About 300 members of the international organization Veterans for Peace are coming to Spokane for its national convention starting Thursday.
The conference runs through Sunday at the DoubleTree Hotel. The convention will touch on conservation, climate change, indigenous issues and peace across borders.
“Veterans for Peace is an organization of veterans who have worked to raise awareness for the cost of war, and part of that is reminding people about issues of sacred land and lives,” VFP spokesperson Colleen Kelly said, adding that the group is “constantly hearing about trouble at borders.”
The construction of a 30-meter telescope on Hawaii’s tallest mountain will be a major point of discussion.
The keynote speaker for Saturday night’s banquet, Ruth Aloua, is an activist based in Hawaii whose group Oceania Rising is advocating against the construction of the Mauna Kea telescope on the grounds it would desecrate sacred land.
The weekend’s other featured speakers are Brittany DeBarros and Danny Sjursen, who will speak during a free event at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Westminster United Church of Christ.
DeBarros is the co-director of About Face: Veterans Against the War, an organization that advocates against foreign policy that involves “forever wars.” She made headlines last July for criticizing the Department of Defense on Twitter while serving on active orders in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Danny Sjursen is an Army veteran, podcaster and former West Point history teacher. He wrote a memoir about his time serving in Iraq called “Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.”
“Waging Peace in Vietnam,” which will feature an art exhibit and book release for a book by Ron Carver, will explore the history of GI resistance to war and will be open Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the DoubleTree.
The Arlington West Memorial, which will honor the 1,500 Washington service members who have died during the wars in Irag and Afghanistan, will be on display at Riverfront Park’s Lilac Meadows Friday through Sunday.
Deb Abrahamson of the Spokane Tribe will speak about uranium mining on the reservation during the Cold War during the opening ceremony and during a workshop. She was diagnosed with lung cancer due to exposure to radiation.
“We are on native land,” said convention coordinator Hollis Higgins, a Spokane VFP chapter member. “We now see all land as sacred. All the borders are artificial and we don’t see any reason why those should stop peace from happening. All the land has to be treated with a great deal of care.”
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