Meanwhile, I'll do something easy, but important. A good email from United For Peace and Justice caught me up on events around the country and the world marking the third anniversary of the US's invasion of Iraq.
Much is made of the obvious fact that the antiwar movement in the U.S. has not yet reached the level of, say, the anti-Vietnam protests in 1973. But don't forget, the U.S. was involved in Vietnam (secretly) in the 1950s. It was another decade before the public was aware of the war, and many more years until the peace movement gained the huge numbers that are now associated with it.
Don't let anyone tell you there's no peace movement in the U.S. There is one, and it's growing stronger every day. The government isn't listening, because they have their own agenda, and it doesn't include the wishes of the people. That just means we have to speak louder.
Their deafness makes our job more urgent. It's our duty to chant and shout and sing and march, to bang our tin cups against the bars, louder and louder, until we cannot be ignored. Here's a report on some events from the past week.
Over this past week, tens of thousands of people throughout the U.S., and thousands more around the world, turned out to mark the 3rd anniversary of the war in Iraq. In town squares and parks, on street corners and bridges, in front of legislators' offices and military recruiting stations all over the country, people stood up for peace -- and to make the war's third anniversary its last anniversary. There were more than 600 events, held in all 50 states.I won't be able to attend the big demonstration in New York on April 29, as I'll be in Peru. I hope some of you will be there. If you can't attend, think about what you can do to show your solidarity. To show that you stand for peace.
Many communities held several educational and action-oriented events throughout the week, often culminating in a march, demonstration or vigil. While some organizers reported smaller turnouts than in years past, many groups also reported seeing a lot of new faces and recruiting new members. Coverage by local and national media was generally better than in the past.
The breadth and variety of the local events is a tremendous achievement, and bodes well for building grassroots momentum as we head toward the April 29 mass mobilization in NYC and the November Congressional elections. Here are a few of the many highlights:
More than 200 veterans and survivors of Hurricane Katrina marched from Mobile to New Orleans to make the connection between the destruction in Iraq and the neglect and need at home. Thousands gathered in New Orleans' Armstrong Park to welcome the marchers; afterward, participants helped repair a veteran's home that had been damaged by the storm.
The 541-mile Peregrinacion por La Paz (March for Peace), led by Iraq vet Camilo Mejia, Fernando Suarez Del Solar, the father of one of the first U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, and Iraq war resisters Pablo Paredes and Aidan Delgado, is still underway, spreading the word about the realities of war from Tijuana to San Francisco. The journey will culminate in San Francisco on March 27 with a mass blood drive for civilians and coalition forces in Iraq.
In Washington, DC, an organizer of the National Coalition for Nonviolent Resistance event reports, "Some 200 antiwar activists gathered near the Lincoln Memorial. ... [W]e conducted a solemn and somber march across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the LBJ Grove. There four speakers condemned the war: Cindy Sheehan; Mike Ferner, fasting since February 15; Laura Costas, Military Families Speak Out; and Michael Berg, whose civilian son Nick was killed in Iraq. We then marched with a commemorative coffin towards the Pentagon, until we encountered a five-foot-high steel barrier. Since we intended to deliver the coffin to Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld, fifty-one of us climbed over or went under the barrier. We were taken into custody and charged with 'failure to obey a lawful order.' ... At a post-arrest gathering, the activists reflected on the powerful emotional tone of the March on the Pentagon and started strategizing about future actions. Many of the actions will take place in local communities, but there was also a sense of urgency to continue coming together for mass resistance."
Chicago, IL: More than 100 religious, community and labor organizations built a diverse coalition, which drew 7,000-10,000 protestors from neighborhoods all over the city and surrounding suburbs, culminating in a rally and a triumphant march down Michigan Avenue.
One other note from Illinois: After a five-month campaign by AWARE (Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort) of Urbana/Champaign, the Urbana City Council passed a resolution on March 20 to bring the US military home from Iraq and to end US occupation.
New York, NY: Nineteen people were arrested on March 19 for blocking traffic when they attempted to read the names of Iraqi civilians killed during the war outside the Times Square military recruiting station. The demonstration was part of the War Resisters League march, which drew approximately 400 protestors who walked in silence, accompanied by a gong and drums, carrying signs, cardboard coffins and pictures of war victims.
The Idaho Peace Coalition handed out 500 'receipts' from the Department of Defense for the $225.6 billion taxpayers have been forced to spend on the war: "Beautiful sunshine warmed the day for over 500 folks who participated in the Idaho Peace Coalition's War Buck Brigade on Sunday. A human line was formed between the offices of the two Idaho congressmen and the Idaho Statehouse. Uncle Sam doled out $743 million dollars (Idaho's share of the cost) outside the offices and the participants handed the money down the line to the Iraq War trash can at the Idaho Statehouse."
From a report from Las Cruces, New Mexico: "Around 100 diverse people gathered to be a presence for peace and for an end to the Iraq War. One family had made gorgeous signs and had their poodle adorned with a 'poodles for peace' sign, along with others that had signs like 'Kids Want Peace' and 'Who would Jesus bomb?' and 'End the War Begin the Peace.' Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Moms, Dads, kids, babies, drummers, musicians, teachers, a Buddhist Priest and others were together in thought and prayer and presence. The majority of people driving by the busy intersection by the local post office and City Hall honked in agreement and waved peace signs and gave friendly nods. Some did disagree, but there was no incident."
The war and occupation in Iraq is now in its 4th year. Hard to imagine, but true. Even in the face of the horror of this war, the actions around the country this past week give us grounds for hope.