across the U.S. say 'No to war in Iraq!'
movement to stop a U.S. war on Iraq reached a new level of participation on Jan.
18, when hundreds of thousands marched and rallied in both Washington and San
Francisco. Many more demonstrations were held in smaller cities across the U.S.,
and others took place around the world, from Europe to Russia and Japan.
the coldest day of the winter, much of the Washington Mall was filled by the
crowd. People came from all over the U.S., some from as far away as Montana. The
demonstrators were enormously varied, including seasoned activists, church
groups, community groups, students and children. People we talked with said they
had braved the cold because they felt they had to stand up and be counted.
school and college students stood out the most. Some there characterized the
crowd as the 1960s activists getting together with a whole new generation of
youth. On one bus from New York, several groups of 14-16 year olds came on their
own. A group from Nassau Community College had stayed up the whole night before
making signs. In Huntington, Long Island, high school students had their own
demonstration of 300 the day before.
Koreans and solidarity friends joined forces to strongly project their
opposition. Korean drummers led the Asian contingent followed by banners that
spanned the street reading: "No to U.S. troops in the Philippines and
were speeches by famous activists, politicians and actors, followed by a long
march to the Navy Yard. The mood was enthusiastic and friendly. Many of the
demonstrators had handmade signs that made their own statements. The banners
were predominately anti-war and anti-Bush. Although the rally had been billed as
a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as well as anti-war,
African-American participation was small and the banners did not connect the
some of the informal discussion centered on how "bad" and
"deluded" most of the American people are, at the very moment when the
majority of Americans are showing themselves to be highly critical of the Bush
administration. After these demonstrations, Bush can no longer claim that the
country is behind his insane drive to war in Iraq; now people around the world
know that the U.S. is deeply divided.
question remains, what will happen if the war starts? Will this unusually large
pre-war movement grow and deepen its challenge to the capitalist war-machine, or
will it collapse? Many people expressed cynicism about the ability of even a
large movement to influence Bush, and said they expect to be demonstrating for a
York News and Letters local
Oakland (Cal.) School District held district-wide teach-ins on the war, Jan. 14.
It was the first school district in the country to do so. Several organizations
were invited to make presentations, though none expressing pro-war views
accepted the invitation.
was one of the young presenters: I participated in the teach-in at Oakland High
to spark the discussion, to find out what the kids thought, what the teachers
expected that the younger kids would not know much more than what was fed to
them by the mass media. I was surprised. Everyone knew that the war is for oil.
In fact, it was difficult to find anyone speaking for the war. There was one
girl, from Bosnia, who was clearly very frustrated. Based on her experience she
was convinced that having this discussion will not make a bit of difference,
that the war will happen anyway.
student leaders who helped organize the teach-in were very passionate and
articulate. They were all students of color--there are very few white students
at Oakland High. They were trying to address apathy in the school and the focus
of this society on material wealth.
TEACHER, CASSIE, recounted her memories of growing up in the segregated South,
where she had to go to the back of the bus. She did not want to see those days
STUDENT said he would be enlisting. Since there really were no pro-war
sentiments expressed, he was encouraged to speak about it. He said, "with
the way life is in Oakland, I'll either get popped here, or I'll get popped
there. It makes no difference and at least I'll get paid."
an Oakland teacher commented: Amazing, amazing things happened throughout our
district. I think many of us remembered why we became teachers, to change the
world, to build a better future, to awaken a sleeping country of materialists
and individualists, and help people see the beauty and power of community and
working to make a better world.
am so inspired by everyone I worked with and everything I learned. The most
powerful moment of an absolutely memorable day was when an Arab-American woman
presenter said to me "Thank you for what you did today. There is hope.
There is hope."
march organizers and city officials fight over the number of people who rallied
against the war in San Francisco, the content of this anti-war movement is being
worked out by the 150,000-plus who marched. About 50 Black and Latino high
school students from Oakland, organized by Youth Together, sported quarter-page
stickers that read "Shot down on the corner or shot down in Iraq? Youth
deserve better choices!"
small multiethnic contingent of college students calling themselves Students for
Justice chanted, "Your oil, your oil, it's blood on foreign soil." The
question of whether the movement will continue or collapse is important. We've
heard that concern from youth in San Francisco. The organizers are too busy
congratulating themselves for "mobilizing the masses."
1991 there was a huge march of 200,000 but it collapsed after the war started. A
lot of people really feel isolated and came out to not feel alone, but they have
no illusion that they are going to stop Bush through these marches alone.
Bay Area N&L Committee
West Coast conference
The West Coast Student Anti-war Conference was held on Jan. 17 at San Francisco State University, while a similar conference was being held on the same day at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Close to 30 schools from all over the West Coast, from San Diego to Washington, were represented by the more than 100 participants. Some represented organizations that were ongoing since the post-September 11 mobilizations. Others were just getting formed.
The discussion started with the question of "what are we here for? Is it solely for anti-war? Or are there other issues?" "Points of unity" were proposed, narrowed to two: 1) opposition to the war in Iraq, and 2) commitment to educate people against the war. Immediately voices were heard as to what is missing or inadequate in such "points of unity."
One participant said "we need to think big, because the other side definitely is. We need to be against war around the world, because other wars will come up." A Japanese-American woman pointed to the need to show solidarity with the foreign students, who are being subjected to much more oversight by the government. She compared it to the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and that many of them are now speaking out since very few spoke for them then. They paid a heavy price for society's silence in search for "security."
A man from the International Socialist Organization offered the opinion that "points of unity cannot be discussed now because it will take too much time to hash out all the points that have come up." He proposed that we quickly agree on the minimal two points originally proposed, so that we could move onto decisions we need to make. The vote was taken and all amendments were voted down, incredibly, including solidarity with foreign students!
So what were the other decisions that were so important?--whether to have a national conference. Yet one has already been scheduled at the University of Illinois on the weekend of Feb. 22–23.
The most troubling part of the conference was not even the fact that the discussion was trivialized, but the sentiment expressed in the second point of unity that those present were already educated, and that they had an obligation to go out and educate others. Is it not possible that people coming to the march, or opposing this society in other ways, are also wise?
The fact that the joint conferences in D.C. and San Francisco voted to form a new national organization, Campus Anti-War Network (CAN), could lead to something, but only if they agree to be educated by the anti-war students not in their organization.
A promise was made that more discussion will happen at
the national conference. There are big questions that the movement needs to
address. But this conference did not do it.
Published by News and Letters Committees