shelter for families fleeing bombs and needing shelter when their homes were destroyed, many of which were themselves bombed. Units that were built to serve hundreds of children during school hours have had to put out clean water for tens of thousands of people, 24 hours/day if they are working at all. MECA does not know yet how the units are performing at so far above capacity. Read more »

Nonviolence in Action: Peacekeeping for Successful Protests

Friday, Aug 29, 2014 | 11:11am | Comment on this

We are offering a great workshop for protesters, organizers, and folks thinking of volunteering as peacekeepers for any social justice cause! Our Oct 1 workshop will focus on preparing for our Oct 9 protest when Condoleezza Rice speaks at the Convention Center, but the skills are completely transferable. Come learn how trained peacekeepers can help create a successful demonstration or action for social justice and peace. We’ll cover nonviolence principles and guidelines, techniques to defuse and de-escalate potentially volatile situations, and how to organize a team of peacekeepers. And, we’ll practice so we are more likely to use these new skills in real life!

No cost. Donations gladly accepted!

Community Building, 35 W. Main, Wednesday, Oct 1

Food at 5:30 (light refreshments)
Training begins at 6:00 pm and will finish at 8:00 pm.

Successfully completing this training makes you eligible to join PJALS’ Peacekeeper Team, but there is NO obligation and it’s open to all interested. We offered this same workshop on August 6 with wonderful participation from a great group of new and experienced peaceniks.

We are building up our pool of trained peacekeepers and our team of trainers. If you’re interested in becoming a trainer for this workshop, please contact me at We’re planning on offering more workshops in April and June 2015, so we need your skills!

Role playing at August Training:

Rick & Marianne

August training

Ted & Joan

Suzy & Deb


Director’s reflection: How to build peace

Friday, Aug 29, 2014 | 11:11am | Comment on this

This spring, as we sat down with our 2013-2014 community organizing interns to talk about their experience with us, we realized that somehow none of them had led chants into a bullhorn, none of them had held banners while we marched, none of them had managed sign-in at a rally. We were shocked when we realized we hadn’t held a major march or rally since our rapid response in September which was part of the successful national push-back against US war on Syria.

Stop the Spiral of Violence: End these Endless Wars

Stop the Spiral of Violence: End these Endless Wars

This summer has looked far different! Starting with a Global Day Against Military Spending action, we’ve mobilized in April rain, May sun, June heat, July 4th weekend traffic, and late July wildfire smoke for actions calling to “End the Spiral of Violence: End these Endless Wars” with a focus on opposing increased US military presence in Iraq, extending our occupation of Afghanistan into 2016, and US-funded military attacks on Gaza.

Repeatedly as we get ready to mobilize, I look for the writings of thought-leaders and opinion-makers on what to call for instead of the latest proposal to bomb. This is especially necessary because the pro-war extremists have been pretty consistent about adding a humanitarian talking point to their list of reasons war is the answer, and that talking point is effective. Read more »

Smart Justice Campaign: Ban the Box Win!

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 | 4:16pm | Comment on this

The Smart Justice Campaign just had a win! On August 4th, Spokane Mayor David Condon publicly asked the Civil Service to remove the box asking about criminal convictions from city employment applications, and that his administration will make changes to the process for conducting criminal background checks. This announcement comes after Council President Ben Stuckart and Spokane City Council Member Jon Snyder led on this issue by sending a letter to the City’s Civil Service Chief Examiner requesting that they ban the box.

Spokesman-Review wrote a great editorial in support making the connection that reducing barriers to employment for people with criminal records part of implementing smart justice.

This announcement is an important first step in creating fairer opportunities for people with criminal convictions to find employment and move forward.  Our thanks and appreciation to Council Member Jon Snyder, Council President Ben Stuckart, and Mayor David Condon. Read more »

Smart Justice: “There’s No Voice Like Your Voice!” PhotoVoice project

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 | 4:16pm | 2 comments

I am excited to tell you that PJALS is teaming up with Smart Justice Spokane and I Did The Time to invite you or other folks who’ve experienced the realities of our criminal justice system to tell your own story ! Will you share your experience with law enforcement, courts, and/or jail by joining our Smart Justice PhotoVoice Project? Or, will you invite someone you know? Please contact us to learn more about this exciting PhotoVoice project at or 838-7870.

