Members of Meta Peace Team at the Lansing Capital in 2018, providing active bystander intervention. (Facebook/Meta Peace Team)

When violence escalates — tips for bystander intervention from the Meta Peace Team

Mary Hanna from Meta Peace Team joins Nonviolence Radio to discuss the remarkable power of becoming active witnesses when someone we see is threatened.
Members of Meta Peace Team at the Lansing Capital in 2018, providing active bystander intervention. (Facebook/Meta Peace Team)

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This week, Nonviolence Radio welcomes Mary Hanna from Meta Peace Team, an organization that has for 28 years been dedicated to using nonviolence to de-escalate conflict, both in our everyday lives and in larger political situations. In speaking to Stephainie Van Hook and Michael Nagler, Hanna focuses on the remarkable power of “bystander intervention” and the creativity involved in harnessing it. Bystander intervention, simply put, is about making sure that a person who feels threatened by another does not also feel alone:

Here’s the thing, I think, that’s really important at the bottom line: if you’re trying to intervene as a bystander, you might not succeed. But the victim or the target is going to remember not only being targeted, but whether somebody tried to stop it. And it will feel less traumatic to somebody who knows they were not alone, who knows that somebody tried to help them, than it will if they felt abandoned to that targeting.

Bystander intervention asks us to be active witnesses when we see someone who is vulnerable. Rather than providing a set of rigid rules to apply to any given conflict, Bystander intervention calls on us to act creatively so as to “break that energy connection between the people who are potentially perpetrating violence, and the person that they’re trying to do that to.” This interview gives some concrete examples of just what such creativity might look like as well information for those who want more to learn more about this effective nonviolent strategy.

Stephanie: Welcome everybody to another episode of Nonviolence Radio. I’m your host, Stephanie Van Hook, and my co-host and news anchor is Michael Nagler.

When violence happens around us – microaggressions, tension, racist comments — people wonder how they can get involved. What can they do? I they don’t have the skills, then it’s harder for them to be effective in those situations, to build community and support people around us.

Bystander Intervention is a way to get the skills and the training that we need to feel comfortable in community situations to be able to de-escalate violence in word from other people or in deeds. I have on the show today, Mary Hanna. She’s been on Nonviolence Radio before. She is a core team member at the Meta Peace Team.

Mary, talk a little bit about Meta Team. You’ve been on the show before, but maybe people haven’t heard you before. What is Meta Peace Team? What do you do?

Mary: Well, good morning. Meta Peace Team is a nonprofit organization that has been around for about 28 years now. And there are four main focuses that Meta Peace Team takes up, what we consider our pillars.

The first is helping educate people to the efficacy of nonviolence, because a lot of people will think it’s a good idea but don’t realize just how powerful and successful it is.

The second thing that we prioritize is training people in the skills to de-escalate violent or potentially violent situations.

Third is we place those trained teams of volunteers where we are invited to help prevent or lessen the violence in any given situation. Primarily, that ends up being rallies, gatherings. We also do international peace teamwork at the U.S./Mexico border, in Palestine/Israel. And our working philosophy is that we will protect anybody from violence, no matter who the perpetrator or who the target.

And finally, we network and support and collaborate with other like-minded and like-hearted organizations that are also working towards a better, safer, more just, more compassionate world, like the Metta Center for Nonviolence in Petaluma.

Stephanie: Right. And we share a training together once a month on the third Thursday at 12 PM Pacific Time, where the Meta Peace Team joins the Metta Center and a trainer from the Meta Peace Team shares a skill. The people who come to the training can learn that one skill, practice the skill, and then practice it in-between trainings too. We invite anybody listening to come and check out those trainings, which you can find more about at our website.

You said that Meta Peace Team will protect anybody from violence. And sometimes protecting people from violence means protecting them from their own violence, right? Like helping them not to commit acts of violence against others.

Mary: Right. Sometimes what somebody needs in a situation that’s really heated, something they’re really passionate about, something they’re really worked up over — you know, something that really has their adrenaline going. Sometimes all they really need to prevent that from escalating to violence is just a moment to distract them and for them to find themselves.

