Volume 21, Number 1
2007 Anti-War Protests
Readers & writers
Left Electoral Campaign
Venezuela Referendum Lessons
Darfur PR Scam?
Homegrown Terrorism Act Factsheet
Center for constitutional rights
Wisconsin books to prisoners
Review: "The Bubble"
Words of Choice
Eleanor J. Bader
We Own The World
Largely About Oil
Trade & Ghana
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Overview of Last Three National Anti-War Protests
This year, five poignant and increasingly radical national protests have taken place, dating back to January 27, 2007 when nearly half a million people occupied Washington, DC. Despite the increasing number of protesters willing to be arrested, not to mention the diverse composition of the anti-war movement—including students, workers, many from the liberal elite, and soldiers— the mainstream media continues to nourish apathy and pessimism about the strength of the anti-war movement. While acknowledging the lack of support for the war, it constantly dismisses collective actions with little to no coverage, preferring to focus on every negative angle it can conjure up. The vitality of the anti-war movement and the increasing daringness and dedication of its members, however, has never been greater.
Most recently, on October 27, 2007, about 100,000 or more people took to the streets in more than a dozen cities including Boston, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago, New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Jonesborough and Chattanooga (Tennessee), Salt Lake City, Denver, Rochester, and elsewhere.
As part of the October 27 event, 2,000 to 3,000 activists from Florida and nearby southern states rallied at Lake Eola Park in Orlando. Activists browsed progressive literature tables and listened to speakers including activist and Z Magazine co-founder Michael Albert, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Mike Gravel, and Florida CodePink organizer Lydia Vickers, among others. After listening to the speakers, the group took to the streets of downtown Orlando armed with signs such as “Give Me Back My Constitution,” “Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Blood,” and “Torture Is War Crime.”
After the march, organizer Matt De Vlieger wrote in his blog: “Well, we didn’t quite end the war on October 27, but we certainly strengthened our movement in the region and proved that the Southeast has what it takes to put on a massive revolutionary one that was extremely peaceful and empowering.”
The event coincided with the Florida Democratic Convention, also being held in Orlando. According to the Associated Press, the convention was attended by 3,000 people. In a show of solidarity, several convention-goers participated in the demonstration. Some, like Palm Bay resident Michele Paccione, took their uncompromising anti-war agenda back to the convention, urging fellow Democrats to become more involved in the anti-war movement. De Vlieger went on to point out the significance of an anti-war march drawing as many people as the well- funded Florida Democratic party. “Does that tell you something?” he asked.
On September 29, 2007 thousands of anti-war protesters participated in the Troops Out Now Coalition’s anti-war march on Washington. The protest took specific aim at Congress, demanding that it cut off funding to the war and bring it to an end. The march was the culmination of a week-long encampment in front of Congress where protesters set up booths, erected a large billboard demanding that Congress stop funding the war, listened to musicians and speakers, and attended vigils and workshops.
During the march a segment of activists broke from the main group to take over a street around the corner from the Capitol. Participating in peaceful civil disobedience, hundreds of mostly student activists blocked an intersection. A handful of inconvenienced travelers cheered the protestors. In an attempt to ignore the disobedience, DC police blocked off area streets, making the action appear to be part of the larger march.
One of the only national stories on the event came from the Washington Post. The Post’s headline read, “War Protest Draws Small Crowd: Participants Cite Public Apathy in Low Turnout for Rally at the Capitol.” The paper reported that “hundreds” turned out for the event, a gross underestimation. The focus of the piece was on the inability of the anti-war movement to generate support: “Several rally goers acknowledged that the size of the rally illustrated how difficult it is to get people in the United States to become activists, even though a majority of the public opposes the war, according to polls.”
At least100,000 anti-war protesters in DC, again; unreported, again - photo by Jeff Nall
On September 15, 2007 between 50,000 and 100,000 people participated in an anti-war march sponsored by the ANSWER coalition. A large turnout by veterans and veteran families, as well as mass civil disobedience, signaled a turning point for the anti-war movement.
Early in the afternoon participants streamed into Lafayette Park. Ken Hudson from Miami, Florida was among those who gathered at the park to hear the slate of speakers. Hudson, his son Jeffrey, and friend Christina all wore T-shirts mourning the loss of Iraq war veteran Christopher Hudson. “We’re here to protest the war,” said Hudson. “My little brother got killed over there three years ago. We just think it’s senseless.... I was never political, ever. And then this happened to Chris.... We got really involved.”
Among the speakers who most successfully stirred the crowd was Rev. Lennox Yearwood. Yearwood told the rally-goers that war and racism are obsolete and said, “The revolution may not be televised, but it will be uploaded.”
Yearwood also referred to an unprovoked arrest by Capitol police that sent him to the hospital just days earlier on September 10 during the General Patreaus hearings. Video of the incident shows Yearwood being removed from the line without explanation. When he objected and attempted to keep his place, officers pulled Yearwood to the ground. In his speech at the protest Yearwood, a former officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, said that it was ironic that he was lying in the halls of Congress while another officer was lying to Congress.
Video showed the police demanding that Yearwood, held down under the weight of several officers, stop resisting arrest. “Here I am just laying there and they’re like, ‘stop resisting,’ I’m like, ‘I’m not resisting. What are you talking about?’”
Activist Cindy Sheehan, in an interview after her speech, said the protest signified the American people’s refusal to buy pro-war government propaganda. “I think it’s so important and I think it shows there are so many people here in this country who aren’t buying the lies anymore, if they ever did buy the lies.”