Smart Justice Spokane is a broad, diverse coalition of more than 30 organizations, community members, and criminal justice professionals who have come together to reform our expensive, ineffective, and unfair criminal justice system. Instead of warehousing members of our community in jail, who pose no danger to our neighborhoods, we are urging our elected officials to spend our tax dollars on proven programs that are fiscally responsible, reduce crime, and create a strong and healthy community. PJALS is a proud member of Smart Justice Spokane. Read more »

We need you!

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 | 4:16pm | Comment on this

PJALS Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG) is busy gearing up for the legislative session and a push for legislative repeal of the death penalty. In addition to civic engagement, we seek to increase member engagement, public awareness, and participation from the local faith communities. We need you to help advance our work! Here are a few ways you can get involved and make a difference:

Attend a house gathering in your legislative district. In Sept. we have wonderful PJALS members in the 3rd, 4th, and 6th legislatives districts who are hosting gatherings in their homes. These gatherings will provide a great opportunity to meet other folks passionate about this work, learn more about our work and ways to make a difference. Will you join us at one of these lovely gatherings?

Invite our faith panel to speak to your congregation. We want to build upon and strengthen our relationship with the progressive faith community in Spokane while building capacity in Eastern Washington for our work to repeal the death penalty. Are you a member or pastor of a church that would like to host our panel for a discussion on the issue?

Be a part of planning our work. INDPAG meets on the 2nd and 4th Wed. of each month at 5:30pm in the Community Bldg. 35 W. Main. Do you have ideas on how to advance our work, an interest in planning, or a desire to get more involved?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, please contact Shar at or 509-838-7870.

Ethiopian Education Fund

Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014 | 4:16pm | Comment on this

Ethiopian Education Fund

by Elaine Tyrie

Enjoy an evening of history, education, and Ethiopian food to support the Ethiopian Education Fund.
You may contact me at  if you have questions.

Flier with event information here

Year of Youth!

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

PJALS members like you supported youth as leaders for justice in three ways this year!

Young Activist Leaders 2013-2014Congrats to the graduating YALPistas of 2014! Our Young Activist Leaders Program offers passionate youth leaders ways to strengthen their own youth-led groups.  Hear from YALPistas Vitamin J, Amy, and Sevan!

We cultivate new community organizers via practicum placements from the EWU School of Social Work. Check out Dom’s & Jeremiah’s reflections in their own words.

Teaching as the first-ever EWU Activist in Residence, PJALS’ Liz Moore reached over 140 students with nonviolence & social justice. Pics here!


Young Activist Leaders program: “organize, mobilize, and facilitate”

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Justin PimsanguanThe Young Activist Leadership Program has been instrumental in teaching me how to organize, mobilize, and facilitate for a number of causes, including teaching me how to efficiently manage my own grassroots movement. YALP has brought my activism to a higher level of effectiveness, motivating and giving me the tools necessary to organize the pursuit of issues I’m so passionate about.

–Justin “Vitamin J” Pimsanguan, Don’t Shoot


Young Activist Leaders program: “stretch the limits of our everyday thinking”

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Amy CowinIt has been very refreshing to connect with other young activists from different back-grounds and experiences with different goals and aspirations. YALP has proven to me to be a very open, comfortable environment to ask the questions we’ve hesitated to ask before, to stretch the limits of our everyday thinking and to appreciate others for our own unique qualities and skills. The commitment to participate in YALP is well-tailored to the demanding life of a young adult, making the resources and tools gained well worth the effort.

