Struggle heats up vs. Iraq war funding
Posted by raleighfist on February 24, 2007
The struggle from below to force Congress to vote NO on any additional funding for the racist occupation of and war on Iraq got a tremendous shot in the arm this past week with numerous anti-war protests organized across the U.S. From the West Coast to the East Coast, thousands of people and especially students took to the streets to demand, “Cut off war funding now and bring the troops home.”
WW photo: John Catalinotto
The Feb. 15-17 protests sent a clear message that there is growing mass awareness that Congress cannot be counted on as a whole to stop the Bush administration’s objective of staying in Iraq for an indefinite amount of time—even after the Nov. 7 elections, which became an anti-war mandate from registered voters.
The Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC) initiated a national call for the Feb. 17 demonstrations. TONC is urging all progressive movements and activists, of all political persuasions, to unite and come to Washington, D.C., for the march on the Pentagon called by ANSWER for March 17. TONC is also urging activists to occupy Washington, D.C., while the debate on the war funding takes place.
A TONC leaflet passed out in New York and elsewhere on Feb. 17 reads in part: “President Bush won’t stop the war. … Congress won’t stop the war. … It’s time to … occupy Washington. … Across the U.S., activists and organizers are planning buses, car caravans, vans and peace trains to Washington—not just to march, but to stay, because it’s time to go from mere protest to resistance. We need a massive mobilization on the streets of Washington as Congress votes on war funding. We hope to set up an encampment in D.C. beginning the week of March 12.”
TONC demands include an “immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq; an end to colonial occupation and imperialist aggression from Africa to Asia, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Haiti, the Philippines and Puerto Rico; no new wars against Iran, Syria or North Korea; hands off Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Lebanon; solidarity with immigrant workers and Katrina survivors; stop the war at home—stop racist police terror—stop ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] raids; military recruiters out of our schools and communities and no draft—education, not war.”
Photo: Elena Everett
Chapel Hill, N.C.
On Feb. 16, while Rep. David Price (4th District-N.C.) was on the floor of the House debating a meaningless nonbinding resolution, six youth were sitting in on the floor of his office, demanding that the funds for the war on Iraq be cut off and that the people’s needs start being met. The six youth, members of U. of N.C.-Chapel Hill SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and Raleigh FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together), were subsequently arrested for the action.
The demonstration, organized in coordination with the Troops Out Now Coalition’s “Cut Off ALL War Funds Day,” garnered support from youth and students, community members and veterans, as several dozen demonstrated outside while the sit-in was taking place. During the demonstration, youth unfurled a banner from the roof of the building which read “Closed for Business.”
The six youth inside the office presented Price’s aides with three principal demands: that Price speak with them and pledge to vote against the upcoming supplemental funding bill and all war funding; that Price use his influence to compel other representatives to vote against war funding; and that he oppose all aggression against Iran, whether through sanctions or overt military action. When the aides in the office refused to get Price on the phone, the youth decided to sit-in at the office until their demands were met.
Alisan Fathalizadeh, a 20-year-old student who was taken from the office by the Chapel Hill police as she was reading the group’s statement, explained what spurred her to participate in this action: “We’ve tried our best to work within the system, but when the system is flawed, little can realistically be accomplished. … As an Iranian-American, this war is personal. It is directly aimed at people just like me and with the way things are progressing, it will target my family directly. I feel so helpless and distant being here, that taking action against the issue is the very least that I can do to show support for all of my family in Iran.”
This action demonstrates a larger tactical change taking place within the anti-war movement, moving from symbolic protest to resistance.
The six youth were charged with first-degree trespass and released on an unsecured bond. They plan to pack the courthouse with supporters at their first court appearance March 26.
Students shut down highway
An estimated 3,000 students from the U. of California-Santa Barbara marched against the Iraq war on Feb. 15. Hundreds of them shut down Highway 217 in a sit-down protest near the school. Students chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and carried signs such as “Make levees, not war!”
According to an eyewitness account posted on dailykos.com, “A crowd of 2,000-3,000 students blocked the bike tunnel. After about an hour of speeches, including one by a U.S. Marine who initially supported but has now turned against the war, the organizers decided we should go walk across campus to give the people who didn’t ditch a chance to change their minds and join us … on the middle of our campus, in the middle of the day, disrupting everything, loud, angry, and passionate. I’ve been to protests before, but I’ve never felt so empowered as I did today. …
“We then paused and regrouped and considered our options before deciding to walk down the freeway. I must have driven down that freeway a thousand times, but here I was walking on the double yellow lines! In the middle of the day! I watched as cars made u-turns up ahead to avoid being enveloped by the crowd, still around a thousand strong.
“We walked down for about half a mile before we were halted by a hastily assembled police line in front of a Caltrans roadblock redirecting traffic. … Students were giving speeches about why we oppose the war and why we need to withdraw and the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam and why we need to stay out of Iran and Peace Out University … and the U.C.’s links to nuclear weapons labs like Los Alamos and other topics.”
Video excerpts of this protest are posted at: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=dU7Av-PKqhU.
