FW: Organizers of antiwar movement plan to go beyond protests (Washington Post)

Richard Fidler rfidler at cyberus.ca
Mon Mar 3 14:43:50 MST 2003


Washington Post      March 3, 2003

Organizers of antiwar movement plan to go beyond protests

By Glenn Frankel

LONDON -- The people who helped organize the largest worldwide peace
demonstration in history last month say they are not through yet.

More than 120 activists from 28 countries emerged from an all-day
strategy session here this weekend with plans not just to protest a
prospective U.S.-led war against Iraq but to prevent it from happening.
They want to intensify political pressure on the Bush administration's
closest allies -- the leaders of Britain, Italy and Spain -- and force
them to withdraw their support, leaving the United States, if it chooses
to fight, to go it alone. And they intend to further disrupt war plans
with acts of civil disobedience against U.S. military bases, supply
depots and transports throughout Europe.

 Finally, if war breaks out, they say, they will demonstrate in towns
and cities around the world on the evening of the first day, and hold a
worldwide rally on the following Saturday that they hope will rival or
surpass their efforts of Feb. 15.

[snip]

In interviews last week, several of the organizers of the Feb. 15
protests traced the origins of the antiwar movement, described how they
put together that event and discussed where they go from here. For the
most part, the organizations are tiny, shoestring operations -- the
London-based coalition operates out of two cubbyhole offices with four
desktop computers, a handful of phone lines and a half-dozen paid staff
members. But they use the Internet, cell phones and their connections
with trade unions and local governments to establish links and
coordinate with other organizations around the world.

Their plans might sound grandiose. But these are the same activists who
pulled off the stunning success of two weeks ago, when between 6 million
and 12 million protesters gathered in about 75 countries to oppose
military action.

"We've never really seen a movement like this before -- it's
unpredictable because it's so unprecedented," said Paul Rogers,
professor of peace studies at Bradford University in Britain. "But it
does seem that a large proportion of the people who participated two
weeks ago are becoming quite politicized just by going on the
demonstration. If war begins, and it doesn't have U.N. approval, we
could see mass demonstrations again."

The huge turnouts that day in cities including Rome, London, Madrid,
Berlin, Paris and New York reflected popular disaffection with U.S.
military power and the prospect of war among a broad swath of the
public -- from political radicals to church groups, trade unions and
ordinary citizens. But it was organized for the most part by a small
network of activists from the ideological left, the anti-globalization
movement and peace groups. For years these activists have stood on
picket lines and organized demonstrations seeking ways to ignite mass
popular support, with mixed results at best. But the increasing
likelihood of war has given them an issue that resonates with public
opinion throughout the world.

Many of the organizers confess that they were stunned by the size and
scope of the demonstrations two weeks ago. "A big part of our meeting
was about digesting the shock of the earthquake that was February 15,"
said Larry Holmes, an organizer in New York for International ANSWER,
one of the U.S. groups organizing the rallies. "We were just as
surprised as everyone else. But you're seeing a new sense of confidence
among organizations. People don't want this war, and they're giving us a
mandate to do whatever it takes to stop it."

The organizers say the February rallies were first agreed upon at a
small strategy session in Florence in November. But their roots go back
to the days just after Sept. 11, 2001, when activists say they began
meeting to map out opposition to what they anticipated would be the U.S.
military response to the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

In Britain, according to organizer John Rees, several hundred activists
first got together the weekend after Sept. 11. Most were from the hard
core of the British left -- the Socialist Workers Party, the Campaign
for Nuclear Disarmament and the anti-capitalist organization Globalized
Resistance, along with Labor Party legislators Jeremy Corbyn and George
Galloway. Within weeks, they had combined with representatives from two
more important elements -- Britain's growing Muslim community and its
militant trade unions. By October they had a name: the Stop the War
Coalition.

Full: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30813-2003Mar2.html



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