Revolutionary Worker #1011, June 20, 1999
We received this report from a correspondent in Cleveland:
Late Friday night, I got on a bus from Cleveland filled with activists involved in struggles against U.S. aggression around the world, environmental issues, the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Native struggle at Big Mountain. When we arrived in DC, I walked to the rally site with my friend, Gena, a Black woman writer and activist. We commented to each other about how everything looks in the center of the U.S. empire, compared to the reality of what's going on. Gena said, "There are waterfalls and trees and flowers and birds. It's so peaceful and so beautiful--it's utopia, and everything is just so orderly and calm. It just belies what is underneath the surface--what's really happening here in the city, what's really happening in the country. When you speak about imperialism, I can speak about specifics. There's people starving. If we just extended our walk a few blocks past the Capitol, we see homeless people--scores of them, families, children, people who are unemployed, elderly people who are struggling and just losing hope. We see young children who are being miseducated and who are completely on the outside of this utopia, this euphoria. We see people who don't have anything. Then there are all these peaceful, supposedly beautiful buildings where they're planning bombings of Yugoslavia or their next move."
At the field just across from the Washington monument, where there were lots of information tables and people passing out leaflets and papers, I saw a brother from the Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist (VVAWAI) and the Anti-Intervention Network. He was wearing a shirt that had a bulls-eye and "We Are ALL Targets!" on it. Pete talked about the importance of resisting the U.S./NATO moves and the role of vets: "There's talk of a peace negotiation right now which would lead right into an occupation. It's really crucial to up the resistance to this U.S./NATO imperialist attack. It's really important to bring many broad, diverse kinds of people into this opposition. The role of veterans is that we've been there, done that. We know what U.S. imperialism does to people around the world from the inside. [The war against Yugoslavia] is a continuation of the same story--just like Haiti, Somalia, Vietnam, the intervention against the Iranian uprising against the Shah, the whole history of U.S. imperialist aggression, ethnic cleansing, genocide, you name it. We really need to stand together and oppose this."
We talked about how the ruling class is using the question of "ethnic cleansing" to get people to support the U.S./NATO moves. He told me, "Sure, the Serbian regime is doing some really terrible stuff. I think they are doing this in part as a very desperate response to the bombing. Up until that point, they had been waging the same kind of counterinsurgency war that the U.S. backs all over the world. The exact same thing goes on in Colombia, Peru, Kurdistan, Turkey, the Philippines. Wherever people try to rise up, normally the U.S. just backs the government doing exactly what the Serb regime was doing. But what is in effect now is U.S. and NATO aggression against all the peoples of Yugoslavia, whatever their ethnicity and political aspirations."
While there were many long-time activists at the protest, there was also a good turnout of people from the new generation. A student was very excited about meeting some people from China. "We were sitting on a park bench and several Chinese tourists came by. They inquired about our signs and the demonstration today, and they were very supportive. They signed petitions, and one of them said, `No more bombing, enough is enough.' He spoke out against the Chinese embassy bombing, in particular."
A young man from the Collective Activists of Burlington (Vermont), dressed all in black, told me, "I think people need to show their strength and come together. The government doesn't want to listen, so we make them listen.... People are dying --and it's not for humanitarian reasons. It's hypocrisy, it's death. And that's unacceptable.... War is a product of the system."
I noticed several youth dressed in blue and white from the Bruderhof religious community. They told me why they decided to come to DC: "We want to do anything we can to stop the war. We are concerned that kids are getting killed in Kosovo and Iraq and everywhere. We just think it's wrong; we don't want kids to be killed; we don't want people to be killed in the world. This is happening because the U.S. wants to prove that it's big and special--but that's not true."
People from Yugoslavia here in the U.S. made up a large section of the protest. A man from Yugoslavia said, "They are talking about `stopping a wider war in Europe,' but they have created a war in my country. They talk about borders--but look at Texas and Mexico and what they do there." A young woman from Yugoslavia told me, "I think this war is about economic dominance of the region. It is a wealthy region, there is oil in the area. The U.S. and NATO want to factionalize the people, make it easier to dominate."
People came from different parts of the country. I walked up to a woman holding a sign from a group in New Orleans called the Coalition Against the Bombing. Many in her coalition had already been involved in protests against the U.S. bombing and sanctions against Iraq. She told me, "I think what our government is doing is an imperialist invasion and bombing of another country, an expansion, and I hope we can stop it. It's not just Yugoslavia, not just Europe. Most people are not aware that during the 50th anniversary [earlier this year], NATO expanded their charter to other `areas of interest'--including the Middle East and Asia. So NATO has given themselves the power to invade or bomb or do anything they want outside of Europe. Basically they are headed for the whole world. And, of course, South America, the U.S. already owns it."
A Black man, who is a teacher in Atlanta, turned to me with a serious look and said, "My brother died in Vietnam--they put Black people in the front lines. They want an empire. Look what they are doing to Cuba and Iraq. This is why you got to protest." I introduced him to a member of VVAWAI, and he marched to the Pentagon holding the banner saying "No U.S. Troops. Anywhere, Any Time! "
At 2:30 the march began, going across the Potomac river to the Pentagon, a huge cement building where imperialist war plans are made. Thousands carried banners and posters and chanted with passion: "U.S./NATO Hands Off Yugoslavia," "Stop Bombing Yugoslavia," "Stop U.S. Occupation!" "The Real War Criminals Are in the White House!" You could sense the intense feelings of disgust and outrage of the people for the mass murder being committed by the U.S. and NATO.
During the march I saw a public access cable network interviewing Pete, the brother from VVAWAI. So I put my tape recorder out to catch what he said: "There is a long history of U.S. genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass murder around the world. If you look at any war that they've fought, you'll discover the motives behind them is imperialist. The war in Yugoslavia was directed against the masses of people. We're saying: No bombing of Yugoslavia, no occupation of Yugoslavian territory. And the attacks against Iraq are criminal--they have killed over a million Iraqis. We are saying no more attacks like the bombing of the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan and the missile attacks on Afghanistan. We are denouncing all of this, and we will protest against anything like that they do."
Then I came upon Pam Africa and other members of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. We talked for minute about the Millions for Mumia marches that happened in April, and then we all started marching again. A young MOVE supporter and member of Chester Residents Concerned With Quality Living talked about how the U.S. has bombed people right here in this country--for example, the 1985 bombing of the MOVE house which killed 11 men, women and children. And she connected this to other crimes of U.S. imperialism: "I'm here to protest the war in Kosovo, I'm here to protest the bombings in Vieques, Puerto Rico, the bombings here in Philadelphia, PA--and anywhere else the U.S. finds it necessary to bomb innocent people."
As we got to the Pentagon, I ran into an acquaintance who is active with Jonah House Committee of Baltimore, an antiwar, direct action community. He told me that on Memorial Day several antiwar groups went to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's house. They left baby dolls covered in blood and put two crosses marked "Yugoslavia" and "Iraq" in front of her house. They carried a huge banner saying, "We Remember the Dead of Iraq and Yugoslavia!!!"
On the bus ride back, we saw videos about the U.S. bombing of Iraq, the use of depleted uranium weapons and the immense suffering of the Iraqi people. People were glued to the videos, which showed children who are born deformed because of the radioactive weapons that the U.S. used, and doctors who can't even get medicine to help patients because of the U.S. embargo. As one person on the bus said, "All this country knows is to bomb and bomb and burn people--and call it `humanitarian'."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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