Thousands Protest US Wars Abroad and at Home - Printable Version
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Thousands Protest US Wars Abroad and at Home - Enemy Combatant - 04-15-2011 02:38 AM
Thousands of people from virtually all sectors of U.S. workers, the oppressed and youths gathered in Union Square in New York City April 9 and marched, shouted and drummed their anti-war slogans for two miles to Foley Square in downtown Manhattan. As this largest anti-war march in New York in years stretched for 20 blocks down Broadway, it passed by thousands of New Yorkers busy shopping, who smiled, cheered and waved at what can only be described as the new face of a vibrant movement to confront the war-makers.
The United National Anti-war Coalition called for this demonstration last August. What made it new was the thoroughly multinational character not only of the speakers but of the participants. Thousands of Muslims, many immigrants from South and Western Asia, strengthened the march. Palestinians, faced with the latest attack on their people in Gaza from the U.S.-backed Israeli military, brought urgency and a fighting spirit to the demonstration.
A large contingent of Mexicans and other Latino/a people joined and cheered the many speakers who called on the crowd to return to Union Square on May Day for the workers’ march that will put immigrant rights front and center. There was strong Black participation as well. Young people were everywhere in the march, many demanding “Education, not occupation.” The banners of some of the major unions in the New York area, such as the Transport Workers, were also there.
UNAC hung a large banner — “No U.S./U.N./NATO attack on Libya” — on the speakers’ platform. Its protest of the latest imperialist adventure aimed at the people of Libya was a prominent part of the rally.
While it’s relatively early in this new imperialist adventure in Africa, this is a time when the heavy pro-intervention propaganda in the corporate media, as in the past, has often convinced the population to support or be neutral about a military adventure. It is significant that UNAC quickly took a strong anti-intervention position.
It is equally significant that the people in the streets reacted so favorably to the anti-war slogans. This reaction was further evidence that it is possible to win massive opposition to the war in Libya, as well as to the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been brutal abroad and costly at home for nearly a decade.
Condemn U.S./NATO attack on Libya
Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center and a spokesperson for UNAC, told Workers World that some from outside the coalition had raised doubts that such strong slogans — support for Palestine, ending U.S. aid to the Israeli state, demanding that troops be removed from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, stopping drone bombing in Pakistan, opposition to the persecution of Muslim people by the U.S. police apparatus, and fierce opposition to racism and xenophobia — would attract broad support.
“On the contrary,” said Flounders, “these slogans that were also connected to the economic and repressive cutbacks at home brought into the march communities that otherwise would be disenfranchised if the movement ignored their issues. It was also essential,” she continued, “that UNAC strongly oppose NATO’s assault on Libya and expose the phony argument about ‘humanitarian intervention’ that the imperialists have used as a pretext for their aggression.”
The slogans and talks from the dozens of speakers also brought into play the anti-war movement’s support for working and unemployed people in the United States and contrasted the government’s easy funding for war with the horrific budget cuts for social services.
“Today’s demonstration represents a revitalization of the anti-war movement,” said UNAC co-coordinator Marilyn Levin in a release from that organization, “this time coming back to life as younger and more diverse. The renewed movement connects the war economy to the cuts in basic necessities we face today and demands that we ‘Bring the War $$ Home.’” “The march stretched for over 20 blocks at one point,” said UNAC co-coordinator Joe Lombardo, “and featured at least 18 spirited contingents from communities as diverse as immigrant workers, students, trade unions, socialist groups, Muslims, Palestinians and teachers — each with their own colorful flags, original banners, drums and chants.”
UNAC organizers estimated that more than 10,000 people participated and were pleased with the smooth progression of both the rallies and the march. Others said 15,000 were present. Despite the long list of speakers — each representing a different organization and a different section of the population in struggle, while showing the breadth and scope of the coalition in total — the march kicked off from Union Square on schedule at 2 p.m. with drums and banners in place.
Protests were held around the world simultaneously with this action. Perhaps the most dramatic were held in Iraq itself, where peoples’ organizations were protesting outside the major U.S. bases in the occupied country.
A demonstration similar to the one in New York took place on April 10 in San Francisco, also called by UNAC.
“This was a wonderful first step for UNAC,” Larry Holmes, a leader of the Bail Out the People Movement and a rally speaker, told this reporter. “We have already seen in Wisconsin the potential for a response to the war on the workers at home. We saw on March 24 that a coalition of workers, community organizations, students and youth could also mobilize here in New York. Today’s action extended that unity to fighting the war-makers.
“The next big challenge for the movement will come on May 1,” said Holmes, “with an opportunity to unite the immigrant rights struggle with the workers’ movement and keep the struggle against imperialist war part of the common struggle.”
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