Sheehan said she plans to look at the bigger picture when she runs for election against Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the next election. “I think the unfettered crony capitalism we have is a major part of the problem, if not the problem. So that’s what my candidacy is going to challenge.”
Rev. Graylan Hagler, president of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice, echoed Sheehan’s concern for United States policy beyond the current Iraq war. “It’s up to us to bring an end to this war; to bring an end to the kind of adventurism that continues this war; to bring an end to the kind of colonialism and neocolonialism that is really the foundation of adventures like this; and to really begin to try to rebalance the country in an equation of justice.”
Other speakers included Ralph Nader, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Adam Kokesh of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, and Gloria La Riva from the National Committee To Free the Cuban Five.
Before the last speech had ended, people began pouring onto Pennsylvania Avenue. Numerous choruses erupted, chanting: “This is what democracy looks like,” “Impeach Bush,” “Support the troops, bring them home,” “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your fucking war.”
At the end of the permitted march route several thousand protesters took over the grounds surrounding the Capitol building. Activists of all ages climbed over the fencing that usually funnels traffic down the Capitol’s cement sidewalk. At least 5,000 people swarmed both the cement walkway and the grassy surrounding area to participate in a die-in to represent lives lost in Iraq.
Realizing where the stream of people had led, some protesters left, but many remained, despite uncertainty about whether police would be making arrests. Protester Brendan O’Connor said he hadn’t planned on participating in the die-in, “It just sort of happened. We just kind of fell in with it. We’re here to show a presence, to add more people.”
Thousands participate in a die-in at the Capitol - photo by Jeff Nall
Adorning a camouflage jacket and sunglasses, New Yorker Zach Hasychak reclined on his elbows, facing the Capitol. “Something needs to be done and nobody else is doing it,” he said. “I’m definitely willing to get arrested.” Protesters chanted: “Our house, our house, our house, our house.”
In one of the more iconic examples of civil disobedience, a man stepped onto a barricade and shouted, “What do we want?” to which those behind him replied, “Peace.” Thrusting a sign that read “Support the troops, bring them home,” he called out: “When do we want it?” “Now,” they shouted. Wearing a pink crown and looking something like a 21st century Christ, the man jumped into a group of swarming officers. It took four of them to wrestle him to the ground. Still he held his sign and called out, “What do we want?” Even when they ripped the sign from his grip and put a knee in his back, his voice persisted: “When do we want it?” “Peace…now,” replied his fellow protesters.
A subset of marchers scolded the police, chanting: “The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching.” He was one of 190 or so nonviolent anti-war activists who were arrested.
Despite its failure to report on the size of the march, the New York Times nevertheless wrote that the demonstration “evoked the angry spirit of the Vietnam era protests of more than three decades ago” (“Antiwar Protest Ends with Dozens of Arrests,” September 16, 2007). The AP noted that the number of people committing civil disobedience outweighed previous Iraq war protests.
While many gauge the success of Washington demonstrations by their size, Chris Banks, an ANSWER organizer, said, “I think the size of demonstrations is one way to measure its impact, but it’s not the only way and it’s not even the most accurate way. This demonstration, like the demonstration on March 17 at the Pentagon, was a very important step in the anti-war movement because these two demonstrations had enormous participation from veterans, veteran families, and active-duty soldiers. On March 17 they were about a third of the entire demonstration and in this demonstration they led the march the whole day. It speaks to a growing resistance within the military. The military resisters are one of the most important anti-war forces.”
Banks felt that the arrest of Iraq war veterans and the treatment of citizens at the protest are telling of the way in which the Administration views soldiers and democracy. “For everybody here who had the experience of seeing how the troops are speaking out as veterans and soldiers are then arrested and treated like criminals…. It’s a good experience here for everybody to see that.”
Two days before the Washington demonstration, NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” did a segment titled, “War Opposition Fails to Gel for Antiwar Movement.” The story questioned the effectiveness of the movement to end the war. Of course, NPR failed to broadcast live or in-depth coverage of the September 15 march. The only coverage it offered was in a separate story which featured just two short quotes from activists and demeaned the size and magnitude of the event by reporting just “several thousand” demonstrators had participated.
Increasing numbers of peace activists willing to be arrested - photo by Jeff Nall
While the mainstream media took every opportunity to inundate its audience with the pro-war voice of General Petraeus during the much anticipated hearings on Capitol Hill, when it came to a mass anti-war march on the Capitol, it was business as usual. USA Today, for instance, went so far as to run an Associated Press story that “several thousand” were in attendance, but decided to omit a line later in the piece that relayed “tens of thousands of people” appeared to be in attendance (“Scores arrested at Iraq war protest,” September 16, 2007).
Despite the mainstream media’s lack of coverage of the event, activists have utilized YouTube, photo sharing sites, myspace, and more to widely publicize the events. Protesters have realized that national marches are acts of defiant revolt. As protesters chanted on September 29, “If they won’t give us peace, we’ll take it….” Americans are giving up polite chants for militant demands.
Jeff Nall is a writer and activist. He is currently pursuing a PhD in comparative studies at Florida Atlantic University. Two of his essays appear in Howling Dog Press’s activist anthology, Cost of Freedom.
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
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LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
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MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
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MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
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ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
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CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
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CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
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LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
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HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
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POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
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VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.