Counterpunch report on April 20

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Apr 21 06:49:44 MDT 2002


Counterpunch, April 21, 2002

200,000 Protest the "War Without End"
"We Are All Palestinians Today"
By Mike Leon

Washington D.C. On September 11 an Al-Quida-led terrorist network
struck at the heart of American financial and political centers,
killing thousands, troubling a shaky economy, and for many,
destroying the notion that America is immune from the grim art of the
terrorist.

Much of the American citizenry, shocked and incensed by what Noam
Chomsky called the "most devastating instant toll in history outside
of war," looked to an inarticulate, Republican-led Supreme
Court-installed president to implement measures to prevent the
atrocity from recurring.

President George W. Bush' s response--redeclared a "war on
international terrorism" that bequeathed in a matter of weeks a death
toll of innocent civilians in Afghanistan surpassing the Al-Quida
attack--prompted an estimated 200,000 people to march on Washington
D.C. on April 20th to demand that American foreign policy "stop the
killing" of innocent civilians, end the occupation of Palestine and
pursue social justice as an animating principle vis-a-vis an a ready
administration willingness to potentially brand any country or
individual a terrorist under the Bush Doctrine.

The marchers called for a domestic and foreign policy animated by
social justice, libertarian concerns, with a heavy emphasis on
immediately halting the offensive of the Israeli Defense Forces in
the occupied territories--a bloody siege described in a
widely-distributed pamphlet at the march as a "macabre saga of
violence and methodical repression (Islamic Circle of North
America)."

Organizers called the solidarity march for Palestine the largest in
U.S. history.

The first major national protest against the war on terrorism,
occurring some seven months after the September 11 attack, featured a
wide coalition of citizen groups representing organizations
addressing specific issues such as the Israeli "slaughter" of the
Palestinians, the American war on terrorism, the domestic erosion of
civil liberties, corporate domination of the global economic system
and mass media, racism and racial profiling, and halting military aid
to Columbia.

The march was planned months in advance and organizers claimed it
represented an "unprecedented" coalition of peace, labor, and justice
groups.

In a scene paradigmatically reflecting the apparent nature of the
coalition, Wisconsin Green party organizer Ben Manski delivered a
fiery speech against the war on terrorism through a bullhorn on a
flatbed truck, sharing the horn and truck with eight young
Palestinians as protesters marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Despite intense propaganda efforts by the U.S. and Israeli
governments and their military forces that systemically prevented
press access to Afghanistan and the occupied territories, the
stage-managed acts of American and Israeli aggression have drawn wide
public condemnation in the United States culminating in the April
20th march displaying what marchers said is a common sentiment--that
innocent civilians not be harmed in the pursuit of the Al-Quida
network, and that U.S. foreign policy should advance social justice.

A virtual black-out exists in mass-media American reporting on
popular opinion beyond carefully-framed polling questions, but
organizers hope the rally was so large that their peace and justice
message could be conveyed through mass-media news reports.

"Not in my name," and "Peace Is Patriotic" and "All War Is Terror"
were common signs at the march, as an exuberant and diverse crowd
shouted a variety of anti-war chants and slogans, with seemingly
hundreds of individuals distributing pamphlets and other literature.

"I'm here out of a desire for peace and a belief that violence and
revenge are not a way to peace. As the world's only super power, we
should be leading the way toward peace and justice in the world, and
not creating the circumstances that lead to greater tension and
terrorism," said Katherine Kurtz, of Philadelphia, who is an
Associate Director of American Friends Service Committee.

"The war machine is about profit not about security and we are not
going to have peace without justice. I believe that terrorism is
terrorism whether it is raining down from U.S war planes or if it's
desperate people blowing themselves up," said Jennifer Atienofifatar,
who is 29 years old and lives in Washington D.C.

Although the march seemed to be comprised largely of people from the
east coast--New England, Washington, Philadelphia and New York--all
regions of the United States appeared well represented.

"People just kept coming and coming, bus load after bus load," said
Jackie Captain of Fitchburg, Wisconsin. "I wonder where all of the
Palestinians were from, because there were just thousands of them,
whole families."

"I met people form Illinois, Minnesota, California--young and old.
Palestinians and Midwesterners alike, standing together for peace and
justice. It was wonderful. Everybody was talking to everyone, you had
to be there to feel the atmosphere, it was inspiring."

Ralliers mixed freely and openly with each other in an often-festive
environment. A common scene was of Palestinians talking to a group of
vocally supportive white questioners. One veteran of Vietnam-era
peace marches remarked that the march was as open, community-oriented
and good-natured, as he had ever seen.

The crowd, which assembled on the southwest side of the Washington
Monument at Sylvan Theater on Saturday morning, converged with the
Palestinian solidarity rally from the northwest side of the monument
and by 3:00 p.m. with other protesters joining the march, the crowd
had swelled to an estimated 200,000 as they marched toward
Pennsylvania Avenue and then on toward the capitol, ending with a
rally on the Mall.

Some press reports quoted D.C. officials who put the crowd size at
75,000, but Washington, D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey--smiling
and joking with passersby in a park off Pennsylvania Avenue--told
this writer at approximately 3:30 p.m. that the crowd was well in
excess of 100,000. Other sources said the crowd exceeded a 250,000.

Ramsey agreed with activists' assessment of the atmosphere and
peaceful nature of the march, calling the rally "an outstanding
event."

Mike Leon is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. His writing has
appeared nationally in The Progressive, In These Times, and
CounterPunch. He can be reached at: maleon at terracom.net


--
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 04/21/2002

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