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Advancing justice and peace during the Republican National Convention

News & Commentary  |  By Greg Coleridge, May 23, 2016

All are welcome to join us for the “People’s Convention” in Cleveland.

There’s been a lot of attention on what may happen at the Republican National Convention (RNC), which takes place in Cleveland in July. There are also concerns about what will happen outside of the convention, since the federal government is spending $50 million to militarize Cleveland’s police force, which has a long history of brutality.

In Northeast Ohio, however, AFSC is part of a local coalition looking at the RNC as an educational and organizing opportunity to promote justice, peace, and nonviolence through an alternative gathering—the “People’s Justice & Peace Convention."

Current public policies disproportionately benefit corporations and the wealthiest individuals. They tend to promote and expand U.S. militarism, while the concerns of the vast majority of people are ignored, distorted, and manipulated for political and economic gain. 

Our People’s Convention will take place from July 15 to 17—in the days leading up to the RNC—and will include a diversity of voices and experiences, from local to national, transcending any one political party or perspective. Its purpose is to lift up issues that the RNC is not likely to address and to collectively develop solutions to achieve just, nonviolent, democratic, and sustainable results.

A recent march in Northeast Ohio to highlight federal budget priorities. | Photo: AFSC/Northeast Ohio

The convention will feature keynote speakers, panels, and cultural performances, but its key component involves developing alternative public policy proposals within five issue areas: economic justice, social and racial justice, political justice, environmental justice, and international relations. Agreed-to proposals within each area will be brought to a concluding plenary for an overall discussion and decisions.

Our goal is to finalize a “People’s Justice & Peace Platform” that lays out policies and prescriptions to affirm the dignity and worth of all human beings and the earth. This platform will be delivered to both the RNC in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

While the “People’s Platform” will be a product emerging from the Convention, we believe the process of working together on the Convention and Platform will be invaluable. We expect to learn a great deal from each other and to create a diverse network that connects issues, groups, and movements that represent fundamental elements of justice and peace.

Our organizing committee consists of people and representatives from 20 organizations working for social and racial justice, economic justice, political justice, environmental justice, and peace in our communities and world. We are people of many faiths and of no faith in particular, of many races, genders, ages, choices, and political affiliations.

Since the majority of Cleveland’s population are low income and people of color, the Convention would only be meaningful and effective if it included these communities in its planning and implementation and took place in the inner city.

Olivet Institutional Baptist church, a historic Cleveland African American venue, will host the gathering during its first two days—beginning with a keynote address by author and activist Michael Eric Dyson. The event will then move to the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium, also located in central Cleveland but outside of the large security zone around the RNC.

Following the Convention, AFSC will join thousands of individuals for “End Poverty Now: March for Economic Justice” on July 18, the first day of the RNC. The rally and march will lift up the plight of the poor and the humane and realistic ways to create real economic and social justice across the country.

Everyone is invited to take part in these events.

U.S. history has demonstrated that humane social change has never occurred from the top down. Only mass, grassroots, nonviolent, and independent social movements have furthered human rights and peace. The People’s Justice & Peace Convention will uphold this tradition.

Visit counterrnc2016.org for up-to-date information about the People’s Convention, End Poverty Now march, and other RNC-related events. 

About the Author

Greg Coleridge is director of AFSC Northeast Ohio and has worked with AFSC since 1983.

 

 

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