On November 27, 2018, the Gandhi Team and the San Jose Peace Ambassador Liaisons received a commendation from San Jose City Council and Mayor Sam Liccardo for their work in organizing and training volunteers in conflict de-escalation and peacekeeping skills based on Gandhian nonviolence, to ensure a safe and peaceful place for folks to demonstrate their first amendment right.
Statement by Councilmember Don Rocha from San Jose Council District 9:
The Gandhi Nonviolence Team are a group of committed individuals -- a blend of lifelong activists and new leaders -- with over 40 years of combined experience in social ministry, peace and justice projects, outreach and advocacy. They came together as a team organically post-election 2016, specifically to help teach others about nonviolence, not just as a means of conflict de-escalation, but as a worldview and way of life and as a vehicle for social change.
The team collaborated with the Women's March organizers here in San Jose, and also in San Francisco and in Oakland to deliver nonviolence trainings to march participants, and also to recruit, train, and lead Peace Ambassadors at all 3 locations. Over the course of 6 trainings in San Jose alone, they trained over 400 people for that first march and deployed over 85 Peace Ambassadors. They also collaborated with San Francisco and Oakland Women's March organizers to help them do the same there.
Since then, the Gandhi Team continued to train hundreds more individuals and to organize and lead safety monitors for other actions such as the Science March, May Day, Unity Rally, March for Our Lives, and others. Today, San Jose has a pool of nearly 150 Peace Ambassadors who are ready and trained to collaborate with event organizers, city officials, SJPD, and medics to keep things safe and smooth, and to respond to situations appropriately as needed. Here to receive the commendation today are members of the core and extended Gandhi Team:
Now to tell you a bit more about the nonviolence work and Gandhi mission is Joanna Thurmann.
Statement by Gandhi Team member Joanna Thurmann:
I think the mission of a safety monitor, demonstration marshal, or peace ambassador as we prefer to call them, are rather intuitive to most people. The goal is to keep things safe, smooth, and peaceful, and to respond appropriately to situations that arise. Using nonviolent communication and conflict de-escalation skills are a must. And so is a smile and a calming presence - whether you're dealing with an angry bystander, a lost child, or an unruly crowd walking out into traffic.
We handle all that thanks to the trainings of the core Gandhi Team, our excellent police liaisons Nick and Candy, Andre the radio-man, and of course the Peace Ambassadors themselves. This is undoubtedly always a team effort, made complete by close cooperation with the city, SJPD, and first-responders. But we can't rest on our laurels too long.
Why we're out there in the first place is the need for cultural & social change. Half of the trainings that we, the Gandhi Team, have led were about a force more powerful -- nonviolence -- which can lead us there. As Gandhi said, "It is the greatest and most active force in the world." So our real mission is to teach Gandhian nonviolence as a deep worldview, a way of life & being, a transformation of heart & mind for the sake of one & all. Gandhian nonviolence is not just nonviolent communication, and conflict de-escalation. And certainly not passivity.
Nonviolence calls for courageous engagement, determined resistance, & fierce vulnerability, to confront evil, within ourselves as well as within systems and structures of injustice.
And to confront that injustice with the weapons of truth and love alone. Gandhi called it “satyagraha,” truth-holding / insisting-on-truth. We take our inspiration from that little Hindu man in a loincloth who took on an empire. Many people don't know that Gandhi studied Jesus and read from the Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew, in his daily meditation. Or that Dr. Martin Luther King studied Gandhi who studied Jesus. Or that Cesar Chavez studied all 3 before him. This powerful force is not only teachable, it is necessary. We hope to bend the arc of injustice, to affect / create true social uplift. We believe - without doubt, without exception – in Dr. King’s vision of the beloved community. Realizing that vision takes compassion, understanding, sacrifice, discipline, seeing the inter-connectedness of all of us, and the dignity of each human being, grappling with their pieces of the truth. That is the only way. As Dr King said, "It's no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence. It's nonviolence or nonexistence."
There is good news. A rigorous analysis of the last 100 years of conflict shows that nonviolent resistance is more than twice as successful as violent means of overthrowing regimes, dictators, and systems of domination. Our goal is to educate, to instill hope, and to inspire a much better world.
We thank the council and Mayor Sam Liccardo for the recognition of our good efforts. We hope that the vision we offer inspires many more to learn about nonviolence and to practice it in their own lives. Thank you.