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LEGENDARY ACTIVIST JOAN NORMAN PASSES ON

by Annette McGee Rasch Sunday, Jul. 24, 2005 at 8:31 PM

Cave Junction, Oregon - On July 23, legendary activist 72 year old Joan Norman was killed in a head on car collision on Highway 199 near the California border. Joan is dearly loved and revered by many; the news of her passing sends shockwaves through Southern Oregon and far beyond. Forest activists, friends, and family are now planning a solidarity forest defense action in her honor on August 2, 2005.

LEGENDARY ACTIVIST JOAN NORMAN PASSES ON

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Sue Norman Jones; 541.592.3190 Annette Rasch; 541.592.4334 or 541.659.2917

Laurel Sutherlin; 541.301.8963 or 541.899.3116

Cave Junction, Oregon - On July 23, legendary activist 72 year old Joan Norman was killed in a head on car collision on Highway 199 near the California border. Joan is dearly loved and revered by many; the news of her passing sends shockwaves through Southern Oregon and far beyond. Forest activists, friends, and family are now planning a solidarity forest defense action in her honor on August 2, 2005.

The “Biscuit Fire Recovery Project” began logging old-growth reserves just above the nationally designated Wild & Scenic Illinois River in the Siskiyou Wild Rivers Area on March 7 of this year. The image of Joan Norman seated below the American Flag in her lawn chair just before her first arrest on the Green Bridge has reached news racks nationwide. Stories of her courageous acts of resistance and conviction have touched tens of thousands of people.

"I don't know what else to do to stop the log trucks, so I am sitting down again,” Joan said during her second arrest on March 14. Refusing compromise or bail payment, Joan voluntarily spent several weeks in jail in protest of illegal logging. While inside, she worked tirelessly to empower other inmates by offering legal resources and personal support. Joan was arrested over 100 times in her life; standing up for civil, social and environmental causes, and never had a lawyer until the Biscuit campaign. She will be dearly missed, as will her ever-present enthusiasm and her no-nonsense, powerful style.



Recently, Joan was asked if she was ever afraid. Her response to that question echoes loudly through our minds today: "NO! No…I would rather go out in a blaze, defending the world I love. I will be on the front lines someday and my soul will know the time to go, and I will just leave. I will make that decision. Knowing this, I am not afraid. I am more afraid that my grandchildren will think I did not try hard enough to leave them a legacy of peace, and world worth living in. I don't want them to know the beauty of trees by looking at a book. I want them to be able to walk among 800-year-old trees and know that is our destiny. That is where we have to get back to."

Joan had a contagious resolve and humble nobility that challenged those around her to take a stand for what they hold most dear, becoming a national icon of the forest defense movement. She personified the dignified heroism of those who act selflessly in defense of the fundamental values most American's share; but rarely act on.

Her daughter, Sue Norman Jones, said “Joan would like to be remembered actively, not passively”.

Asked what her message to the world was last march regarding the effort to stop the Forest Service’s largest logging project in modern history, the Biscuit, Joan said, “Tell them to get some fire in their bellies and come to this gate of paradise and help us defend it. Tell them to come. I will be here."

Joan is survived by four children: Susan, Timothy, Terry and Annie, her friend and companion Bob Youdan, four grandchildren, one great-grandchild, nieces, nephews and her extended environmental activist family.

Information about the upcoming action to honor Joan Norman will be available at www.o2collective.org.

An interactive memorial is planned for Joan on Sunday, July 31st at 3:00 PM at the Forks State Park, south of Cave Junction, just off hwy 199. Friends can bring food, pictures, songs and writings, and are invited to participate in celebrating Joan’s remarkable life and her legacy. Donations can be made to the Joan Norman Memorial Fund at Home Valley Bank in Cave Junction.

MORE ABOUT JOAN:

“I have been arrested over 100 times standing against injustice. Why, I went with the freedom riders to the south. I went to Alabama to stop the lynchings and let the people be free. I went to Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham. I started out with members of a church. I met Martin Luther King, Jr. The thing we wanted to stand up to then was the destruction of the diversity of people in this nation. The slavery, racism, and violence toward people of color. The thing we are fighting today is much the same only we are trying to defend the diversity of the whole world, of life on earth. We need all of it to not just survive, but to thrive as a peaceful, loving people.”

After that, Joan joined Vietnam War protests, she said, “I saw the genocide against the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and I jumped in, with both feet. I was at the Nevada test site protests. I stood beside the true hero's of this country. I stood by them at Fort Benning to protest the School of the America's, the place where international terrorists, death squads are trained.”

“I was at the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, I went to Washington DC to stop the G8 and the WTO takeover of the world. I have been in the streets with the best of them. I have lived for 30 years in a community of freedom riders. I lived in a motor home for 12 years and traveled to where I was needed. I had my own kitchen, my own first aid station, my few books and my passion for freedom and justice.”

When asked how she got into environmental activism, Joan tells how her Grandson was responsible:

“He said "Grandma, it's so beautiful and amazing in the forest, you have to come with me so I can show you". So, I went with him. It was hard for my old bones and joints. He was so excited to be showing me this pure, beautiful world he had found. Excited that someone in his family would go with him. It was hard to go up the steep paths, but I did. And what he showed me was just so amazing. I saw it the first time through the eyes of a child. We should all go into the forest with young children. They see it like it is meant to be seen. With the innocence of a being still connected to the earth. They see it the way humans lived it for thousands of years.

I cannot explain in words what my grandson taught me. I can only say that you cannot read about nature and wild places, you have to go there. And, once you do, no threat of jail will keep you from preserving it. The wild places are the last place on earth that we have to remember our heritage and show us our legacy. We need to stand up and protect these places. This is why, at this time of my life, after all I have tried to defend, I am a forest defender.

When arrested last March 7 trying to block the Silver Creek Logging company’s access to what activists maintain is an illegal old growth logging sale on Fiddler Mountain, Joan said, “they came and removed me from the bridge I was blocking by carrying me in my chair to the edge of the sheriff's vehicle. They put me down there and thought I would stay put. Then the officers went off to arrest someone else. I got up and moved my chair back to my space. My sovereign space. An officer yelled, “Hey you’re not supposed to do that! Get back over where I put you.” I just laughed. People have been trying to get me to be where they put me all my life. I have a right to stand up against evil and I will.”

* Most of Joan Norman’s quotes have been taken from a June 2005 interview with Ellen O’Shea that appeared in “Z” magazine. You can see the whole interview and more about Joan on Portland Indymedia.com

* To learn more about Joan Norman’s last campaign, the ongoing effort to stop the Forest Service’s largest logging project in modern history, the Biscuit, go to o2collective.org, kswild.org or siskiyou.org

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