We work on the concept that all of us are connected and that there’s that spirit of humanity in each and every one of us — some people would call that “the spark of God.” Part of what we’re hoping to do is help them to remind themselves that it’s there.

I think one of the big things that was a revelation to me when I first started doing this kind of work was that I thought that there were magic words, that there were magic things that you could say or phrases and that would be the thing that would de-escalate the situation or make the person feel more compassion towards who they were targeting. And that’s not what this is.

This is using really thinking out of the box mentality to buy time and help the person find their better angels that we know are in there somewhere. Sometimes our job has nothing to do with the perpetrator and it’s all about the person that they’re targeting and, how do we keep that person safe?

I think one of the things that’s kind of illustrative of what we’re talking about is that we had a woman come to our training. She really didn’t want anything more than to learn how to handle her grandchildren better and de-escalate the fights between them. She said to us, “I will never do what you do. I will never be out on the street doing a peace team. That’s not me. This is for my own personal family-use kind of thing. I just wanted to get some ideas.”

And then she contacted us after that training, a while after that training. She said she was at a gas station pumping gas and she saw a police officer arresting someone. He was beating this young man and she didn’t know what to do. Then she said she stopped and she yelled to the officer, “He’s not resisting you. Stop hitting him. He’s not resisting you. Stop hitting him!”

She kept repeating it. It clicked in the officer’s head and he stopped. She didn’t stop the arrest, but she stopped him from being beaten. And she said to us, “If I hadn’t done that training with you guys, I never would have the courage to know I could have done anything.”

Stephanie: Wow. And you do trainings that aren’t just Bystander Intervention. So, first of all, let’s look at the spectrum. What kinds of trainings does Meta Peace Team do?

Mary: Well, aside from Bystander Intervention, we also do what we refer to as our, “Violence De-escalation Skills Training.” That is approximately eight hours in length, and in the era of Zoom, we split it across two 4-hour days so that people don’t get burned out. That particular training really emphasizes not only how to de-escalate violence, but where violence is coming from, what the motivation factors are. It’s the foundation that we require participants to have if they’re going to be joining our peace teams. We need them to have at least this much training before they volunteer.

Stephanie: Yeah. And actually, that’s an important part, that you don’t just do trainings. There are a lot of organizations that just train and then people go out and use them however they want. But you guys, you train so that people can join teams and build community and join peace teams, get to work internationally with Meta Peace Team, or participate in what’s called a “hub” where, in their local area, there are other people who are trained in the same skills. Then they become a force in their community, that their community can call upon when they feel like they need people who are trained in conflict de-escalation skills.

Mary: Yeah. I think that’s really a wonderful description of how we hope that whatever skills people gain from our trainings, they feel empowered to use. When they use it on our teams, that’s fabulous, but it’s also, and almost primarily, for the things that happen to people in their everyday lives. Whether it’s, you know, as scary as something these days can be as going to the grocery store, or running into somebody in a parking lot, or being at the bus stop and watching somebody be harassed, or working in your own family to de-escalate something that’s getting out of hand.

It is not a replacement for how to handle something like child abuse or domestic abuse. But it is definitely something that you will find – once you have the skills in your toolbox – we use Maslow’s phrase a lot: “If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” We feel like our job is to give you more tools to reach for. When you feel completely lost, what can you try? And if that doesn’t work, what else could you try? And if that doesn’t work, what’s Plan C?

So, we do that nonviolence de-escalation skills training. Then we also do extended trainings for international peace teams, which are longer in length and more involved yet. Then we do activist trainings for people who are preparing to do actions, how do they keep safe? How do they keep the tenor of the situation as calm and nonviolent and non-confrontational as it can be.

We also do a lot of specialty trainings where we are contacted by a group who has a specific need, a specific issue that they’re grappling with. For some organizations that’s doing poll-watching, for example, to make sure that things stay nonviolent while people are trying to vote. For other people, it can be, you know – we’ve done it for doctor’s offices who are coming in and having really confrontational patients, and how do they deal with that?

Part of what we spend quite a bit of time doing is talking with people and interviewing them on exactly what are the things that you’re finding in your neighborhood or your office or your business that’s really challenging for you? And then we try and craft a training specifically to help them in that particular situation.