Amy Cowin, Chair of Spokane Chapter of Washington Young Emerging Labor Leaders (WA YELL)

Write, Tinker, Abolish

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson on Peace and War

By the time I wrote my first editorial about the death penalty, Nancy had produced several articles, including a commentary in the Spokesman Review, but Washington had not yet killed Dodd and Campbell. Lethal injection was catching on, but Nevada had resumed executions with a firing squad, Florida electrocuted a man whose crime would have been self-defense if he had not been gay, and Washington was dusting off its gallows. If I had been better organized and more careful, I could compile a book from our experiences, observations and opinions on state killings. And I have a lot more to say. More than I’ll try to cram into this space.

To paraphrase Einstein, everything’s changed about executions in the U.S. but the way we think about them. Two recent developments should affect the way Americans think about capital punishment, but thinking doesn’t change easily. Read more »

Young Activist Leaders program: tools, skills, confidence!

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

YALP has given me many tools and ability to connect with other social justice advocates.

Sevan Bussell

Sevan is pictured left with fellow YALPista Carver.

The tools I’ve learned I have taken back to young people I work with at Odyssey Youth Center. This has included planning successful events, running meetings that don’t suck and addressing racism with young people. All of these have increased my confidence and allowed me to practice new skills in a safe place, and that’s YALP.

–Sevan Bussell, Health and Wellness Coordinator, Odyssey Youth Center


Dom Felix: “Impossible to Leave”

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Dom FelixI have truly enjoyed my time as a PJALS Intern. I cannot imagine having done my practicum anywhere else. When other students in my cohort share their experience at their practicum sites I am surprised by stories where students feel as though their work doesn’t matter.  I hear about endless intakes, “Name and date of birth please.” I have never felt like my work at PJALS didn’t matter. Often I felt like I was not the most qualified person for the job, but by working on campaigns that really matter to me I think I was able to be effective.

When I started in the fall the Spokane Police Accountability and Reform Coalition was working feverishly to empower the Office of Police Ombudsman. Sadly a new contract was approved that left Proposition 1 voters wanting more. On a more positive note Spokane has a much better Internal Affairs process in place now. Body cameras that should make excessive force complaints easier to verify have been approved. Some goals were not met, but the system is better now than it was before. I learned that changing policy requires a long attention span. Read more »

Marching for Immigration Reform

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

immigration reform march May 12014

Jeremiah Manes and YALP alum Molly Ftizpatrick carry the PJALS banner at the May 1 2014 march for Immigration Reform. PJALS Organizer Shar Lichty and member Mark Hamlin offered a Peacekeeper training for MEChA de EWU members who organized the event.

PJALS Director Liz Moore and little Duncan

PJALS Director Liz Moore and little Duncan say: Immigration Reform Now!


Jeremiah Manes: “Creating the Culture We Want to See”

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 12:12pm | One comment.

Jeremiah with signAs a social work student at Eastern Washington University, I joined PJALS to gain the field experience that supplements classroom learning. With elementary awareness of privilege, oppression and social injustice, but without knowledge of the activist skill-set used to counter this oppression, I came to PJALS to develop these skills.

My time here was spent on our Palestine-Israel Human Rights Committee, Young Activist Leaders Program, and planning and promoting community events such as our annual Action Conference, Soiree fundraiser and Palestine Film Festival. These experiences offered valuable opportunities for my future social work path, wherever that may be. Read more »

Activist in Residence: PJALS reaching EWU students on campus

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 12:12pm | One comment.

Activist in Residence collage

Over 200 students learned about PJALS, social justice campaigns, being allies to each other, nonviolence, and more through workshops & class presentations by PJALS director Liz Moore.

Participants who completed all 4 Activist in Residence workshops received certificates in Social Justice Leadership.

Truth in Recruitment: a letter from Veterans for Peace member George Taylor

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this
George Taylor, Kristin Stoneking, Liz Moore

George Taylor (right) with FOR director Kristin Stoneking (center) and PJALS director Liz Moore at our 2014 Action Conference.

