Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War

Protests Mark September 11, 2002

Revolutionary Worker #1167, September 22, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

One year after the events of September 11, 2001, the eyes of the world focused again on New York City as official events--attended by U.S. President Bush and heavily covered by the mainstream media-- took place at "Ground Zero." In speeches that day in front of the Statue of Liberty and the UN the next day, Bush cynically tried to turn people's sentiments around September 11 into support for belligerent U.S. moves around the world--especially a new, major war on Iraq.

But in New York and elsewhere around the country, September 11, 2002 saw various expressions of resistance and protest against the U.S. government's claim that it is acting in the name of the American people.

Among those speaking out powerfully were relatives of people who died on September 11, 2001. Kelly Campbell, whose brother-in-law Craig Amundson was among those who died a year ago, said at an event in Los Angeles: "After Craig was killed, there were so many memorials that turned into war rallies. This September 11 we wanted there to be alternatives in a way that looked at where we go as Americans, where we go as humans...

"With regard to Iraq, we can stop this, but it's going to take all of us and then some to stop the suffering of Iraq families and American military families. Our grief is not a cry for war."

The following are reports on some of the protests and resistance on and around September 11, 2002.

New York City

From a correspondent in New York: "I was not looking forward to 9/11/02. Rising calls for war against Iraq made me shudder at how this day would be used. So I was glad to find other things besides the official ceremonies, particularly diverse forms of resistance.

"In many ways New York City one year after the destruction of the World Trade Center was a study in contrasts. There were the official memorials--tightly scripted, heavily policed, and wrapped in the U.S. flag. But then there were antiwar actions, peace vigils, and memorials, where there was grief but it was a searching grief. Instead of jingoism, there was an aching for some other road than the one that the Bush government is on. Instead of U.S. flags, there were peace symbols and pictures of the globe."

On the evening of September 10, several thousand people came together at Washington Square Park for the New York City Vigil for Peaceful Tomorrows. The emcee for the event, Amy Goodman of the radio program Democracy Now!, noted that the central theme of the vigil was "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War."

Among those at the vigil were several family members of people who died in the 9/11 attacks and emergency medical workers who were on the scene that day. Andrew Sullivan, who lost his brother in the World Trade Center, spoke compellingly of how his brother would NOT be honored by what the government is doing in the name of those who were killed.

Also speaking was Masuda Sultan, an Afghani woman who lives in Queens. She lost 19 members of her family in the U.S. military attacks on Afghanistan last fall, and she described the horrible reality of what the U.S. "war on terror" has meant for the people in that country.

According to reports posted on the NYC Indymedia website, the police arrived in large numbers later that night to force out people who wanted to stay overnight at the park for the vigil.

In the days after 9/11 last year, Union Square was one the places where people gathered to mourn, to sort out what had happened, and to figure out what would come next. On the morning of September 11 this year, people came together once again at Union Square.

Across from Union Square park, about a hundred people lay down on the streets in silent memorial and protest. The organizers of the action, New Yorkers Say No to War, explained:

"On this ground, in this space, on this day: We mourn the violent and senseless loss of our friends, our families and our collective sense of safety in our cities and country. We mourn U.S. military actions that have killed thousands of innocent civilians in our name. We mourn the brutality and arrogance of the Bush administration's `war without end' and the massive loss of life that could result in Iraq and elsewhere throughout the world. We mourn the racist and anti-democratic profiling of people of color and the increasing suspension of American civil liberties in the name of patriotism."

Later that evening, Union Square was the site of a collaborative performance conceived by the Adhoc Artists Group and the Artists Network of Refuse & Resist! These powerful and courageous performances were first seen last fall in the streets of New York in thedays after September 11.

Our correspondent reports: "I waited in the park amid the growing crowd, which was much more animated, though still quite serious, than in the morning. There were tight knots of people debating various questions. Suddenly I heard a rustling and saw a cameraman running by. Turning my head I saw a single-file line of people coming--all dressed in black, wearing dust masks, and carrying identical signs saying `Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War.' The clarity of that phrase, as the artists lined up hand in hand at the edge of the plaza, overpowered me in a way I'd not been overcome through the course of the day. My thoughts were filled with all the people I knew who I wished could be there at that moment."

