THREE DAYS IN SEPTEMBER
What an amazing three days it was!
The Sept. 24 - 26th actions in Washington, DC offered a broad cross section of people many ways to express their opposition to the war on Iraq. The mobilization turned up the heat on the Bush administration and Congress while making connections between the war and other pressing issues of the day. We are proud to report on the tremendous success of these three days. As we return to organizing in our communities, schools, religious centers, and workplaces, our movement is stronger. Hundreds of thousands of people are re-energized for the work ahead, and Congress and the White House now recognize our movement as a force to reckon with.
The events and activities that took place these three days could not have happened without the direct involvement of scores of UFPJ member groups and hundreds of volunteers. If you helped get the word out, sold bus tickets, organized or participated in a contingent, helped plan any of the activities, distributed posters or leaflets, or made a financial contribution, then you helped to make history! Thank you, to each and every one who helped bring this ambitious three day program to life!
In the report below we have tried to capture some of the spirit and energy of the Sept. 24 - 26th antiwar mobilization organized by United for Peace and Justice. This is only a snap shot of what happened during these 3 days and we hope to bring you more detailed reports in the coming weeks. To see photos from these days, visit dianelent.com/s24mobe1.htm.
On Saturday, Sept. 24th hundreds of thousands of people - our estimate is at least 300,000 - marched in front of the White House and through the streets of Washington, DC in a powerful, unified statement of opposition to the war in Iraq and for justice for the people of the Gulf Coast. The call was clear: it is time to end this war and to bring the troops home! People poured into the nation's capital from every corner of the country, from all walks of life and many different communities. As impressive as the numbers were, the creativity and commitment of this massive number of people was what made the day so energizing.
The day began with a rally on the Ellipse, with the White House in the backdrop. Some of the speakers included: Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cindy Sheehan, Curtis Muhammad (organizer from New Orleans), UFPJ National Coordinator Leslie Cagan, and Damu Smith from Black Voices for Peace. But the crowds out on the streets were so large that most people never made it to the Ellipse. By 12:30 people were in motion, determined to have their voices heard. And for the next four and a half hours the march unfolded with contingents of military families and veterans, labor, students, religious communities, women, people of color groups, counter-recruitment activists, the nuclear disarmament movement, the lgbt/queer community, seniors, professional organization, state-wide delegations, and so many more all marching to end the war on Iraq. United for Peace and Justice and other coalitions and organizations had distributed many signs and posters, but people's home made signs told the world where they had come from and what they felt most deeply. The streets of Washington are wide (we marched on roads that were 6 or 8 lanes) and there was hardly a gap as this incredible sea of humanity carried its message of peace and justice.
By the time the march took off, the two day Peace and Justice Festival organized by UFPJ was already up and running on the Washington Monument grounds. Throughout the weekend, thousands of people visited the 17 tents we had set up where groups working on common issues offered information, interactive displays, ways to get involved, and much more. More than 150 member groups of UFPJ participated in the booths covering a range of issues: Iraq, Counter-Recruitment, The Wars at Home, Real Support for the Troops, Global Justice, Legislative Action, Clergy and Laity Concerned About Iraq, Palestine, Nuclear Abolition, Stop Global Warming, Preventing the Next War, Local Costs of War, Youth and Students, and Grassroots Organizing (UFPJ Member Groups).
At 2:30 the Operation Ceasefire concert kicked off at the Washington Monument grounds. This amazing event included performances by Joan Baez, the Machetres, Living Things, Wayne Kramer and the Bellrays, Steve Earle, The Coup, Sweet Honey in the Rock, The Evens, Ted Leo + Pharmacists, Head Roc, Thievery Corporation, Bouncing Souls, Le Tigre, and Fort Knox Five DJ Set. Interspersed between the music were dynamic speeches by Julian Bond, Rev. Al Sharpton, Representatives Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Raul Grijalva, Ann Wright, Jim Hightower, Medea Benjamin, representatives of Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, and others. One of the high points of the event - which went to 1:30 in the morning with 40,000 still in attendance - was when Etan Thomas, the professional basketball player with the Washington Wizards, read his poetry and brought it all together.
On Sunday, Sept. 25th smaller but vitally important events took place. The Peace and Justice Festival continued throughout the day, and trainings for both the day of Congressional Lobbying and the Nonviolent Civil Disobedience action at the White House took place. In addition, the Sylvan Theatre on the Washington Monument grounds was used for a day-long concert and the Counter-Recruitment Working Group of UFPJ had an afternoon gathering that brought together people from around the country doing this work. The day closed out with what has been described as the one of the most moving Interfaith Religious Services people had ever been to. Using several of the tents that had been set up for the Peace and Justice Festival, and building on the practice of tent revivals, leaders from major religious traditions were joined by upwards of 500 people in articulating an ethical critique of the war. Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq (which is housed within UFPJ) organized this inspiring gathering.
On Monday, Sept. 26th two events unfolded throughout the day: the Congressional Lobby Day on Capital Hill and the Nonviolent Civil Disobedience action at the White House. Organized by working groups of UFPJ, the success of these two events represented significant growth for our coalition.
The Lobby Day took our antiwar message to the halls of Congress, where at least 800 (and possibly as many as 1000) people representing more than 40 states met with the offices of over 300 senators and representatives in the largest-ever pro-peace lobby day. We urged our representatives to take every action to stop this war, cut off funding for the occupation, support existing legislation that moves towards bringing the troops home, stop building permanent bases in Iraq, provides funds as compensation for the damage caused by the war, and forbid schools from sharing student information with military recruiters without parental permission. The September 26 Lobby Day was just the beginning of our efforts to create a coordinated grassroots legislative action network to increase the pressure on Congress to stop funding the war and to bring the troops home now! The lobby visits should continue so visit http://www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=3074 to download UFPJ's legislative priorities, our legislative asks and talking points.
The civil resistance action at the White House drew over 1,000 people with upwards of 400 people risking arrest. A small delegation that included religious leaders and Gold Star families approached the gate to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue and asked to meet with the president. As was expected, they were denied such a meeting and they proceeded to sit on the sidewalk in front of the White House, soon to be joined by the others. It took some time, but by late afternoon over 370 people had been arrested in what is probably one of the largest civil resistance actions ever carried out at the White House. This work will also continue and plans for other activities around the country will be announced in the coming weeks.
In the coming days and weeks we will be sharing more details about what happened and certainly new ideas about where we go from here. But in the meantime, we hope those of you were in Washington, DC will share your experiences with others who couldn't make it. The energy we felt in the streets for those three days needs to be carried out to every corner of this country – and you are the people to make that happen.
We also hope you will continue to generously lend your financial support to United for Peace and Justice. Our work is far from over and we need your support as much as ever before! Thanks for whatever you can do!!
what i missed
This is a report on the recent anti-war actions in Washington, written by United For Peace and Justice, the organizers.