Those are pretty much the basic layers of training that we do.

Stephanie: And how many years have you guys been around?

Mary: I want to say 28. I’m almost positive it’s 28 years now. In all that time, whether it’s in war zones or KKK rallies or political conferences kind of thing, we have never had anyone killed – thank God. We’ve never fallen back on calling the police.

Stephanie: I see. So, what is Bystander Intervention and why should someone get trained in it?

Mary: Bystander Intervention is when you are in a situation where someone is being harassed or targeted for violence. You’re walking into the situation completely not knowing that this could be coming, unlike a peace team situation where you anticipate there could be violence. But you’re just Joe Schmoe on the streets and you see that something is happening, and you frequently don’t know what to do. What do you do to help? You don’t want to leave the person abandoned but you don’t feel like maybe you could do anything to stop that from happening.

Bystander Intervention gives you that freedom to know that there are many things that you can do to help. We’re really hoping to empower you to do those things, so that you can intervene safely and to the benefit of the person being targeted. Our normal Bystander Intervention workshop is four hours long, and we teach the skills that we think you really need to be effective.

Conversely, we can kind of recap briefly what those skills would be and emphasize that anything you try to do is going to be better than doing nothing at all.

Stephanie: I really like that idea, that anything that you can do is going to be better than doing nothing. Even though it can’t replace a training where we get to practice, we can go over some things that people can think about as they’re listening. It might help them to understand that these kinds of skills are the answer to when we’re feeling powerless about when we see violence around us. This is something that we can learn and something that we can do — and we ought to take it seriously. I really think that this is probably one of the most important kinds of training that we can take. It should be required learning for being human, for being in community, knowing how to de-escalate violence around us.

We’re really grateful to have you on the show and to be able to be able to share as much as possible, just some of these skills. We’re also very happy that the transcript of the show will be at Waging Nonviolence, so people can read these skills and click to your website there too. So, Mary, can you take us through some of the basic concepts and basic skills of Bystander Intervention?

Mary: Yeah, absolutely. I think the first thing that I would put forth before we list the skills is that in any of the situations where you’re going to be asked to use this kind of Bystander Intervention technique, there are actually two potential victims. There’s the person being targeted for violence, harassment and there’s the person witnessing, or people witnessing it. Because witnessing violence and feeling like you can’t do anything is really traumatic. And so, anything that you can do to try and dissuade that violence from happening is a win/win. It’s helpful for you too.

Probably the first skill that we would put in that toolbox is, “distracting.” When you’re looking at doing this kind of stuff, you have to think outside the box. There’s not a right way. There’s not a wrong way. This is where you can because as creative as you want to be.

If you come upon – let’s use a situation where someone is at a bus stop. They’re waiting for the bus, you just happen to be there. The person who’s next to you waiting for that bus is wearing a hijab, the scarf that Muslim women frequently wear.

So, she becomes a target for some people walking by who get to make racist assumptions about who she is and what she thinks and how she feels. And you’re just standing there. And you don’t know what to do. One of the first things is “distracting” and it can be as simple as saying to the perpetrators, “Hey, don’t you live on my block? You look really familiar to me. Does your brother go to such-and-such high school?” It throws them off altogether.

Or you can say, “You know, this is my sister. And were just getting ready to get on this bus. Do you know about the time that it’s supposed to arrive?” Distracting them from their target can be a really effective way. We had someone suggest the other day coming upon a scene like that and just saying, “Hey, you guys — I know there’s supposed to be this great restaurant on this street, but I don’t know where it is. Can you tell me?”

If nothing else, it gives the person time – that’s the target – time to get out of the way. Potentially, she gets on the bus. Or if you’re with someone, the other person can escort them to a safer place. Your body language is going to say a lot so the first thing that you’re going to want to do, potentially, is move in closer so that the people that are targeting her know she’s not alone.

