“A long memory is the most radical force in American history” folksinger Utah Phillips
Since the 1960’s, activists in San Joaquin County had been protesting the Vietnam War, racial injustice, Livermore nuclear weapons lab, and the Rancho Seco (“Rancho Mistake-o”) nuclear power plant north of Lodi. When they were promoting recycling they were called “Communist!” for gathering up newspapers, bottles and cans. At the end of the 70’s as the war budget ballooned under Jimmy Carter, and in the early 80’s as Ronald Reagan began joking about “pushing the button,” a wave of anti-nuclear activism swept the United States. The Nuclear Freeze movement came to San Joaquin County, and local activists helped put it on the November 1982 California ballot, where it passed by 52% of the voters.
In 1981, people from Stockton took part in huge protests at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant on the Central California coast. When in 1982 the resistance movement turned its attention to Livermore Lab just across the hills, thirty or so San Joaquin County activists took part in two immense non-violent blockades of Livermore Lab in 1982 and 1983. About a dozen spent several days in jail in Alameda County, and paid their fines. Three activists walked in 18 hours from Stockton to the Lab, to join the protests there on Good Friday 1983.
At the same time, marches were held in Stockton against the US secret and open wars on Nicaragua and El Salvador. In 1984 and 1985 came weeks of protests and sit-ins at the Robinhood Dr. office of Republican congressman Norman Shumway, who proudly supported the wars. About a dozen people were arrested, including John Darrah, son of Joan Darrah, future mayor of Stockton.
As the local peace movement grew, it got organized, and around 1984 with the help of attorney Bob Green, the Peace and Justice Network was incorporated as a 501(c)3 educational non-profit. Donations rolled in, the mailing list got put on an “Apple database” (whatever that was), and in 1986 the occasional little mimeographed “Connections” founded by Lelah Conrad and Ellen Lyon became a monthly tabloid newspaper under its first editor, Laurie Litman.
The paper is still San Joaquin County’s only liberal alternative newspaper. From the beginning, it extended its concerns from war and peace to the environment, feminism, racism and the whole range of social justice issues. It consistently tries to show the “connections” the exist between social justice, caring for the environment and the struggle for peace. The paper is published every other month and the current circulation is about 7,000, with a mailing list of 1,600. The paper has always been free; it is supported by donations, local advertisers, and fundraising events. In the late 1980’s, the Peace and Justice Network held Stockton’s first Earth Day celebration at Oak Park, under the coordination of Bruce Giudici. Earth Day later moved to UOP, then Weber Point, and now Victory Park. Peace & Justice board members continue to participate in the coordination, now in collaboration with the offices of the City of Stockton, community members and the San Joaquin County Office of Education.
In 1990, a donor disgusted with the flood of war toys in the stores gave to the Peace and Justice Network a substantial collection of peace toys and games. The Network held its first Peaceful Holiday Gift Fair, the first weekend in December. It has become an annual event, always that weekend, at Central United Methodist Church on Pacific Avenue. Its reputation is growing as the place to buy excellent crafts at reasonable prices, made both by area artists and by cooperatives of craftspeople from around the world.
In 1991, after the first Gulf War, John Morearty created a weekly one-hour public access program on local cable TV. “Talking It Through” (a direct translation of the Greek word “dialogue”) was produced with a volunteer crew and a wide range of guests. Its purposes were to be a forum for civilized debate on public issues, to present progressive points of view ignored in the corporate media, and to shine the light on local people (and guests passing through) who were doing various sorts of good work.
You’d never know what you’d find on the program – a right-wing mayor of Stockton, a tape of Martin Sheen in Berkeley, slides from Iraq or Afghanistan, a tape of Arundhati Roy or Lech Walesa, a discussion of dreams, local poets reading their words, violin or shakuhachi solos. One innovation was HOTNEWS, a segment in the second half of the program with news and views from Morearty, Giudici and other local pundits.
In 2016, the Peace and Justice Network is still publishing the newspaper, holding the Peaceful Holiday Faire, providing a space to Stone Soup Radio and collaborating on Earth Day. We are sponsoring peace demonstrations, working with student organizations at SJDelta College, supporting local activists with a meeting space and bringing in speakers and musicians.