Merrimack Valley People for Peace
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Brian Reviews 30 years

I stole some of this from Kathy Robinson's report of the first 20 years.

"MVPP started as North Andover People for Peace around the kitchen table of Alison Ceplikas, our first President in [1984]. Alison, of the Trinitarian Congregational Church, invited some from other churches to form a group. Some of the founding members were Alison Ceplikas, Gwendolyn Smith, Elizabeth Elliot, and Jim Keller."

Rev. "Jim Keller, brought many of the members of the Greater Lawrence Interfaith Council for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze to NAPP. Kathy was one of those as were Arthur Brien, Jane Cadarette, and Dick McCarthy. This broader community expanded the membership beyond North Andover, even in our first year." The name was changed to Merrimack Valley People for Peace ten years later.

In early 1985 NAPP was incorporated and applied for its non-profit education status under IRS 501 c 3 with the help of two pro bono attorneys Marcia Damon-Rey and Ruth Bortzfield

One of the first events of the new organization was a presentation by Dr. Robert Nelkin, a resident of Andover, and member of the Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Other activities included sponsored films, discussions with teachers, peace and justice evenings with local church youth groups, debates and discussions on cable television, a walk for peace fundraiser, and a Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemoration. The group raised money and donated books to local libraries. They organized a booth at North Andover's 4th of July Celebration. We still do some of these today.

Dr. Benjamin Spock spoke in 1985. about "Educating for Peace in a Nuclear Age," at Phillip's Cochran Chapel in 1985.

We followed that with a musical satirical play "Alice in Blunderland" with members of the North Parish Unitarian Church. With the help of a grant from the Kendall Foundation, we were able to hire a director and perform at North Andover Middle School.

We organized a Star Wars debate and sent a container of school and medical supplies to Nicaragua. We marched for many years in North Andover's 4th of July parade. In 1991, after the Gulf War, we even had our own float! We gave out scholarships for local public school teachers to learn conflict resolution and local youths to attend peace camps.

After a few years as President, Alison passed the mantle to Ed Meagher who served as President for approximately 10 years. Under Ed's Presidency the organization flourished. As Ed's Vice President, [Kathy] served as acting- President for a year during the Gulf War and succeeded Ed in the Presidency when Ed's health caused him to step back from community involvement.

Notes from the last 10 yrs

In 2004 MVPP was very active protesting the war in Iraq. Bobbie Goldman had been president for a year. The invasion of Iraq the year before brought many new people and talents. For the first years of the war, we were on the streets at least six times a week.

Many of us went to demonstrations in Boston, New York City and Washington DC.

Arthur, Mary Kate, Boryana and the Todds went to School of Americas protests.

Some of us were at the big 2007 demonstration in DC where Boston's Carlos Arredondo (now the famous man in the cowboy hat) was attacked by counter demonstrators. Then, 10,000 marched against the war in Boston. Then on Veterans' Day, 18 Veterans for Peace were arrested, including MVPP's Pat Scanlon, Arthur Brien, and Paul Brailsford. (Charges were dropped in December).

Hattie Nestle and others were arrested in 2007 for protests opposing re-licensing VT Yankee nuclear plant. Later arrests earned support of the VT government, but the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has allowed the plant to keep being dangerous (upwind from the Merrimack Valley).

We marched in Lowell and NYC to support immigrant workers rights. For a few years we joined the Semana Hispana parade in Lawrence.

We continued the Hiroshima vigil. MVPP Joined the Walk for a new Spring with the Peace Monks, and in later years provided them with housing and food.

Arthur's and Mary Kate's vigil at Raytheon continues, now often including Allan Sifferlen.

We joined the Good Friday vigil against the death penalty in Reading, starting in 2006.

MVPP joined other groups to vigil against making cluster bombs at the Textron plant in Wilmington. We again support a revive vigil there by the Cambridge Friends (Quakers) on the third Sunday morning of each month.
Many of us participated in Veterans for Peace, Memorial Day For Peace, led by Pat Scanlon, starting in 2008.

We brought in speakers Stuart Liederman, and Mike Prokash, then
Camilo Mejia, the first Iraq war veteran imprisoned for refusing to return to Iraq.
Dr. and veteran Doug Rokke described the dangers and politics of depleted uranium.
Mario Rodas spoke about being threatened with deportation to Guatemala.
Helen Caldicott warned us that "Nuclear Power is Not the Answer" to global warming.

We hosted the Wheels of Justice Tour, describing the problems in Israel/Palestine, in 2004, at North Andover High School. In 2007, the tour came to Andover High School, but was rudely interrupted by a group called the David Project. Many from MVPP tried to be a calming influence. Later, we had Alice Rothchild, discuss her book: BROKEN PROMISES, BROKEN DREAMS. She calmly pointed out ways people on both sides of the Israel/Palestine border suffer and work to make peace. Putting a human face on the complicated situation, her responses to negative questions were an example of how to communicate.

We sold nine cases of Palestinian olive oil in 2005, and more in following years.

Member Masood Sheik invited us to a Ramadan service at the Selimiye Camil Mosque in Methuen in 2005. We invited them to the 2006 potluck and met more times after that.