NEW YORK STATE
Hundreds of activists braved the cold for a march and rally that began at Times Square in New York City on Feb. 17. Thousands of passersby also stopped to hear the passionate speeches of activists demanding that the troops be brought home now from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere and that the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent for war go instead to fund health care, housing, education and all human needs.
WW photo: Monica Moorehead
There was a lot of general enthusiasm expressed for going to D.C. the week before the march on the Pentagon, in order to put pressure on Congress to vote NO against putting one more penny towards funding the criminal war in Iraq. Following the Times Square rally, the protestors marched to the offices of Sen. Hillary Clinton, a 2008 presidential candidate, who voted for the Iraq War in 2002.
Speakers included Berna Ellorin, BAYAN-USA; Mary Lou, Al-Awda, Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Mary Klopart, Grannies for Peace; Ellie Ommani, American-Iranian Friendship Committee; Comrade Shahid, Pakistani USA Freedom Forum; Mia Cruz, FIST; Fallou Gueye, Union of African Workers-Senegalese; Jesse Heiwa, Rainbow Solidarity for the Cuban Five; WayQuay, Leonard Peltier Defense Committee; Jonathan Brown, World Can’t Wait; TONC representatives Larry Holmes, Brenda Stokely, Sara Flounders, Sharon Black and Dustin Langley.
Photo: Roberto Mercado
Other speakers included Councilperson Charles Barron, who recently introduced a local resolution against the war funding, Chris Silvera, chair of the Teamsters National Black Caucus and representatives from Millions for Mumia and Fanmi Lavalas.
At Columbia University in West Harlem, 300 to 400 students rallied against the Iraq War on Feb. 15. The event was sponsored by a coalition of student groups. Following the rally the students marched around the perimeter of the campus “to take their message to the community” chanting “What the hell is Congress for—cut the war funds—stop the war” and “Not another nickel, not another dime for Bush’s war crimes.”
The International Action Center, along with anti-war students, held a picket line in downtown Buffalo on Feb. 16 despite below-zero, blizzard conditions.
The cost of the war and the urgently felt need to cut off funding to end it now was not a matter of statistics at the “Not One More Penny for War” Town Hall Meeting at Central United Methodist Church on Feb. 17. Hundreds of hungry Detroiters line up daily to eat a meal in that very room while over $9 billion was looted from Michigan taxpayers alone to fund the war. Andrea Hackett, whose daughter served two tours of duty in Iraq, called the war genocidal, both for the Iraqi people and here.
WW photo: Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan African News Wire and co-founder of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), moderated the speak-out.
Azikiwe said: “We’re calling for a total cut off of funding for the war in Iraq. It is obvious the war is a failure. We think the funds that are being used—that are being wasted—every day in Iraq to carry out this war that the U.S. government knows it cannot win should be used to fund human needs right here in the City of Detroit, right here in the state of Michigan, right here in the United States. It has to stop and the only way it is going to stop is that the masses of people have to get involved.”
Detroit City Councilmember JoAnn Watson said not one damn dime should be spent on the war, “That’s why we don’t have money for health care, for education.”
Debbie Johnson from the Detroit Action Network for Reproductive Rights said the billions for the war are taking food from tables and resulting in cuts in Medicaid and Medicare that tens of millions rely on.
State Sen. Martha Scott called for an end to the war in Iraq and the war against the people of her district who do not have the fundamental services necessary to live in dignity. Scott said: “The $2.9 trillion federal budget will cut Medicaid, home heating assistance, HIV/AIDS and mental health funding and eradicate homelessness assistance. It will eliminate before- and after-school programs.”
Rep. John Conyers called for educational programs that let everyone go to school without cost. He agreed that suffering in Michigan is caused by the war; that $2 trillion in direct and indirect costs and climbing are going to endless war. This is the only war where taxes for the wealthy decreased. He said, “Close down the war!”
Maureen Taylor, chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, stressed that water service is shut off to 45,000 Detroit residences each year. Children in households without water are put in foster care because not having water is called neglect. The state or county government has taken title to 40,000 abandoned houses. There are 14,000 to 15,000 homeless people in this area.
Michael Merriweather, a Stop the War Slate Candidate on the 2006 Green Party ticket and member of SDS and MECAWI, suggested that possibilities not be limited to returning to the way things were in the past, but to look to the future and make the kind of life and world we want and need and take this in our own hands.
Ignacio Meneses from Latinos Unidos de Michigan introduced María Sánchez, whose spouse was deported in 2003—separating her family, severely destabilizing her life and that of her three children and forcing her onto public assistance. Meneses called on everyone to help stop the raids and deportations on May Day by not going to work or school, not shopping and not selling.
Jeff Montgomery from the Triangle Foundation, Michigan’s statewide civil rights, advocacy and anti-violence organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, expressed the full solidarity of the organization’s leadership. He said if there is any emergency funding, it should be for Detroit and Flint, for the poor and homeless.