The thing that you have to keep an eye on while you’re doing this is that you are being respectful of agency. Don’t assume that this woman can’t handle it on her own. Wait to see if she needs you to step in. Give her that respect. And if she needs your assistance, then do the first thing. If that doesn’t work, the second thing. If that doesn’t work…

Another technique, they refer to in the literature – American Friends Service Committee has a lot of great stuff on this, as does I-Hollaback, great information on this. They talk about delegating, meaning passing it on to someone else, which could be like reporting it to, for example, the store owner. Or in the earlier scenario, the bus driver.

But we like to think of it more as drafting, get other people involved. If you’re not the only person at that bus stop, what can you do? You don’t have to be alone if there are other people. You can say, “I’m recruiting you,” in your head. “Let’s do something.” You can chant, “Leave her alone. Leave her alone. Leave her alone.” You can surround her, physically, with your bodies. You can start singing a song at the top of your lungs.

What you’re trying to do is break that energy connection between the people who are potentially perpetrating violence, and the person that they’re trying to do that to. You can be as creative and as – well, I guess, to be direct about that — don’t worry about looking crazy. If you’re saving somebody’s life, they don’t care if you look like you’re clowning around, or you’re being foolish. Think about what else you can try.

If you’re just coming upon the scene, you can start by reading her body language, reading what she could be thinking. You could say, “Oh, so-and-so.” Make up a name. You don’t have to know her name. “It’s so good to see you. How have you been? Oh, you’re getting on this bus too? Me too. You know, I have been looking everywhere for that book you were telling me about.” Could you potentially become part of what the harassers target? Possibly.

Here’s the thing, I think, that’s really important at the bottom line: if you’re trying to intervene as a bystander, you might not succeed. But the victim or the target is going to remember not only being targeted, but whether somebody tried to stop it. And it will feel less traumatic to somebody who knows they were not alone, who knows that somebody tried to help them, than it will if they felt abandoned to that targeting.

Stephanie: I really like the examples that you gave and the sort of infinite creativity. If you’re coming up to a situation where there is direct harassment taking place, yelling, or somebody getting in somebody’s face, it’s also hard to get yourself into that situation and to be light-hearted or to not be afraid in doing that. So, it really does take practice and I really do recommend that people go back and listen carefully to some of the suggestions that you made and really imagine themselves in a situation of high tension and what that would take to do, or what else they could do.

it just really makes me think too, Mary, that usually people would distract somebody from a form of harassment maybe by throwing a punch, you know.

Mary: Yes.

Stephanie: Or by cursing someone out. I mean, those are forms of distraction too, in a way. What you’re suggesting is that there are ways of doing that that don’t escalate violence. Just always keeping in mind that the goal is to help the person, get them away, de-escalate violence.

Mary: And if you can’t actually do the distraction, document what you’re seeing, you know? Take out your phone and record what you’re seeing so that if the person who is being targeted needs support on what happened, you’ve got that. Then once the perpetrators move on or become dissuaded, make sure you check in with the person who has been targeted. “Are you okay? Can I sit with you? Do you need me to call somebody? Do you want me to walk with you to your car?” Or in the case of the bus stop, you know, “Do you need me to ride to wherever you’re going so you feel safe the rest of the way?”

Maybe you’re not capable of doing something like that, like riding the rest of the way. But you know, it’s a small sacrifice to take extra time out of our schedule and know that you’re going to maybe meet your friend for lunch late because you rode on the bus with somebody further than you anticipated riding on the bus.

What a difference that would make to the world if more and more people were willing to take that time, to be that compassionate, and know that there’s a ripple effect to that kind of compassion.

Stephanie: So, just to go over the skills: so far, you’ve talked about distract, you’ve talked about document. Are there any other skills that you could share for Bystander Intervention?

Mary: Yeah. Documenting was one of them. And drafting. They often refer to it as delegating but MPT refers to it as drafting, like drafting other people to help you. There are many, many, times where you are not the only bystander. And so, get those other bystanders to be part of the intervention.

Then if possible, you can direct people – it’s easier to direct people when you are with people that you know. You can say, “All right, I’m going to go distract those guys and ask them about the bus schedule. Go and ask the woman who is sitting there if she would like to move somewhere else and walk with her.” Or, “Go and ask her if it’s okay if you sit by her so she doesn’t feel so alone.Go and grab some popcorn from the popcorn stand and come back with it and ask, “Does anybody want popcorn? I just got some free popcorn.”