Dear concerned citizens,

Truth in Recruiting is a nationwide educational program sponsored by Veterans for Peace, Society of Friends, the War Resistance League and many other national groups.  It is an informational vehicle designed to present a more accurate and truthful presentation about enlistment into all branches of the armed forces: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. This program seeks to expose the information that most official recruiters for the armed services keep quietly to themselves: Information like the extreme suicide and sexual assault rates in the military; or that 40 percent of recruits who enlist in the military today will not complete their full term of service.

The Veterans for Peace, chapter 35 in Spokane, has also created its own Truth in Recruiting program. It maintains that students in the public school system, as well as their parents and teachers, deserve the right to be presented with all of the accurate and truthful information about armed forces enlistment in order to make the most informed choices regarding their future. Read more »

Smart Justice Campaign Update: New Law & Justice Council for Spokane

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

On May 6, the Spokane County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to create a Law and Justice Council to coordinate a regional criminal justice system. The Spokesman Review article about the vote is here. Both the Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission’s Blueprint for Reform and our Smart Justice Campaign recommended creating a Law and Justice Council, so this is a step forward.

Now, the County Commissioners need to hear from you! This is an important time to thank them and share your support for Smart Justice Campaign recommendations going forward.

The success of the Law and Justice Council is going to ride on the make up of the Law and Justice Council, AND on the engagement of the public in informing the Council’s work with stories and expertise, and holding our elected officials accountable to make sure that the Council’s top priority is implementing smart justice.

Will you take a minute to contact the Spokane County Board of Commissioners? Please thank them for their leadership in creating the Law and Justice Council, and make the following four recommendations: Read more »

US Militarism and the girls of Nigeria

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

by Liz Moore

More than two hundred girls kidnapped in Nigeria have caught the sympathy of many in the West, and that attention has helped to prompt US military aid as part of the effort to rescue them.

It started as a simple #BringBackOurGirls call gaining amplification on social media. Then came the names of the girls, which I and others re-posted as a way of making more specific and more powerful our call for their return. And then, wiser people pointed out that listing the girls’ names puts them in greater danger in the future and violates their right to decide whether or not to be public about their experience. I had to pause my urge to help to learn whether my actions were actually helpful or harmful.

The world clamor, led by protests by parents in Nigeria, led to greater attention and some international response. The US government response, of course, was to offer “counter-terrorism assistance.”

Let us pause again to see if our offer of help is actually helpful. Read more »

What is “Nakba”?

Friday, May 16, 2014 | 3:15pm | Comment on this

Yesterday marked the 66th year since the Nakba, or “catastrophe” for Palestinian people living in present-day Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and in diaspora around the world. While Israeli Jews celebrate their independence day, increasing outspoken commemoration of the other side of independence is taking place throughout Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel proper. The popular myth believed by many in the U.S. about Israel revolves around the idea of “a people without a land returning to their holy land” in a procession similar to the whitewashed version of American history in which European settlers arrived at a mostly empty land and went about making it home. The problem with both of these narratives is that they fail to mention just how not-empty the promised land was when they got there. In 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced by the military directly or voluntarily, with the intention to return home, after hearing stories of violent displacement in other nearby villages.

Youth with symbolic keys march in commemoration of the Nakba in Walaja village outside Bethlehem.

If you temporarily left home, you would bring your keys with you to open the door upon your return. Today, many of the descendants of the 1948 refugees, in the third or fourth generation removed from the Nakba, still have these keys and keep them as a symbol of their intention to return home. Almost a year ago, I was able to visit the West Bank and saw one of the few villages that was evacuated, but not demolished, Lifta. The grandchildren of the people who lived, loved, worked, argued, and played here still live nearby in many cases, but are unable to see what would have been their home due to the occupation. Without knowing the history, the ruins of the buildings overgrown with cacti and flowers appears very beautiful. After learning the story behind it though, it becomes more difficult to enjoy the sight of the old stone homes and roads.

