Protests Demand: U.S. Hands Off Iraq

Revolutionary Worker #948, March 15, 1998

On February 28, there were large demonstrations in New York and San Francisco and protests in many other cities demanding that the U.S. keep its hands off Iraq. These protests had been called when it looked like the U.S. was ready to launch a military strike on Iraq. The U.S. backed off the threat of an immediate attack after the February 23 UN-Iraq agreement. But as many people at the February 28 protests pointed out, the U.S. still claims the "right" to attack Iraq if there are any problems with the weapons inspections--and the people of Iraq continue to suffer because of the economic sanctions. The following are reports about the protests on February 28 and other recent actions, based on information from our correspondents and on the Internet.

New York, February 28--Several thousand people took part in an action. The protest was very multinational and included many people from the Middle East. At the rally in Times Square, speakers included former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Kadouri Al-Kaysi of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Iraq, Dr. Hani Awad of the Arab American Civic Organization, Elombe Brath of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition, Rev. Lucius Walker of Pastors of Peace, and many others. There were student groups from Rutgers, University of Massachusetts and other campuses. The rally was followed by a spirited march down 42nd Street to the UN headquarters.

San Francisco, February 28--Over 2,000 people gathered at Delores Park in the Mission District for a rally and then marched through the streets to the UN Plaza downtown. There were many students and youth, some Gulf War vets, and a number of people from the Middle East, including from Iraq. The action was sponsored by the National Emergency Coalition to Stop the War Against Iraq and many different groups. Among the many speakers was Jeff Paterson, the first active-duty soldier to refuse to board the plane for the Gulf in 1990. RW correspondent Larry Everest talked about what he witnessed when he traveled to Iraq after the Gulf War: "I saw that the U.S. had cut off Iraq's food supplies, poisoned its water, and shattered its medical infrastructure. Thousands of Iraqis were dying from things like diarrhea... It's biological warfare--waged by the U.S. against the people of Iraq!"

Chicago--On February 27, 800 to 1,000 people gathered at the downtown Daley Plaza. The protest was called by the Council of Islamic Organizations and the Iraq Anti-Sanctions Campaign and was heavily represented by young people, mostly from the Arab and Muslim communities in the area.

The next day, over 300 people rallied at the downtown Federal Plaza in an action called by the Coalition to Stop the War Against Iraq. Those participating were predominantly activists from various left, peace and religious organizations. But there were also others newer to protest, like a 16-year-old high school student who said that he and his friends would definitely refuse if "the United States come knocking on our door talking about we going to war." The protesters marched through downtown to the Chicago Tribune building to denounce the media's lies about Iraq.

One of the speakers was Rashid Khalidi, a University of Chicago professor, who said, "The United States is the largest controller of weapons of mass destruction. The United States is the only country to use nuclear weapons in warfare. The United States used gas systematically in warfare. The United States sold many of the weapons systems that the Iraqis have today, as did American allies like Britain and Germany... And now they are using this as a pretext to do something evil, which they're hiding from us. Destroying Iraq, killing tens of thousands of Iraqis every year. We must make it clear we will not accept this."

Los Angeles--On February 22, over 250 people gathered at the Islamic Center of Southern California for an Interfaith Rally for the Iraqi people. The theme of the evening was, "Sanctions are a Weapon of Mass Destruction." Sonya Tuma of the American Friends Service Committee talked about the effects of the killer sanctions on the people of Iraq. The program ended with a benediction delivered in Hebrew, English and Arabic.

On February 28, a $1000 a plate fundraising dinner for a senator was held in Bel Air, one of the wealthiest areas of L.A. The "guest of honor" was Bill Clinton. About 200 people, including a contingent of Central American refugees, lined the road leading to this gated enclave of the super-rich. The protesters held banners and chanted as the Presidential caravan and others passed by.

Other areas--According to a report on the International Action Center web site, demonstrators closed the main gate of Davis Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona for an hour on March 1. A "People's Inspection Team" entered the base and was arrested.

In Seattle, 150 people marched through downtown on February 28. Other places where there were protests on February 28 included Santa Fe, New Mexico; Rochester, New York; Austin, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah.

In Montpelier, Vermont about 100 people marched to the governor's office on February 23. They presented a list of demands, including that the governor should call for an end to sanctions on Iraq. A delegation of the protesters staged a sit-in at the office and were dragged out by the police.

In Vancouver, Canada, about 200 rallied on February 28 to protest the sanctions. About 100 people then marched through downtown to the stock exchange, the U.S. consulate, British consulate and the Canadian Armed Forces Recruiting Station. Many of the buildings ended up with graffiti like "No Blood for Oil" and "End the Sanctions."

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