I think the beauty of this is there’s not a right way. That there just needs to be a way and to try it. And like I said, the person who is targeted in the end is going to remember the trauma being lessened by someone caring enough to be there with them. It’s compounded by being abandoned to that trauma.

For MPT, our philosophy has been, there can always be an exception to the rule, so I’m not going to say this is a rule, but we have found that calling the police often makes the situation worse. It throws gasoline on the fire and that unless the person who is being targeted specifically asks you to do that, then we would try and avoid doing that.

Stephanie: And I imagine too sometimes the documenting has its drawbacks as well if the person doesn’t want – say somebody is undocumented and you’re documenting something, then you could also be putting them into a situation that they don’t want to be in, drawing attention to them. So, you have to be respectful in all of these decisions and documenting is one of them.

Mary: Exactly.

Stephanie: I’d also say documenting, on the other hand, it’s really hard to intervene when the person who is doing the harassment is somebody in a uniform, like a police officer. And so, documenting tends to be a good alternative in those situations.

Mary: Right. And in the situation of the person being targeted who is potentially undocumented, probably what I do is document first and then ask them, “Do you want this shared?” Because by the time you ask somebody, “Do you want me to document it?” And they think about because they’re – you’ve probably missed some of what’s happening. But never share anything, information or photos, video, without the consent of the person that was targeted.

Stephanie: Let’s just bring it back then to the importance of going to get trained in this work. Meta Peace Team is hosting online trainings for Bystander Intervention. People can sign up at your website, and take these skills to another level now that they’ve heard about them and thought about them. Really recommend going and taking a training. There’s a lot of other groups out there that do Bystander Intervention training, nonviolence trainings as well. So, wherever you can get it, do get it. But Meta Peace Team – when is your next Bystander Intervention training?

Mary: The next one is May 22nd. We’ve got a list of when we have Bystander Intervention and when we have the Violence De-escalation Skills Training, which is the longer training. Bystander Intervention, you can get a synopsis offline of what to do. What MPT does is train you in some additional skills – communication skills, de-escalation skills — that can be plugged into the outlines that I’ve talked about today.

Stephanie: Mary Hanna, thank you so much for joining us on the show today and sharing these skills. I really hope that this inspires people to sign up for some Bystander Intervention trainings and get some nonviolence trainings, and maybe joining a peace team or even starting a hub in their community. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mary: You are very welcome.

Unarmed Civilian Protection with Charles Johnson

Charles: Hello, I’m Charles Johnson. I use he/him pronouns. And I am with Nonviolent Peaceforce, Chicago, and we do interventions, de-escalations, and talk about Unarmed Civilian Protection.

I got started in unarmed civilian protection work when I started studying nonviolence. I was really curious about interrupting violence in war and in physical conflicts. So, I actually took a course and got more information and that linked me with Nonviolent Peaceforce who is one of the leaders locally and globally in this work.

One time when I really saw the power of nonviolence to de-escalate or change a situation was when I was on a train, a Green Line train in Chicago. I was on the train when there started to be a conflict between two individuals. It was a young man who was sitting next to a young woman, and she was talking at a high volume on her phone out-loud. I guess he was sort of looking at her and she noticed he was looking at her, so she started getting very upset, feeling maybe judged by him.

This started a back-and-forth exchange between the two that escalated to higher volume and to a more alienating language as the incident went on. I was on the train, and I had already studied de-escalation by this point. I was trying to gauge, you know, what might be appropriate here. What will not escalate things worse? And is it appropriate for me to intervene?

So, I basically just physically stayed close in proximity. I was looking for a moment, just not sure what to do. I noticed that other passengers were trying to ignore the situation. Some people were shaking their heads or just chuckling.

But the language was getting really loud and really alienating. They were kind of insulting each other. It got to the point eventually where they were threatening physical harm and saying that they were going to call their friends and make the person’s life miserable, taking pictures of each other. So, it was definitely escalated.

