By Orpheus and Debbie Lang
Revolutionary Worker #1148, April 28, 2002, posted at rwor.org
April 20 in Washington, D.C., was a great day for the people who dream of another world. Powerful marches against the U.S. "war on terrorism," the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, and for the Palestinian people took center stage. According to press reports, 75,000 people joined together in protest. There were many expressions of international solidarity with the people in Palestine and Afghanistan. People stood up for a world free of predatory wars, suppression, and plunder of the poor.
The manifestation--right in the U.S. capital--of growing opposition to the U.S.'s unlimited war on the world and support of the Palestinian people gives heart and encouragement to the oppressed worldwide. The basis for stronger resistance was evident in the sentiments and actions of the tens of thousands in D.C., who represented many millions more.
On the same day, 35,000 people marched in San Francisco. The main theme of that march was support for the struggle and rights of the Palestinian people.
The D.C. actions were international in character--a diversity of cultures, nationalities, religions and political views were represented. People usually kept apart by the system mixed together. Arabs and Black people, anti-globalization activists, large numbers of white middle class people, peace activists, orthodox rabbis and many others rallied and marched side by side. Arab people from various countries were joined by people of other nationalities, including Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, African Americans, Filipinos and other Asians.
There were four different streams of protest, including two major rallies against the U.S. "war on terrorism," a march supporting the Palestinian people, and a protest against the meetings of the IMF and World Bank. The two major rallies were originally called to protest the U.S. war campaign. Israel's invasion of the Palestinian West Bank and U.S. support for that invasion, as well as the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people, compelled tens of thousands of Arab and Muslim people from around the country to step out into the streets. Many, many other protesters expressed outrage at the atrocities committed by Israel.
The day saw what the Washington Post described as the largest demonstrations in support of Palestine in the history of the U.S. A Palestinian march of 5,000 started in the morning from the conference site of the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), where Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was scheduled to speak on April 22. People marched to the headquarters of the IMF and World Bank. Young Palestinian women wearing kaffiyehs led chants as they charged down the street. The march was led by Palestinian people carrying stretchers with young children laying in them, symbolizing funeral marches taking place daily in the West Bank and Gaza. Youth jumped in the air in time to chants of "Free, Free Palestine!" and "Long Live Palestine!" Many signs, chants and banners targeted the atrocities carried out by the Israeli army. Dozens of Palestinian flags waved in the breeze. A group of Hasidic Jews and Jewish peace activists joined the march, along with many youth and students, anti-capitalist activists and others.
One Jewish activist told us her boss threatened to fire her from the Jewish organization she works for because she had been speaking out and writing against the Israeli attacks on Palestinians. Faced with this, and the whole future of endless war the U.S. has planned, she said she could not be silent. "Silence=complicity," she said. "People need to stand up and say no. This is not in my name."
The Palestinian feeder march merged with 3,000 activists protesting the IMF and World Bank. Puppets, radical cheerleaders and drum brigades of the youth against capitalist and corporate globalization joined the streams of Palestinians and other Arabic peoples. An anti-capitalist youth climbed to the top of a traffic pole and waved a Palestinian flag as Arab people chanted below.
We asked a young global justice activist what he would say if he could speak directly to the people in Afghanistan and Palestine. He said, "I love you, and we're with you in struggle... Just like [the U.S.] attacks us transnationally and across borders and are dropping bombs on Afghanistan and locking up Black men in prison faster than you can talk about it, we're transnational. We're kicking ass in the U.S. We're kicking ass in Genoa. And we're showing we're diverse, beyond our borders, beyond our races, beyond everything. We're with you."
As we marched off, a white youth with dreads wearing a bandana told us, "Communists, anarchists, Palestinians--it's all the same. We're all oppressed by fucking capitalism--by the system in which two-thirds of the people live on less than $2 a day, and a million people in a world of 6 billion become billionaires and suck off the rest of us. They kill our planet, they kill our animals, they kill us. It's not right, and we're here to show that everyone is in solidarity with each other, and that the poor people of the globe are not gonna take it anymore."
Meanwhile, at the Washington Monument thousands of people converged in a rally to Stop the War at Home and Abroad. The bulk of the protesters were white middle class people--college students, members of religious groups and congregations and others. Family members of victims of the September 11 attacks took part. The predominant sentiment at this rally was for peace -- some people were pacifists and others opposed what they saw as unjust war being waged by the U.S. government. Some people cried when we asked what message they would like to send to the people in countries targeted by the U.S. war. Many said that they're sorry, that they stand with the people around the world, and that they don't support the wars being carried out by the U.S. in their name.
