MLK Day Parade in L.A.

Watts Contingent: "This Is Not Our War"

By Luciente

Revolutionary Worker #1137, February 3, 2002, posted at

Los Angeles, January 21, 2002--The Watts Drum Corps, youth from the Nickerson Gardens Projects, members of the RCYB and about a half dozen other activists received a tremendous response from the crowds of thousands in South Central L.A. who lined the Martin Luther King Day parade route. The contingent marched behind a banner that read: "This Ain't Our War. The People in the Middle East Are Not Our Enemy. Stop the Bombing." The banner carried solidarity statements from people in the projects and elsewhere in Watts.

"We say it now. We've said it before: Stop the bombing! This is not our war!"
"No justice, no peace! Stop the bombing in the Middle East!"

The voices of the people of Watts could be heard strong and defiant, even over the sound of the police motorcycles and sirens. People cheered and whistled, threw their fists in the air and reached out for leaflets. Throughout the parade, the contingent also performed "die-ins" where everyone in the contingent fell to the ground and acted out what it looks like after a U.S. bomb drops on a school, village, or mosque.

Some of the youth in the contingent said they were surprised at the way the crowd responded so positively. They said that they thought the crowd would be more patriotic and were surprised that even some of the people that were wearing sweatshirts with the U.S. flag on them were paying close attention to the chants so they could repeat them!

Looking at the contingent and at the way the crowds cheered them on, the importance of the people of Watts speaking out against the war in Afghanistan was undeniable. At a time when images of the death and destruction falling from the sky in Afghanistan is censored in the mainstream press--to hear the voices of the people at the very bottom of society, to hear the oppressed speak up and say that they stand in unity with the masses of oppressed around the world and that the people who live in the United States and the government of the United States are two different things--is invaluable. And the contingent knew it.

A 17-year-old high school student from Watts said, "All the people who live in the U.S. aren't bad. A lot of us are with the people in Afghanistan. We understand their problems like being poor and racism--we're from the lower class and we know. We have a lot more in common with the people in Afghanistan than we do with the government here. If I was drafted I wouldn't go. Why go over there and kill innocent people? The people in Watts are the most oppressed people around --if we don't speak up we are going to be kept down. Things are screwed up and we need to speak up and say that we are going to do something about it."

An 8th grader at a middle school in Watts said, "At first I was scared, but not any more. I think that the United States bombing over there is the same as what happened in New York--a lot of innocent people died. We need to speak up because if we don't we are going to be stepped all over. There are people in Afghanistan who weren't involved, but they are still being bombed. It's the same thing as in New York--people are dying who had nothing to do with it!"

It was almost surprising to hear 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds talking to each other about pipelines and oil and saying that things don't have to be this way. They feel for and identify with other children their age who are orphans, hungry, or homeless.

A group of five kids in the Drum Corps said that they wanted people in the housing projects in L.A., Chicago, New York, and people all around the world to know that Arab people are not the enemy. "The people over there are just like us, they're just a different religion. We have to stop the war in Afghanistan and we have to unite. There are a lot of kids and other people and families dying because of the bombs. We talk to other kids and they also think that it's bad that people are dying. We're here because we want to stop the war. The people over there are poor and they haven't done anything to us. They are hungry people and they want food. They are poor just like us. We're also trying to survive. It seems like [the U.S. is] trying to help them, but [the U.S. is] just killing them with the bombs that [the U.S. is] dropping. I'm speaking up because I want people in the world to get along and stop the bombing."


At the end of the march, the RCYB called on people to speak out against the U.S. war: "We are here to say that we stand with people in Afghanistan and demand to stop the bombing. We know that when Black people decided not to sit at the back of the bus this was not a popular thing to do. Or when Black people took a stand against whites-only restrooms, or whites-only this or whites-only that, it wasn't a popular thing to do, but we are going to make what we did today to be a popular thing to do! We need to make it popular to stand with the people of the world and take a stand against U.S. wars--unjust wars!"

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