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Petey van at 71st Birthday.JPG

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to a cause that Peter championed

Common Defense

Peter served in the U.S. Navy between 1962 and 1966, including on a military supply ship supporting the U.S. sponsored coup against the Dominican Republic's elected, social-democratic government in 1965. He left the service a committed opponent of the Vietnam War, militarism, and irrational authority. As a veteran, he campaigned for peace and for strengthening-not privatizing-the Veterans Administration health system. In line with Peter's values, Common Defense empowers veterans to stand up for our communities against the rising tide of racism, hate, and violence, to organize against the entrenched power of greedy billionaires who have rigged our economy, and to champion an equitable and representative democracy, where “liberty and justice” truly is for all. Peter campaigned with members of Common Defense in supporting Jess King's 2018 campaign for Congress in Pennsylvania.

Justice Democrats

Peter long believed in fighting for "the left-wing of the possible" and saw the Democratic Party as a battleground for determined group of progressive activists. At the end of his life, Peter was enthusiastic that Justice Democrats had picked up the mantle. Justice Democrats is working to elect a mission-driven caucus in Congress that will fight for solutions that match the scale of our many crises: skyrocketing inequality, climate change, deepening structural racism as the country becomes more diverse, and the corporate takeover of our democracy. Peter agreed that we need a Democratic Party that fights for its voters, not its corporate donors, and was excited that Justice Democrats was helping elect leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Congress.

Public Justice Food Project

Peter, though his legal work and advocacy in Vermont around sustainable farming, shared the Public Justice Food Project's vision of a future where our food chain results in healthy, empowered communities and sustainable livelihoods for workers and a just animal agriculture system that is transparent and accountable to people, not profit. While still at Rutgers Law , Peter co-authored an article arguing that workers could use state law to seek injunctions to force their employers to provide a safe workplace. This article (titled Injunctions Against Occupational Hazards: The Right to Work under Safe Conditions) ultimately led to the landmark case, Shimp v. New Jersey Bell Tel. Co, which established the right to be free from second-hand smoke hazards in the workplace. Shortly before his death, Peter was excited to see advocates at Public Justice's Food Project rediscovering this body of state law to seek injunctions against corporations who order employees to work during the COVID-19 pandemic without appropriate safety precautions.

Poor People's Campaign

n 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others called for a “revolution of values” in America. They sought to build a broad, fusion movement that could unite poor and impacted communities across the country. Their name was a direct cry from the underside of history: The Poor People’s Campaign. Today, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has picked up this unfinished work. From Alaska to Arkansas, the Bronx to the border, people are coming together to confront the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. Peter was inspired by Rev. Barber's work and agreed that we need need a movement that will shift the moral narrative, impact policies and elections at every level of government, and build lasting power for poor and impacted people

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