MVPP provided some start up money for the Peace Vision Project, created by Jane Cadarette and Stuart Leiderman, to assist Ahlam, a young Iraqi woman, who was shot and blinded during the war. Donations of members and others made it possible to buy a new computer for Ahlam that Jane delivered to her in Jordan. Ahlam was resettled in Britain and eventually married her caseworker.

Jim and Mary Todd, and others, got permission to set up a counter recruitment table at Lawrence High and the Greater Lawrence Technical High School. This continued for a few years, until Arthur Brien's arrest record for peaceful protests gave him a CORRIE record, so he could not go into the school (CORRIE is a program to protect students from violent criminals).

Running on a counter recruitment platform, member Martina Cruz was elected to a seat on the Lawrence School Committee. She was later re-elected.
Members have written many Letters to Editors and to government leaders. Some have been written representing all of MVPP. All were posted on our website and newsletters.

We had some fun too: We serenaded the Veterans for Peace on a harbor cruise. Becci's table added to Saturday vigils in Andover, and at other events and concerts. We bring our table AND tent to the Lowell Folk Festival and the Bread and Roses festival every year. Boryana now maintains supplies for the table.

We helped provide concerts by Pete Seeger, the Prince Mishkins, Dave Lippman, and Le Le Mam chorus, from Holland

Fundraising concerts were provided by Pat Scanlon, and Bobbie's father, Ernest Goldman, on piano with his friend Ming-Chi Tsai on violin. (Ernest just died in 2014 at 100.)

Bobbie stepped down as president in 2007, replaced by Ralph Galen. Kathy took over in 2010, then I started in 2011.

With a new US president promising to end the Iraq war in 2009, we did less protesting, but more making peace. After the crisis in Gaza, MVPP quickly sent $100 to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund.

Some of us joined Boston demonstrations supporting the Arab Spring. Then members visited and supported Occupy Boston. We marched with the Veterans for Peace, at Veterans Day events, and starting in 2011, behind the South Boston St. Patrick's Day parades.

Many from MVPP spoke up at hearings in 2011 about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program, and the "Secure Communities Act." This national program required local police to make available to ICE, those fingerprints routinely submitted to the FBI. An immigrant could be deported just for being arrested, not convicted. States could opt out (theoretically), which later, Governor Patrick tried. Recently, Somerville opted out.

Mary Kate Small Dodson joined the national fast in solidarity with prisoners in Guantanamo.

We helped collect signatures for statewide petitions concerning "Budget for All" and "Citizens United." These got on many local ballots.

From 2009 to 2013, Mary Todd involved many of us with helping Iraqi refugees settle in Lowell, and in fund raising. Now Iraqis are helping new arrivals. Our January 2010 potluck was at Lowell's St. Anne Episcopal church, with most of the new Iraqi families. The sound system failed, but every table had a good time. Iraqis joined us at the Lowell Folk Festival, our annual meeting, and at later events.

Speakers brought new voices.
Terry Rockefeller showed what peace activists were doing in Northern Iraq.
Susan Nicholson updated us on the effects of Israeli settlements on Palestinians, after her visit there. Kathy Kelly, of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, spoke here about Afghanistan.
Cecil Pineda,updated us on the aftermath of Fukushima.
We learned from Native American Charmaine Whiteface, of the damage to lands and people in South Dakota from nuclear mining.

We helped organize a conference at Merrimack College 2011, where Bruce Gagnon and others spoke about American military developments and plans.

We cosponsored the peace program at Rolling Ridge, enjoying inspiration from Archbishop Elias Chacour of the Melkite church in Haifa Israel. This series has continued yearly with Dr. M. Thomas Thangaraj, then Imam Suhaib Webb. This year Dr. Andrew Bacevich will speak (July 21).

We cosponsored singer, Tommy Sands from Northern Ireland, who filled the house in 2009 and 2013.
Mary Kate's friends led fund raising concerts.
Ruth Canonico and friends entertained at our last annual meeting.
Barbara Hildt ran a workshop on making peace in everyday life.
Joanne Sheehan from The Fellowship of Reconciliation led a nonviolence training. She recommended a movie, A Force More Powerful, about successful non violent campaigns, which I found MVPP had viewed in the early 90s. I still recommend it.


MVPP continues to oppose wars and to offer alternatives. Last September we visibly opposed invading Syria, and the US didn't. It looks like we need again, to urge our government to be wise in Iraq. (There is a protest tomorrow on Boston common at 1:00. Sunday we are invited to stand with the Iraqis in Lowell seeking peace in their native land: That is 12 noon to 2, at Lowell City Hall Plaza. (Our participation was later canceled, because of confusion about the aims of the organizers.))

For link to Word Version, click here.


Group shot at the 20th anniversary.

Merrimack Valley People for Peace meets monthly, on the fourth Tuesday,
at 7:30 pm,
at North Parish Church, North Andover.

Contact Merrimack Valley People for Peace       (978) 685-1389
            P.O. Box 573
            North Andover, MA 01845

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