The Not In Our Name contingent distributed a pledge of resistance to the whole U.S. campaign of war and repression. The contingent called on people around the country to take this pledge on June 6 and to build for a Day of Mass Resistance in the fall.
Youth who were born after the '60s talked to Vietnam veterans with Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist and Vets for Peace. A Catholic sister carrying a Ploughshares banner told us she had friends in Israel who were putting their bodies in front of Israeli tanks. Green Party activists urged people to "vote for peace." Activists opposed to U.S. intervention in Colombia and other countries brought colorful puppets and props. A blue triangle contingent was organized by Refuse & Resist! and La Resistencia to oppose U.S. government attacks on immigrants. Everywhere we looked, people had orange stickers from R&R! pasted on them saying, "Stop the War. No Police State. Another World is Possible."
Not far away at the Ellipse, 20,000 or more people took part in a rally held by International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and Racism). A majority of the people were Arab, and many wore traditional Islamic dress. Mosques from all over the East Coast and the Midwest mobilized buses to come to the protest. Literature exchanged hands, and groups of people discussed the situation facing the people. At one point, a group of activists from the Filipino group Bayan International wearing beautiful shirts saying "Serve the People" joined with Arab people in chanting "From Palestine to the Philippines, Stop the U.S. war machine!"
At the end of the Mall tens of thousands from the combined rallies massed together to march down Pennsylvania Avenue for a huge rally on the Capitol end of the Mall.
People at the protest were eager for information and analysis to understand the developing situation in the world. Papers and literature were grabbed up. At the Revolution Books table, people stood four deep.
Protesters used the U.S. flag in different ways. Some peace activists carried signs with flags and the slogan "Peace is patriotic." Others wore stickers with U.S. flags that demanded statehood for Palestine. Some people carried U.S. flags. Anti-capitalist protesters carried pictures of the flag covered with blood and dollar bills with the slogan "Capitalism Kills." At the Capitol, anti-capitalist guerrilla theater activists unfurled a huge U.S. flag onto the ground for people to step on. Revolutionaries and internationalists stood on the flag and did exposure about the role of the U.S. in oppressing the people worldwide. One young woman who was part of the theater group told us they had laid the flag down in different spots, and she was surprised at how many people avoided walking on the flag.
There was a welcoming of revolutionary politics by many sections of people. An RW/OR seller spoke to a crowd of Arab people, denouncing U.S. imperialism and exposing how Israeli is the attack dog of the U.S. People stood up and cheered. When the RCYB marched in formation through the crowd chanting "Live for the People, Die for the People, Fight for the People, Power to the People!" heads turned and many came up to ask who they were and to buy copies of the RW/OR .
Police had made many preparations and mobilized heavily in preparation for the protests. Assistant Chief Gainer carried the baton he used when he took part in the police riot against protesters at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention; he threatened that any A20 protesters who caused disruptions would be "taken out."
In many previous anti-globalization actions in this country and around the world, the police have spied on, penned in, attacked and arrested many protesters. On A20, the police were out in massive force, but mostly they did not launch open attacks. However, on the day before the major protests, police jumped on and arrested 40 bikers with a Critical Mass bike ride in the D.C. streets. And after the A20 protests, police singled out and arrested 25 youth in an isolated garage.
As we go to press, there are further protests planned for April 21 and 22. On Sunday, April 21, 300 gathered to protest the IMF/World Bank meetings. Other protests have been announced in opposition to U.S. intervention in Colombia against the planned appearance of Sharon and other war criminals such as George Bush at the AIPAC meeting.
The protests on A20 raised the sights of people for building a movement that can stop the nightmarish wars of the U.S. and its allies.
As we stood on the Mall at the end of the day and looked out over the crowd, a youth organizer with the Not in Our Name contingent told us: "Today's march is one of the most amazing events I have ever been at. It was all different nationalities, tens of thousands of people, and it was really something that I hope people around the world hear about...There was a real internationalist spirit, a real spirit of standing with people here and standing with people around the world. There was a lot of solidarity and coming together. It's important that people know that there are people in this country who actually are not with this whole thing, that George Bush does not speak for all people living in the United States...We have a responsibility as people of conscience within this country to actively oppose and resist this."
It's up to all of us to take this spirit deeply and widely among the people and spread the resistance.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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