18 August 2017
CPT UNITED STATES: Christian Peacemaker Teams supports clergy and community members in Charlottesville through trainings in nonviolent action
by Sarah Thompson
behalf of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) community, first and
foremost we want to extend our condolences to the families of the
victims of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump’s denouncement of the horrendous “Unite the Right” rally
on 12 August 2017 was weak, the Charlottesville community’s response was
very strong. From clergy to anti-fascist (Antifa) mobilizers to
street medics to students, they all came together to confront the
misdirected anger and brutalizing violence of the ultra-nationalist
right wing—mostly young white men were in attendance—in the
in July, the local clergy group knew they needed more reinforcement
and training to prepare for the violence their city would experience
at the hands of white supremacists on 12
Image from the online invitation to “Chicago Interfaith Service in Solidarity with Charlottesville”
Charlottesville activists had heard of the work and training of CPT.
Up until we arrived most of the nonviolence training dealt only with
how to interact with the police. Since Virginia is a
that allows to openly
a firearm in public,
there are multiple groups with guns and weapons, not just the state
troopers. Wanting to take CPT’s founding questions to heart, the
asked for training on how to confront this type of precarious
situation with powerful, disciplined nonviolent action. “What if
we, as people whose faith calls us to peace and to denounce white
supremacy, trained as hard as the police and the alt-right will
train for their raids?” And, “what if we are willing to give of
our lives in the same way that soldiers are expected to give of
Thompson, Executive Director of CPT, responded to the invitation to
go to Charlottesville. In early August she led a series of trainings
for a broad range of community members.
shared with the community members about the work that we’ve been
doing as CPT, walking alongside those who are creatively resisting
oppression and lethal violence worldwide. What we have learned in the
streets and in conversation with our grassroots partners over the
last 30 years was invaluable information for those facing it for the
first time in the United States. The trainings examined both
background work and in-the-moment things needed for being able to be
as present as possible when guns are all around. The trainings
dodging, verbal/body language de-escalation tactics, paperwork
prep such as advance medical directives, self-care
and activist accompaniment, and undoing
oppressions. She also engaged in many prayerful conversations
throughout her time in the city.
Sarah Thompson (upper left with a microphone) at a Chicago interfaith service in solidarity with Charlottesville. Photo by Patricia Brugioni
many people of color–indigenous and immigrant and
internationally–this type of violence and intimidation are not new.
CPT has responded this year with an increasing number of trainings
for communities. Our reservists especially stand ready to equip their
communities with the resources they need to do nonviolent direct
action for the purposes of building partnerships to transform
violence and oppression, and to stop hate.
a part of the growing movement to challenge white supremacy is also a
priority for CPT Canada, especially in Toronto. Please
contact us if your community would like a training.
For further reading about the work of Sarah Thompson and others in Charlottesville we woud like to recommend this article from The Mennonite.