At one of the stops, an older woman entered the train, and hearing this loud verbal conflict, she looked at the young woman and said, “You need to be quiet.” And the young woman said, “It’s his problem.” But I felt that that older woman who entered helped me find my entry point: the chance came to sort of make eye contact with this young woman. Again, she was still saying things and kind of insulting the other person.

But she was getting ready to leave the train, and so I just found a moment where I was able to make eye contact with her. I said, “You know, I hope you have a better day.” She said, “Oh, I will have a good day.” You know, she was agitated.

For some reason, the word “respect” was just in my mind, so I just kind of told her, “Respect is there within you, no matter what others are saying or doing to you.” And that just, I don’t know, she looked back at me and didn’t say anything. Then I went to sit next to the younger man because I felt, you know, I probably want to be balanced here. So, I sat next to him and said, “Yeah, respect to you too.” I don’t know, she must have felt disrespected.

At that point, something really kind of amazing happened. The young man didn’t say anything. But he, just after a few seconds, he looked at her. They were about ten feet apart and he was like, “You know what? I’ll be the bigger man and I will apologize to you. I’m sorry that I was saying those things.” And she looked back and she was like, “No, it’s good. We’re good. No problem here.”

And they actually – he stood up — and they actually shook hands. She was about to get off the train and then she actually gave him a thumbs-up as she was leaving the train. And he gave her a thumbs up. And as she left and walked off the platform, she still was giving him a thumbs-up through the window. You know, they were just kind of reached the point where they were respecting each other.

It turned around so fast, so it was really surprising. And, yeah, I just felt like a moment had gone from such a dehumanized or degraded situation into they just got some respect back somehow. They found it back again.

I think it kind of helped me realize my agency as well because I think I identify with the other passengers on the train who are not really sure what to do. But there is something we can often do, and I felt like that was a good moment.

There was an incident also on the Red Line train in Chicago. I’ve noticed that, you know, public transportation is often where incidents in Chicago can come to a head. On this one, there was a person who was sitting next to a younger man. The person was a little bit older, but he looked a little agitated and the younger man was just smiling at him.

Pretty soon, the older gentleman who had curly hair, he pulled out a knife. It was a very long knife, maybe like 12 inches long. It looked like some kind of hunting knife or something. And he pulled it out and was speaking aggressively to the young man. But it also seemed that he was maybe struggling to keep in the moment, you know, maybe some evidence of maybe a substance abuse moment happening for him.

So it was an escalated situation. He was targeting his energy at this younger man who was just sitting there on the train. In that case, I gauged that perhaps I could do an intervention. You know, taking everything into account. I looked like – okay, I think I can stand closer to the situation. So I moved very close, physically.

The person still had his knife out. He was basically just holding it and continuing to express anger and aggression, often directing it at this younger man. I think someone pressed the emergency button on the train to alert the conductor, but in the meantime, we were just riding to the next stop.

By being physically close, I felt that the energy shifted a little bit toward me. It maybe injected something into the situation that changed the temperature. I know I was just trying to be there and make eye contact if possible and let the younger man, who was more under threat, know that someone was there and was going to try to alter the situation.

Eventually, the gentleman with the knife did, at the next stop, sort of decide to leave the train. And I followed him out. The younger man actually also got on his phone and started calling 911. I just followed a little bit just to kind of see where the man with the knife was going. I didn’t want him, if he was maybe in an altered state of consciousness, didn’t want him to maybe take that out on any other passerby he might see. So I walked down the stairs as he did, and eventually, he was putting his knife away and just walking down the street.

In that case, I did at least find that the violence that he seemed ready to engage in with the younger man had been de-escalated. But it’s hard to know what you can do in the moment, what might happen afterwards. I guess just in the moment, it is nice when something that you see escalating can kind of calm back down, and maybe that person reaches home without having an incident.

I thought that was one more case where nonviolence was able to change the temperature. I think, again, with your training, you can always learn more. I hope to keep learning more. Knowing when and when not to intervene as opposed to allow the other parties involved to express their own agency. But sometimes, they’re more able to do that when another person steps nearby in a nonviolent, loving, compassionate way.