Photo by Taylor Weech

The ruins of Lifta give way to a new settlement on the hill above, outside Nazareth.


Just like Americans in the West who were raised on a narrative of progress and westward expansion that left out the genocide of the Native population that predicated it, Israeli Jews have been insulated from the ugly history of their nation’s founding by a culture of fear and nationalism. Former Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Dayan summed up the strategy of erasing history selectively when he said, “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either…There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab Population.” The restriction of information about the Nakba was an intentional decision to dehumanize the population of Palestinians further in the eyes of Jewish settlers. Increasingly, the Jewish population in Israel is being confronted with the suppressed story of the Nakba. A culture of fear and nationalism has kept the story skewed for nearly seventy years, but with wider access to information and huge nonviolent action by Palestinian neighbors with growing international solidarity movements, it has become more difficult to ignore.

Jabal Tabor School in Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon.

To learn more about the ongoing Nakba displacing people from their homes and denying their right to return, and about strategies to end this oppression, check out these links and photos:

Nakba Archive

Institute for Middle East Understanding Nakba FAQ

Younes Arar has an excellent ongoing photo documentation of Palestinian resistance on Facebook here.

If you have other great resources, please include them in the comments!




WA Governor Inslee Declares Moratorium on Death Penalty

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 | 10:22pm | Comment on this

Gov Inslee moratorium quoteGovernor Inslee’s action in issuing a moratorium on the death penalty was a necessary step toward “equal justice under the law” which we agree should be the state’s primary responsibility. We thank the Governor for his leadership and courage with this action which has increased conversation on this important issue. We look forward to working with the Legislature to bring a bill to the Governor’s desk to fully repeal the death penalty in Washington State.

—statement from PJALS and Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group

A Time for Celebration!

by Shar Lichty

On Tuesday, Feb. 11th as the news of Governor Inslee’s moratorium on the death penalty reached me, I found my eyes welling up with tears of joy. While I knew there was a possibility this historical moment would come, I was completely unprepared for the announcement and the emotions it would evoke on that morning.  Somewhat overwhelmed with joy, relief, and hope I scrambled to spread the good news to the amazing folks I am honored to work with on this issue, the members of the Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG). INDPAG is an affinity group of PJALS which was formed 30 years ago by Rusty & Nancy Nelson. Read more »

Commemoration of What?

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 | 10:22pm | 3 comments

Rusty NelsonRusty Nelson on Peace and War 

Veterans for Peace is such a tonic for me that it seems almost unthinkable there could be sharp divisions among its members and chapters. I remember the thrill of solidarity at the national convention in Seattle a few years ago and affirmation from Spokane vets who attended subsequent conventions. I loved being with Western Washington members last November in Auburn, and in Tacoma in February, not to mention planning, laughing, and solving global problems with our local members.

What disharmony could exist among veterans who agree that war should be abolished as our default foreign policy and that our leaders should be accountable for the devastating costs of war? Alright. That’s a silly question for anyone who’s spent years working in peace and justice organizations.  Peace mongers come in all imaginable types. In fact, it was reassuring to hear VFP leaders talk, at our Tacoma conference, about recent internal squabbles, because they involve disagreements which allow for constructive discourse and encourage independent points of view.

As one who joined VFP about the time I started working for PJALS, I was not drawn to the regional conference to be enlightened by workshops, but to be part of the community-building for our chapter as well as among state-wide chapters. Feeling some success in that, I was caught off guard by one workshop: “Vietnam Commemoration.” Read more »

Young Activist Leaders: Building Our Boldness

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 | 10:22pm | Comment on this

Jeremiah Manesby Jeremiah Manes

The Young Activist Leaders Program benefits those of us involved on so many levels. As a member of this program I can say that learning in connection with a small and committed group of young people provides an environment well suited to build our boldness, sense of camaraderie, and desire to create change.