David Sole, president of UAW Local 2334, likened conditions in Michigan to an economic Katrina. He explained the Michigan governor has emergency powers to declare an economic disaster and stop utility shutoffs, foreclosures, evictions and plant closings. This emergency measure was used during the 1930s by Gov. Frank Murphy and was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and is still on the books. Sole called on everyone to become an organizer.
Two representatives from the Windsor Peace Coalition in Canada brought the message that they are holding a March 17 demonstration at the Canadian entrance to the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. Like Detroit, Windsor, dependant on the auto industry, has lost thousands of jobs.
Sandra Hines is a leader in the fight against police brutality and to save her neighborhood school, Courtis Elementary, one of the 51 schools tagged for closing due to Detroit public school budget deficits. Hines stressed that action was needed now. She said, “This is a war on the people here, not just Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.”
The message of the heightening struggle to end the war was reported in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday and on Channel 2 TV.
WW photo: Susan Schnur
Despite cold and snow, Cleveland TONC held a lively demonstration across from the West Side Market, a popular indoor/outdoor food market—symbolizing the food that many are forced to go without in this, the most impoverished city in the U.S. The demonstration was joined by the Northeast Ohio Antiwar Coalition, Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee, Cleveland Nonviolence Network and the Baldwin-Wallace College chapter of FIST.
A group of activists from SEIU, Vietnam Veterans for Peace, community organizations and the International Action Center gathered Feb. 17 in Center City for a speak-out against the war. It was an open mike session where passersby could talk freely about their opposition to the war.
A young African-American man who holds a low wage job with no benefits in a fast food chain criticized Bush for waging war in Iraq while ignoring the victims of Katrina.
WW photo: Berta Joubert-Ceci
A middle-aged owner of a vending cart stated that “A lot of people get killed for nothing. … We have to stop the war by working together.” Nick, a high school student, spoke about recruiters going after the youth, particularly poor kids.
Julia López, director of Centro Pedro Clavel, a service-oriented agency in the Latin@ community, remarked, “Our youth are living without resources, being brainwashed through the media. They are not getting the facts to make an informed decision, instead are being indoctrinated by the media, sent to kill and die. There is no budget for education but suddenly billions of dollars appear to fight a war and kill innocent people.”
A young African-American man, referring to Bush, said, “When is he going to have enough, man, how many bodies have to be laid down before he gets the message?”
Tili Ayala, a young mother of two, stated, “You have to speak out or else the government will speak out for you. We have to be the voice.”
In Springfield, an economically distressed city largely run by a control board established by former Gov. Mitt Romney, the message of “money for jobs, not war” was the central theme of a noon news conference held at the Federal Building. All local media outlets, print, TV and radio covered the news conference. A multi-national group of area activists picketed the Federal building.
Among those who spoke were Democratic state representative and chair of the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus, Benjamin Swan, who personally endorsed the Troops Out Now Coalition’s national “No More $$ For War” campaign.
Representatives of Arise for Social Justice, a Springfield poor people’s rights organization, and Out Now, a Western Mass. lesbian/gay/bi/trans youth organization, also urged opposition to continued funding for the war.
The Rev. Louis Alvarenga of Actión Latino, a Springfield-based immigrant rights organization, stated, “Many of the soldiers dying in Iraq are Latin@. The immigrant community is suffering from this war by losing our young men and women in Iraq and by the money being taken away from healthcare, housing and jobs in our communities here at home. We’re here to stop this war.”
Greg Speeter of the Northampton-based National Priorities Project provided a sobering assessment of the war’s financial impact on Springfield and surrounding communities. The Priorities Project provides information about the effects of military spending on the national budget and on cities across the country. (www.nationalpriorities.org)
Nick Camerota of the Western Mass. IAC/Troops Out Now Organizing Committee urged people to support the online petition drive to stop war funding and called attention to U.S. threats of war against Iran.
In Boston a squad of volunteers for TONC distributed 1,000 flyers at a busy downtown intersection. The Boston City Council had just a few days earlier passed a resolution condemning the Iraq War which also urged people to go to Washington on March 17 to protest the war. The resolution was introduced by Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and passed 8-3.
Kennesaw State University students led a successful street vigil/rally on busy Barrett Parkway in Cobb County Feb. 17, with students and supporters receiving much positive response from drivers—many hundreds of encouraging shouts and horn honks.
The Columbus Peace and Justice Coalition held their opening event Feb. 17 in Columbus—a Peace in the Park rally. They attracted 30-40 people, made new contacts and got media coverage.
“I think the time has come for the fence-sitters and the people who have otherwise just sort of stood on the sidelines to get out and have their voices heard as well,” stated Brett Johnson. (WRBL News, Feb. 18)
The group is organizing a caravan to leave Columbus on March 16 to attend the March on the Pentagon March 17. For more information, contact the Columbus Peace and Justice Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon Black, Ben Carroll, Catherine Donaghy, Ellie Dorritte, Martha Grevatt, Cheryl LaBash, Berta Joubert-Ceci, Dianne Mathiowetz, Bob McCubbin and Gerry Scoppettuolo contributed to this article.
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