Nonviolence Report with Michael Nagler

Stephanie: I’m Stephanie Van Hook and you’re at Nonviolence Radio. Nonviolence is happening all over the world, though it’s underreported in the mass media. Our next segment is the Nonviolence Report with Michael Nagler. Michael is the president at the Metta Center for Nonviolence, author of the “Third Harmony, Nonviolence and the New Story of Human Nature,” as well as the
Nonviolence Handbook.” He’ll share news, events, and analysis which might even inspire you to take action where you live. Let’s tune in.

Michael: Greetings everyone and welcome to another episode of the Nonviolence Report. I’m Michael Nagler with the Metta Center. And there are a wealth of resources out there. I’ll have to just mention a few in passing. – now that’s Metta with one T and this is one word in their URL – They’ve been doing both domestic and to some extent across border nonviolent intervention, and they have a lot of upcoming trainings I’m happy to say which you will see on that website.

Next week on Wednesday, there’s a 10-hour webinar coming up called “The Cold War Truth Commission.” In case you had any doubts about the violence of the Cold War – you will be able to find it by that name “The Cold War Truth Commission.” It’s ten hours long. All kinds of spectacular people will be participating, what they know about that bygone era and what it has to tell us for today.

The organization World Beyond War has teamed up with the Rotary Action Group for Peace. It’s kind of a link-up between the Peace Movement and the world of business and corporations which is devotedly to be wished, if it’s done in the right way. And this looks good. It’s a project called “Peace Education and Action for Impact.” The purpose of it is to prepare young peacebuilders to create positive change for themselves. You can find out more at

Then Michael Beer with International Center for Nonviolent Conflict will be doing a webinar on the 24th. And that’s to be found at That again looks to be very promising.

And finally, there’s a workshop coming up with Robin Wildman, someone whom we’ve been in touch with for years now. She’s in Rhode Island, and I think is probably one of the most successful persons in the US at getting nonviolence into the educational system. It does say something about how to go about these things because Rhode Island is smaller than say, Texas or California and provides a reasonable venue in which to begin instituting things which can then expand. So I’m very happy to say that her Nonviolence in Education workshop will be on April 6th and will be found at In case you’re not a Franciscan that’s P-A-C-E-E-B-E-N-E dot org – peace and all good.

To move onto some of the things that are happening in the world…I’m going to be concentrating first on climate-related actions. Again, we have a combination of environmental groups and tribal nations. This time, it’s against a proposed open-pit gold mine which is proposed to be near Death Valley in California. There’s a nonprofit called, “Friends of the Inyo,” that’s the Native group involved. His name is Bryan Hatchell, and he’s been leading tours through the area to give people a sense of the value of the land and just how much there is that will be lost through the mining. They’re worried about the loss of ancestral Native American sites, worried about air pollution, about roads that cut through the deer migration corridors, and a threat to the water. He says that the mining company is one heck of a fight — and that they will not accept mining in their lands. So, that should be a very interesting conflict to keep our eye on.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific there’s a cultural shift that’s taking place in China. Because there are concerns there over food shortages, as there have been in the past in China, and this time, they’re exacerbated by climate change. This has caused a dramatic decrease in meat consumption. You know, a lot of meat substitutes are going on, like KFC, Burger King, and Starbucks are all adding meat substitutes to their menus. And China, you can do things in a top-down way in a system of that kind. They’ve committed to decreasing their meat consumption by 50%. This is a good example of what you might call doing the right thing for – not exactly the wrong reason, but not exactly the right reason. Often, when you do something right for even an indirect reason, you learn more and end up doing it for the right reason — and that would be very, very nice.

One other climate issue: on March 19, there was a wave of climate strikes all around the world. Again, it was one of those things that was led by youth and they focused on the insufficiency of net-zero targets. They are narrowing in their focus on specific financial institutions with their demands. Net-zero means you don’t emit more carbon than you recycle, plant, or sequester, but evidence is adding up that this is not really going to be enough to reverse climate change.

