by Bill Swain
Revolutionary Worker #1170, October 13, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
On September 27-30, thousands of youth poured into Washington, D.C., to protest against the crimes of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank--and to oppose the U.S. moves toward war against Iraq. On Friday the 27th, the police attacked the protesters and arrested over 600. On Saturday, about 10,000 demonstrators marched to the IMF and World Bank meeting. On Monday, there was a protest against the U.S. war on Iraq.
As I marched with the youth and hung out with them, I got a chance to talk to many of the protesters. I got a deep sense of a determined and rising movement--a movement of youth angry at all kinds of shit this system lays on the people of the world. Their chants, banners, songs, and defiant actions all made clear their determination to resist the IMF, capitalist globalization, and the juggernaut of war and repression being imposed on the world by Bush and U.S. imperialism.
Just after the police arrested 100 people at Vermont and K Street on Saturday, a young man described the confrontation: "The police were hitting everybody--it didn't matter as to the age, gender. This is terrorism, it really was. They crowded us, and that's when people started to lock arms. People were falling all over each other and almost crushing each other because they were crowded together. I saw short girls falling and getting trampled on, it was bad. They beat people, and after that, they let some of them go. That was terrorism. It just shows how much a police state this is."
As sirens blasted from police cars whizzing by, I spoke with a young man and woman from Allegheny College in western Pennsylvania. He said, "The movement isn't big enough in this country, but it's growing and it will be better... Martin Luther King said, `No one is free while others are oppressed.' This is obviously the case over here. And we need to struggle for our brothers in Iraq who are being persecuted by Bush too. We should struggle in solidarity with people in Argentina, with people in Palestine."
Before we parted, the young man said, "We can only make a difference if we try. I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees." I asked if they were going to be at the October 6th Not In Our Name event in NYC. They smiled and answered, "Definitely."
As I looked across the street at the massive number of cops surrounding the protesters in front of Citibank, I saw a group of youth being interviewed by a reporter from the White House press corps. With her voice full of contempt, the reporter asked the youth, "What do you get out of doing this protest?" A young woman student came right back with a reply: "I'm here because the IMF and World Bank do a lot of programs that are hurtful to third world countries. I was in Nicaragua last year and I saw these programs first hand. I met a mother who worked in a free trade zone where corporations from other countries set up sweatshops. People work there for very low wages and are not able to go to the bathroom and things like that. So the mother started organizing a union there. She was fired and blacklisted, couldn't get a job in Nicaragua any more. She had to go to Costa Rica. So her 5- and 7-year-old kids don't have a mother because of what the IMF and World Bank is doing. Places like the U.S. and other countries that have money are consuming what's produced in third world countries. It's a very one-sided relationship. I think people in countries like Nicaragua should have a chance to make a living. That's why I'm here."
A window at the Citibank had been broken at some point, and the reporter lectured to the protesters that this hurt their cause. A young man looked right into her eyes and said, "The U.S. sanctions in Iraq cause more deaths each month than happened in the World Trade Center." Another youth jumped in: "When the U.S. commits violence, it's `justified.' This protest is our way of speaking out against it."
As I left that scene, I saw about 25 protesters start running down the street, chased by cops on motorbikes. In the middle of this welcome disruption, I heard a drum and a howling kind of chant that still rings in my ears when I hear the U.S. government talking shit about bombing Iraq again. The man shouted out, "No blood for oil, no blood for oil! No dead children for oil!"
After a die-in at Freedom Plaza, where over 300 protesters were arrested without warning by hundreds of police, I joined up with an RW seller to go to Farragut Park, where close to a thousand youth had assembled to hear protest music and speakers. One youth sang about the wedding massacre in Afghanistan- -when dozens of people in a village celebrating a wedding were killed by the U.S. forces: "They fired on my wedding day. I watched the family pleading, pleading all around me. My beautiful fiancée, she was dying on my wedding day. I took her into my arms, and I watched her fade away.... The bodies of my family were left to rot away.... The fire from the USA have brought me to my grave.... I was bleeding blood upon my wedding day." I stood there listening, motionless, thinking about this horror and all the nightmares perpetrated on the people of Afghanistan and around the world by U.S. imperialism.
One student who was organizing for the demonstration in D.C. on Monday against the U.S. war on Iraq told me, "People are making connections between the war and the protest against the IMF. People are beginning to see that the big corporations that are dominating the world are the same ones that are connected to the main warmongers in the U.S. who are pushing the invasion of Iraq."
A 19-year-old student said she'd heard about this protest in her English class at Kent State in Ohio--and three days later she was on her way to D.C. She told me, "I believe the majority of Americans are under false consciousness about what's actually going on and what's going to be affecting them if we do go to war [with Iraq], and about the war with Afghanistan." Her friend said, "This administration is illegitimate. We want to strip down the administration and make them naked so everybody can see. All they say is lies, death, and destruction. And it's all for money and power."
A 16-year-old youth from D.C. had seen the TV news of the protest in the morning and decided to come downtown--despite attempts by her father to stop her. She told me, "I don't agree with raping smaller poorer nations out of their money. I think this is a country that spends a lot of its time saying that we want to help everyone. If you go out to help people, then you don't stab them in the back, ruin their economies, I don't think it's ever right to fly into buildings, but it's not appropriate to use that as a scapegoat to go into the Middle East and bomb everyone and try to take their oil. The war is more about that than about having any sympathy for the people who were harmed."
On Saturday, after a march of thousands of people, we rallied again at Farragut Park. As I smiled to see a U.S. flag being burned, I ran into a member of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade. He told me, "It's great that all these youth are out here today. This is important, given what the U.S. is doing around the world--from Palestine, to Afghanistan, to Iraq. It's important that this is being brought out in the context of anti-globalization protest. I talked to a lot of youth who are bringing those things together. And that's important because this movement has to connect the anti-globalization and anti-war issues and connect the movement against the war to a more anti-capitalist stand."
We marched toward where the IMF and World Bank were meeting, which was protected by cops ten deep, I talked to an anarchist youth who said, "Yesterday, although we were out-maneuvered by the police, this city was pretty much empty. Traffic was at a standstill at key places for hours at a time, and the transit system was way down in terms of numbers of people. Many people didn't go to work. It created enough of a spectacle for people to snap out of their routine and see what's going on."
At the end of the weekend, although the painful words of the song about the wedding massacre kept going through my head, and although those hundreds of cops had kept us from getting near the IMF meeting, I was deeply inspired by the youth. Through all that they had done--running through the streets...disrupting business as usual in the country's capital...standing strong while surrounded by the cops and getting arrested and beaten...chanting slogans of liberation--the youth had sent out a clear message: WE WILL RESIST! WE WILL FIGHT FOR A DIFFERENT FUTURE!
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)