Tom Hastings stood before a judge in community court last week after being arrested for refusing to leave Senator Gordon Smith’s office in late September.
The judge asked him if he admits to refusing to leave the office and Hastings said that he not only refused to leave, but wanted recognition for it.
An author of many books and fixed-term faculty in the PSU Conflict Resolution department, Hastings said he is married to the peace movement. He said that his efforts for promoting peace stretch beyond just regular activism and go into many other areas. Hastings’ goal is to combine activism and academic work.
”I’m not claiming to be a big deal activist,” Hastings said. “My time is seriously devoted to teaching.”
Along with teaching, Hastings is a published author many times over (with a book coming out this month), a traveling lecturer, and the founder of the Portland Catholic Worker House where he also lives. He said his spare time is essentially spent the same way his professional life is spent. Hastings said writing for him is a form of therapy, albeit a very laborious one.
Hastings, who started teaching at Portland State in the spring of 2001, was arrested Sept. 21 outside of Smith’s office along with eight others, including PSU student Rachel Joy. He said they were asking the senator to sign a pledge for peace as part of the “Declaration of Peace Week” that ran from Sept. 21 to 29. He said it was a minor incident.
Hastings came to Portland State from a job directing Peace and Conflict Studies at Northland College in Wisconsin. When he decided he would move, he looked in a directory of peace studies programs and found that Portland was ranked second after Boston for the number of peace programs the city had.
Hastings said the peace studies program is constantly viewed as an unwanted stepchild to the university, but he sees it as very important.
”We offer as much to humanity as cancer research,” Hastings said.
Hastings was charged with a felony for property destruction in 1996 after personally cutting down three command center poles at a U.S. thermonuclear navy site with a handsaw. He beat a sentence of sabotage, but was convicted for three years on the charge of property destruction. He spent one year in prison, one in house arrest, and one in probation, which he served coincidently while teaching in Wisconsin.
”This is legally a crime and I did my time,” Hastings said, “but society doesn’t hold that view in reality.”
Hastings was sentenced for two months of community service last Tuesday for the incident at Smith’s office. He said he is avoiding jail time because of his responsibilities to teaching, even though he sees jail as a possibility. He said arrest is always a likely possibility.
”We are happy to go to court,” Hastings said. “Let’s put the war on trial.”
”Civil Resist Portland” is the group that organized the Smith office protest and consists of about 80 members in the Portland area.
Hastings said they have strict criteria of acceptable actions. He said their ultimate goal is to gain attention for the peace movement, but they will not lie to gain access to a building or give any more trouble to law enforcement officers than is necessary. He said when they are arrested they will go with the police willingly.
”As soon as they say ‘You’re under arrest,’ we leave with them,” Hastings said. “We won’t make them throw their backs out over us.”
All members must go through nonviolence training, sign a pledge and carry it with them at all times. The pledge details several items of behavior, such as no yelling, no treating anyone with disrespect and no weapons.
Hastings said he also does not agree with hiding your agenda or concealing your face while protesting. He said it alienates the mainstream when protesters are so confrontational.
”Without the support of mainstream America the movement will not succeed,” Hastings said. “I’m alienating enough as I am.”
Hastings said he has been traveling to conventions and seminars far too much lately, but will stop until next year. This last week he was just outside Buffalo, New York speaking at the “Concerned Philosophers for Peace” conference.
Hastings also serves as the co-chair of the National Peace and Justice Studies association. He is currently planning a conference to be held at Portland State in 2008 and has begun fundraising activities.
Hastings said his 12 years of experience as a single dad has helped him learn how to balance his busy lifestyle.
”They say if you want something done, ask a single mother,” Hastings said. “I’ve also acquired that ability by being a single dad for so long.”