Defying U.S. War Moves

Thousands take the streets in Washington, DC

by Orpheus

Revolutionary Worker #1121, October 7, 2001, posted at

Greetings from the frontlines of resistance in Washington, D.C.! Today, September 29, at least 10,000 people took to the streets in defiance against the war preparations of the U.S. government and military and the global oppression of capitalism. The protests went up against police riot squad mobilization, and scored an important beginning victory in what is sure to be an escalating struggle.

The plans for the D.C. protests took shape months ago to oppose the meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank scheduled for the 29th and 30th. Following the September 11 events, the IMF and World Bank canceled their meeting. One mainstream group then canceled street protests--but others continued and mobilized to meet the situation by putting a new focus on opposing the U.S. war moves.

At a time when the media and government are pumping out that 90% of the population in the U.S. is for war, the D.C. actions sent a very different message. The protests in D.C. were the first manifestation of national scope against war since Sept. 11. It built on other protests that have taken place in New York, Seattle, Portland, the S.F. Bay Area and elsewhere. There were S29 support demonstrations in other cities around the country--including 7,000 to 10,000 people in San Francisco, 2,000 in Los Angeles and 1,000 in Denver.

The September 29 D.C. protests drew people of all different nationalities from around the country, as well as people from Indonesia, Palestine, Africa, Afghanistan, India, Colombia, Honduras, the Philippines, and other countries.

Students from dozens of college campuses--from Washington State to California, Alabama to Vermont--represented on the microphone. Three hundred students came from Oberlin College in Ohio, out of a student body of 2,500. One Oberlin student who had been mobilizing on the campus to protest the IMF/World Bank told the RW that after Sept. 11 even more students wanted to come to D.C. to protest the war threats.

The day started at 9 a.m., as hundreds gathered near Union Station in an action against capitalist war and globalization called by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence. Black-clad anarchists mixed with pacifist direct actionists carrying puppets, the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, youth carrying Palestinian flags, and others. One banner said, "Destroy Imperialism Not Afghanistan." A giant banner declared, "To Stop Terrorism, Stop Terrorizing."

From all directions, robo cops in body armor unloaded off of buses, moved into the streets and the park, and surrounded the people. After a stand-off, the youth broke out in a fast-paced march, heading toward the IMF and World Bank.

Riot cops flanked the youth on both sides of the street. Black and red flags waved. At certain points, the marchers broke out in a running charge, making the cops go double time to keep up. At one intersection, police cars and a van tried to drive into the crowd. Cops opened their windows and pepper-sprayed people. Other cops moved in from the front and began hitting people in the chest with batons. But the youth stood their ground and pushed back. The march went forward.

When the youth tried to break off to the left near the White House, riot cops swarmed in to block them. But despite other attacks and some beatings, the marchers succeeded in rallying at the IMF and World Bank. In the plaza in front of these global institutions of misery, hundreds of riot police penned in the youth on all sides. The media were pushed out of the immediate area. People chanted "let us go" and were joined by others outside the lines. One young woman yelled at the cops, "So this is the 'freedom' you want us to fight for?"

Finally the cops marched the anti-capitalists down to where thousands were gathered at a rally against war and racism, called by the coalition ANSWER--Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism. The rally of 10,000 plus started on 14th and Pennsylvania. People then marched to the Capitol. Beautiful manifestations of solidarity with the people of Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and elsewhere came alive.

From many angles and perspectives, the crimes of the U.S. against the world were exposed. One affinity group carried coffins--written on them were the numbers of people killed by U.S. war and sanctions in East Timor, Kosovo, Colombia, Iraq, Panama, Somalia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Lebanon and Rwanda. Speaking at the capitol, a Native American woman said, "Native people have been terrorized for 500 years!"

Activists involved in various issues--such as police brutality, Mumia Abu-Jamal, sweatshops--along with Refuse and Resist!, religious people, peace activists, Filipino anti-imperialists, and many others connected their struggles to the movement vs. war and repression. A drum corps led an affinity group of the Bread and Puppet Theater. Dozens of people carrying silhouettes representing the Afghani people did a call and response: "Food and Medicine for the People of Afghanistan, Now! Or Innocent Millions Will Die." People's signs and voices spoke strongly about standing together with Arab and Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in the U.S. and internationally.

Thousands of copies of the RCP's statement, "The Horror that Comes from This Horrible System," were distributed. Many students expressed the view that they had come to D.C. to break out of the isolation they felt, and many said they were strengthened by coming together in our thousands.

Throughout the week before the 29th, educational events involved hundreds of people digging into how IMF and World Bank policies are exploiting the poor, the connections between poor people struggling in the U.S. and Latin America, the intensification of the repression of the masses in the wake of September 11, and the way forward for the movements of resistance. On Sunday, September 30, over 1,500 people joined together in a rally and march organized by the Washington Peace Center and American Friends Service Committee.

The D.C. protests were a significant victory in beginning to break through against the flag-waving, people-hating, police-state atmosphere the power structure is trying to generate. In the D.C. streets two sharply opposing futures were posed. On one side, the cold and hateful riot police for U.S. capitalism, with their pepper spray and batons, took to the streets against the masses and in protection of the government and capitalist institutions. On the other were the youth and others shouting out for a world where people can live together without the constant war and misery the U.S. brings. The protests gave voice to the love and determination of many people to reach out and create a different future, together with the people of the world.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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