The next morning, as Bush spoke at the UN, several hundred people protested on the streets outside. One of the chants was "We Want a Regime Change Here!" Meanwhile, on the East River, a huge 50- by 30-foot banner reading "Earth to Bush: No Iraq War!" was launched from a ship with helium-filled weather balloons. This action was organized by Ruckus Society and Global Exchange.

San Francisco

In the days before the September 11 anniversary, the widely read alternative weekly S.F. Bay Guardian hit the streets with a full-page ad showing the globe and the words "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War." The ad was sponsored by a large number of antiwar groups and individuals.

On September 7, the Power to the Peaceful festival and concert brought 20,000 people to Golden Gate Park. According to a report on S.F. Indymedia website: "Under a sky that turned sunny, the huge crowd came together to protest the war on terrorism while enjoying an afternoon of music and speakers. Musical acts included Mystic, KRS-One, and Los Mocos, while Michael Franti and Spearhead were the headliners. Franti was the key organizer of the event. Speakers included Jello Biafra, Amy Goodman, and Mario Africa, who gave an impassioned speech on the innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal. This was the fourth year the event has taken place, but it took on new meaning with the anniversary of the twin towers attack just around the corner."

Bay Area United for Peace sponsored September 11 events under the theme "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War." At the Justin Herman Plaza in S.F., 1,500 people gathered for an all-day event that included Michael Franti, Holly Near, Ram Dass and other musicians and speakers. The day concluded with a mass reading of the Not In Our Name Project's Pledge of Resistance.

Los Angeles

From a correspondent:

There were days of opposition to war and repression during the week of September 11 in Los Angeles: rallies and forums, with the participation of many hundreds and the voices of prominent artists, entertainers, and activists.

Saturday, September 7, 120 people--including lawyers, law students, and activists--gathered at Loyola Law School for a forum on defending civil liberties. The forum was sponsored by Refuse & Resist! and the National Lawyers Guild.

Actor Ed Asner led off the rally on Sunday, September 8: "Can we possibly trust George Bush? We must cry out, shout out, `We are not warmongers!' And we will prove it by jerking back from what the jerks are planning. Make your voices heard!" Blasé Bonpane of the Office of the Americas also spoke as nearly 1000 people came together for the Rally for Peace and Justice at MacArthur Park in the Pico-Union barrio. Among the crowd were signs reading "No War on Iraq" and "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War."

On the eve of September 11, an even larger crowd filled the First Baptist Church in central L.A. for A Gathering for Civil Liberties and Peaceful Tomorrows. The event was sponsored by the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), ACLU of Southern California, and many others.

Actor Alfre Woodard hosted the event. Actor Julia Ormond told the RW that she was there because "I think it's a really scary time." Two honored guests were Barry Amundson and Kelly Campbell, brother and sister-in-law of Craig Amundson who was killed on September 11. They and other relatives have traveled to Afghanistan as part of the September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows to meet with families of those killed by the U.S. war.

Rev. George Regas, one of the founders of ICUJP, said, "God save us from another war.... Join us in a new peace movement." Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange, got a standing ovation when she called for a "regime change here at home." Also speaking were Rev. James Lawson, a veteran of the civil rights movement of the 1960s; spokespeople from the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations; and other ministers and rabbis.

Kent State, Ohio

From a correspondent:

The Kent State Antiwar Coalition and the Not In Our Name project set up gravestones along a busy walkway on the campus. They were inscribed with the names of countries and the number of people who died because of the U.S.: Afghanistan, Iraq, countries in Latin America, etc. Hundreds of students walked by and took note, and many stopped to discuss and debate. At noon a group of students began a funeral procession around the campus, carrying a mock coffin and signs reading "Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War."

"Not In Our Name"

The Not In Our Name Project website has posted a "September 11th Com- memoration Statement." It reads:

"We watched in horror. Stood transfixed before the TV. Frantically calledfriends and loved ones. Walked through the streets, ashen-faced, staring atthe posters of missing. Mourned the dead. Comforted the living. Grieved. Asked why.

"We remember. And still we say...

"Our grief is NOT a cry for war.

"NOT a license to attack anywhere and anyone the president sees fit.

"NOT a call for roundups and detentions of immigrants.

"NOT a demand for neighborhood spy networks.

"NOT a forfeit of our right to question...or of our responsibility toresist injustice.

"Join us in saying NOT IN OUR NAME and taking the Pledge of Resistance, Sunday, Oct. 6, in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and other locations."

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