Then I did want to comment on the fact that they are focusing on financial institutions because that has proven to be a very, very successful way to go about it. As far we know, it started in Philadelphia by the Quaker Peace Action groups who went to the banks that were funding the mountaintop removal in Appalachia. [Ap-a-lay-achia] Or it’s now sometimes for some weird reason called, “Appalachia.” [Ap-a-lah-achia] I’ve never heard of that one before. But they were able to really get places by – well, in effect, by cutting off the financial resources that are needed in a capitalist economy to do a major hugely destructive project like mountaintop removal.

This goes all the way back to the Civil Rights Movement, which again is kind of an example of doing the right thing for the wrong reason because often in many cities across the south, the feature that really got things to change was the boycotting. Appealing to people’s conscience, you know, it had some effect. We’re committed to the belief that it had a deep effect, whether it shows up or not, but the boycotts had an immediate effect. This is something that we’ve learned.

Now, when you look around the world, the most distressing uprising, mass movement toward regime change that’s going on in the world is still the one that’s happening in Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma. And we’ve been reporting on it here, and we’ve been hoping that people would go to different tactics because it wasn’t really that helpful to confront the military in very large numbers and get themselves killed. And unfortunately, almost 300 protestors have been killed and almost 2000 more are in prison at this time.

But they are going to a variety of tactics, and one of them, I’m not sure what to say about this, iInstead of being out there on the streets, they are lining up signboards in the streets. So, you know, waste your ammunition on signboards or live with it. Other adaptations include breaking up into smaller groups, which we know in the field today as, “dispersive,” as opposed to, “collective action.” Also, they’ve been timing their marches to avoid confrontations.

It’s excellent that they are now taking action to protect human life. Let’s see if they can figure out ways to really reach the conscience of those people in the military. Myanmar is a country where when you’re growing up there you have really kind of a choice between going into the military or going into the monastery. And it has flared up into really hideous conflicts at various times.

Meanwhile, an interesting thing developed in Australia where 110,000 women went on a march protesting sexual violence. They’re calling for independent investigations of all such incidents. Now, as is not uncommonly the case, there are already recommendations on the table. In this case, by the Australian Human Rights Commission. It’s a report called, Respect@Work Report. But they’re not really being heeded yet so it’s drawing attention to things that are already legal in Australia. They’re also working on getting public funding for gendered violence prevention and a federal Gender Equality Act.

Now, acts of violence of this particular kind are probably difficult to reach through legislation, but it’s worth trying everything. So, they are trying that.

Now, a couple of items about an all important area, and that is the area of culture. How do we think what we think about? And that brings us to the question of the media. In fact, this very morning there was an op-ed by David Leonhardt in the New York Times showing that the US media, which is more negative than other media about the COVID epidemic, is much more negative than the actual science.

This is really an unfortunate, “If it bleeds, it leads,” kind of an approach that the media have taken which recycles violence into ourselves and makes it very, very difficult to break that cycle.

Finally, the Veterans for Peace Initiative which is often a very innovative, effective, and active group, has formed an organization within their ranks called, “Gamers for Peace.” They’re against military recruitment in gaming circles by creating spaces that promote social justice and peace. I would like to send them our game, Cosmic Peaceforce. We’ll probably get on that. But they’re relying now on Dungeons and Dragons games every Wednesday.

So, this is really a brilliant approach because it’s right where the violence starts. I would recommend, if you can stomach it, a book by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman called, “Let’s Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill,” who showed that the military actually takes games that we sell our children, just takes those games off the shelf and uses them to condition military personnel for combat. So, this is really going to the source of violence, and we really have reason to applaud Gamers for Peace and our veterans.

Well, that’s our report for this week. And I look forward to talking to you again at our next episode.

Stephanie: Hey everyone, you’ve been listening to Nonviolence Radio. We want to thank our mother station, KWMR, as well as all of the stations that syndicate the show afterward. Thank you so much

You can find us at If you want to learn more about the Metta Center’s work

in promoting nonviolence worldwide visit us at You can find an archive of all the shows on Spotify and all the places that you get your podcasts. I want to thank Matt Watrous, Jewelia White, and to you our listeners. Until the next time, let’s take care of one another.

Music by Nimo Patel.

Transcription by Matthew Watrous.

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