BIGGEST ANTIWAR PROTESTS SINCE VIETNAM
jacdon at earthlink.net
jacdon at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 3 08:33:38 MST 2002
The following article will appear in the Nov. 4 email issue of the
Mid-Hudson Activist Newsletter/Calendar, published in New Paltz, NY, by
the Mid-Hudson National People's Campaign/IAC, via jacdon at earthlink.net
BIGGEST ANTIWAR PROTESTS SINCE VIETNAM
Just a year after the Bush administration launched a war against
Afghanistan and months before a probable invasion of Iraq, the U.S.
peace movement has mounted a challenge to the warmakers not equaled
since the Vietnam war.
Led by the International ANSWER Coalition, several hundred thousand
antiwar demonstrators in the U.S. and around the world Oct. 26 demanded,
"No attack on Iraq -- stop the war before it starts."
Armed with congressional support to declare wars at whim, and embroiled
in complex maneuvers to coerce the UN Security Council into supporting
the invasion of Iraq, President Bush prefers to publicly ignore the
estimated up to 200,000 antiwar demonstrators who surrounded the White
House last week.
But in reality, the Bush administration must now take into careful
account the potential political problems this coalition can create,
especially in concert with continuing opposition from Washington's
allies in the so-called war on terrorism.
The rally and march in the nation's capital was the largest of the Oct.
26 protests. The second largest was in San Francisco, where up to
100,000 people took to the streets.
In New York's Hudson Valley, 2,000 turned out in Kingston, 500 in White
Plains and several hundred in Albany, in addition to five buses that
took protesters to Washington. In Taos, N.Mex., over 2,500 marched for
peace to the gates of the home owned by warhawk Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfled; another 2,500 demonstrated in Augusta, Me. In St. Paul,
several thousand Minnesotans marched to the State Capitol to show their
opposition to a war with Iraq and in tribute the late antiwar Sen. Paul
Wellstone. Demonstrations were also recorded in Vermont, Colorado, and
Texas, among other states. In Puerto Rico, several hundred rallied,
chanted and marched in front of a U.S. military installation in San
Protests abounded in Europe, even though the northern countries were hit
with high winds and rain. Some 80 rallies took place in Germany. An
estimated 20,000 demonstrated in Berlin despite stormy weather --
including a large contingent from the country's Muslim community --
under the auspices of the "Axis of Peace" coalition. Many thousands
were also reported in Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart.
At least seven demonstrations were held in the Netherlands, including
one of up to 10,000 in Amsterdam, the capital. In Rotterdam, 1,200
participated in an antiwar protest despite gale-driven rains. In
Stockholm, Sweden, some 1,500 marched for peace. In Copenhagen,
Denmark, another 1,500 braved cold rains to join a rally outside the
U.S. embassy. Spain was host to protests in most large cities,
including a rally of 30,000 in Barcelona. Italy, too, was active, with
20,000 reported at one demonstration. Additional international protests
took place in Belgium, Switzerland, Turkey, the Philippines, Japan,
Mexico and Australia.
A tiny but significant demonstration was held in Baghdad, Iraq,
organized by a small contingent of U.S. citizens in the country with a
friendship delegation from the Chicago-based pacifist group Voices in
the Wilderness. They carried signs in front of the UN office and later
held a candlelight vigil at the former U.S. Embassy.
ANSWER's Washington march to the White House was so large that at one
point demonstrators walking shoulder-to-shoulder across the wide
boulevards and on the sidewalks occupied a jam-packed area over two
miles long. The New York Times corrected its erroneous earlier lower
figures and finally reported the police crowd estimate of over 100,000
and ANSWER's figure of 200,000. Many major newspapers suggested a
figure of 100,000 or more.
The Washington rally, while conveying a distinctly anti-imperialist
critique of Bush's warlike intentions, included speakers with a wide
variety of progressive political viewpoints, as is customary at ANSWER
Coalition events. The speakers ranged from former Attorney General
Ramsey Clark to actress Susan Sarandon, Workers World's Larry Holmes to
Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson to singer Patti Smith, as well as
representatives of the groups in the coalition and from other
ANSWER's San Francisco protest drew demonstrators from throughout the
West Coast region. Early in the demonstration, police said there were
42,000 people. By the end, organizers said 100,000 actually showed up.
Demonstrators filled a 1.7-mile stretch of city blocks as they marched
from the financial district to City Hall holding signs that said, "Money
for jobs, not for war," and "No blood for oil." Among the speakers was
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the only member of Congress to vote against
the U.S. attack on Afghanistan.
The organizers always expected a large turnout Oct. 26, but indicated
that they were astonished by just how large it was. Said one organizer
in a conversation Oct. 31, "The recent congressional vote backing a new
war, along with the Bush administration's obvious fabrications about
Iraq's 'danger' to America and the world, plus the strong opposition
registered by a number of key U.S. allies, all combined to become a
major incentive for people to take a stand Oct. 26. What encourages us
is how quickly this movement is developing, and its international
Another factor behind the success of Oct. 26 is the diminishing support
for a new war being expressed by the American people in the latest
public opinion polls. A majority, about 55%, say they support a war but
this is compromised by a number of qualifications. For example, this
percentage goes down to 27% if the U.S. attacks Iraq without any allied
backing (so far only the UK is in the attack Iraq "coalition" Bush
speaks of deploying).
With clear memories of the Vietnam-era movement in mind, ANSWER is in
the process of organizing follow-up mass activities including a
"People's Antiwar Referendum" which has already started, and another
mobilization in Washington Jan. 18-19, around the time the Bush
administration may find most favorable for launching a new war. The
dates also coincide with the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and
the anniversary of the 1991 Gulf war.
The People's Antiwar Referendum involves obtaining signatures on "We
Vote No War" petitions or online. Activists may download No War
material for others to sign and/or vote immediately at
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