New York City and Around the War:
Stepping Out Against the New U.S. War

Revolutionary Worker #1123, October 21, 2001, posted at

Immediately after the U.S. began the bombing of Afghanistan on Sunday, October 7, people began marching and protesting in New York City, elsewhere in the U.S., and around the world.

New York

On October 7, a protest that had been called before the bombing began swelled to 10,000 people as word spread about what was happening. The march went from Union Square to Times Square. The following evening, 500 people in a "day after" demonstration marched from the armed forces recruiting center in Times Square to Rockefeller Center.

The Sunday action was organized by the Not In Our Name Coalition, and its slogan was "Our Grief Is Not A Cry For War!" It began with an interfaith service by Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Hindu religious leaders. Speakers at the rally included family members whose loved ones were killed in the World Trade Center; an EMT who survived; Nobel Peace Prize winners Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire; Rev. Daniel Berrigan, long-time anti-war activist; Amy Goodman, host of the radio program Democracy Now; City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez; Ron Daniels from the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Emira Habiby Browne of the Arab American Family Support Center.

Two nights before the bombing began, 200 people rebuilt the memorial for the victims in Union Square. After September 11, Union Square became a center where people went to collectively grieve. Pictures of victims were surrounded by thousands of bouquets of flowers and candles and messages of many different kinds. The memorial became the site of mass debates involving thousands as people struggled to understand why September 11 happened. This scene went against the atmosphere of blind obedience the authorities have tried to create. In the middle of the night on September 24 the city ordered the park cleaned and the memorial destroyed. Everything was removed--including the pictures of the victims. In response to this total disrespect, people brought messages, candles and flowers--and the city would come overnight to remove the memorial again. A righteous everyday anger built. People called the park manager to complain. Homemade signs asking "Why has this memorial been taken away from us?" were posted.

One park regular told the RW, "All of a sudden everything was gone--all taken away during the night because they know they would have had a fight if they tried to do it during the day. They would have had to arrest grandmothers. I don't understand why they couldn't leave a section where people can come and pay their respects. When Lady Di got killed that memorial was huge and it was allowed to be there for a long, long time. This is about free speech like when we had the Vietnam War. Just today people from Wisconsin and California came and asked, 'Where's the memorial?' Organizations from around the country, religious and relief groups show up with their literature to help and they find this place shut down!"

Since the memorial went back up again on October 6, there has been a running battle as the authorities take down the memorial and people put it back again.

Also on October 6, over 150 artists did a performance of "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War," lining both sides of a triangle between two city streets. They wore all black, had on dust masks and held placards with the group's slogan. They linked hands and stood in silence for one hour. The performance had an electrifying effect on the hundreds of pedestrians and tourists in the Square.


For two evenings, October 7-8, the relatively quiet atmosphere of downtown Chicago was disrupted by the sound of pounding drums and the chants of anti-war marchers. They gathered in the shadow of Chicago's two federal buildings and took the streets, their hearts filled with anger and outrage over the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. On Sunday, after hundreds who rallied in federal plaza were joined by hundreds more arriving from a prayer vigil, more than 800 people took the streets of the "Loop." The next night, over 350 people rallied, and hundreds marched to the Michigan Avenue bridge, blocking traffic, The police arrested four protesters.

The actions were called by the Chicago Ad-Hoc Coalition Against War and Racism, comprised of 35 "local peace, social action, and religious groups" together with hundreds of individuals, along with another coalition of several religious and community organizations that includes the American Friends Service Committee, the Eighth Day Center for Justice and the Chicago Religious Leadership Network. The protests were a mix of young and old, both longtime activists and those coming to their first protest. Though a majority were white, those who gathered included people from the Latino and Black communities as well as from places as distant as Palestine, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Iran.

S.F. Bay Area

On October 7, over 3,000 people marched over three miles through the streets of San Francisco to protest the start of U.S. bombing. The march went through immigrant communities in the Mission District and many people joined the march along its route. In Palo Alto, 500 demonstrated in an action sponored by the Palo Alto Peace and Justice Center and the Stanford Community for Peace and Justice.

The next day hundreds of students rallied at noon on UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza and marched through Berkeley. That evening over 1,000 people gathered at the Berkeley BART (rapid transit) station for a BART alert. The protesters marched toward the Interstate that runs through Berkeley, which has been blocked by protests in the past, and confronted a line of riot cops that was protecting the highway.

Other U.S. Cities

Seattle, October 7: 800 gathered at the federal building to protest the U.S. attacks. There were student walkouts from the University of Washington and Seattle Central Community College on Monday Oct. 8. About 50 people joined the SCC walkout, including some students from area high schools.

Los Angeles, October 7: 200 rallied at the Westside federal building only a few hours after the U.S. bombing began. That evening, the Filipino group Bayan and others rallied downtown against the war. On October 9, students at USC protested a speech by Madeline Albright, the U.S. Secretary of State in the Clinton administration and a major figure in the U.S. killer sanctions against Iraq. A student newspaper, The Trojan Horse, called the lecture part of USC's "Distinguished War Criminal Series," which has included Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger and Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf.

From a posting on the Independent Media web site, dated Oct. 8: "Students from college campuses across the country are also mobilizing anti-war teach-ins and demonstrations in response to the bombings. On Oct. 8, rallies were held at campuses around the country, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York."

Rallies and marches have taken place in many other areas throughout the U.S. in response to the war on Afghanistan.

Around the World

According to a posting on the UK Indymedia site, "On October 7, 8 and 9 hundreds of protests and demonstrations throughout the world said no to the war.

There were actions in more places even than the weekend of September 29 and 30, and with only one day to prepare." Some of the largest protests listed on the Indymedia site include:

Oct 7: 4000 in Brussels, Belgium; 1500 in Tokyo, Japan. Oct 8: 2000 in Barcelona, Spain; 2000 in Brisbane, Australia; 1200 in Copenhagen, Danmark; 1500 in Melbourne, Australia; 1500 in Oslo, Norway; 6000 in Rome, Italy; Oct. 10: 3000 in Berlin, Germany.

Large and intense protests have erupted in many countries throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia--against the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan as well as the cooperation of local governments and authorities with the U.S.

Protesters have clashed with police in cities throughout Pakistan. In Indonesia, demonstrators rocked several cities and protested at the U.S. embassy in Jakarta. In the Gaza Strip in occupied Palestine, two people, including a 13-year-old boy, were killed when Palestinian police shot into a protest of 2,000 people.

A news report from Kathmandu, Nepal, said: "The Maoist-aligned students' group today submitted separate letters to the British and American embassies here, demanding both the governments to immediately halt the ongoing attacks in Afghanistan. Leaders of the group, All Nepal National Independent Students' Union-Revolutionary...submitted the protest letters to the concerned officials at these embassies.... The submission of the protest letters was followed by a protest rally."

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