The Young Activist Leaders Program effectively provides skills for activism in workshops and context for necessity of action during retreats. Young people who may feel disenfranchised from the problems they face will gain a more in-depth understanding of oppression and will be able to personalize an effective plan of action on an issue of importance.

Specifically, we have learned successful speaking skills for motivating people to action, facilitating meetings, and building campaigns.  We’ve also learned community-specific ways to mobilize allies in Spokane. And always we are provided with written resources that will be valuable in future campaign planning.

I encourage any young person who is feeling immobilized, in a rut or lacking resources, to join next year’s program and be a part of the energizing group process at YALP!


Moving Forward With a New Police Contract in Spokane

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 | 10:22pm | Comment on this

Dom Felixby Dom Felix

One year after voters passed amended the City Charter to mandate independent investigation authority by the Office of Police Ombudsman (OPO), City Council approved a contract between the city of Spokane and the Police Guild, along with an accompanying ordinance, that severely limits when or even if the Ombudsman will have that power. Read more »

Time to Act Against Drones

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 | 10:22pm | Comment on this
Kareem Khan with picture of his son, killed by a drone. Credit: Noor Behram/Reprieve

Kareem Khan with picture of his son, killed by a drone. Credit: Noor Behram/Reprieve

by Bobby Kirl

Remember drones? The President, in his lengthy State of the Union Address last month, gave a mere three sentences to one of the most pressing issues of our age. He mentioned the word drone only once. For many of us this is not only a snub that fell far short of calling for the necessary action to put an end to the immoral use of these terrible machines, it is outright indifference to the suffering of those who his drone policies have affected so terribly.

An international call for Spring Days of Action — 2014 is ringing out across the social airwaves. This coordinated grassroots campaign, supported by a litany of activist groups and individuals of conscience, is being held this April and May. The campaign is simple in its concept, but bold in its purpose. It aims to encourage activists around the world to join in consolidated effort for a common set of goals; winning passage of local laws that prohibit drones and drone surveillance; keeping drones from being used in our communities; and seeking national laws to bar the use of weaponized drones and drone surveillance. This campaign has the potential to be a massive coalition for human rights. Read more »

Solidarity with El Salvador

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 | 10:22pm | Comment on this

Hermanas Spokane and Camp Salvador Counselors are raising money for the library of Huisisilapa:

Dinner and Auction: Saturday, March 8, at The Community School 1300 W. Knox. Tickets: $10 (a donation accepted for families). Doors open at 5:00 pm; 6:00 pm Live auction; 6:15 pm Program.

Women of Huisi, El SalvadorHuisisilapa (we-si-si-la-pa) is a community of former refugees from Mesa Grande in Honduras as a result of the Salvadoran Civil War.  The last refugees to repopulate El Salvador from the refugee camp went to  an area known as Huisisilapa (Huisi).  The area was pastor land without as much as one outbuilding and of course no infrastructure.

The people arrived in Huisi April 1, 1992, to begin rebuilding their lives.  They had lost everything during the war. Read more »

Inspiration & Impact in Olympia: Lobby Day!

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 | 10:22pm | 3 comments

Bobby Kirlby Bobby Kirl

On January 20th, I and members from the 6th Legislative District participated, alongside PJALS and Washington CAN members from many Eastern Washington Legislative Districts, in an exciting and highly effective lobby day in Olympia. Our PJALS delegation of 16 people was our largest to date! The atmosphere and mood of the delegation was more than this aspiring activist could have hoped for right from the start.

2014 MLK Lobby Day - PJALS delegation in march to capitolMy first lobby day began with an inspirational rally. Several highly motivated organizers and activists shared heart-felt personal stories of their struggles and triumphs on important legislative issues like the Washington DREAM act–which has since been signed into law!– as well as increasing access to dental care, paid sick days for all workers and health care reform. The rally left the congregation with no doubt of the importance of the agenda. Shortly after that inspiration the entire group, nearly 200 strong, took to the streets for a multi-block march from the Capitol Theater all the way to the steps of the State Capital building. Read more »