Opposition to Bush's war drive grows around the country
September 28, 2001 | Page 5
NICOLE COLSON and ERIC RUDER report on the flowering of resistance to Bush's war drive and racist scapegoating. This story is based on reports from Socialist Worker readers across the country.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
GEORGE W. BUSH thinks that he can turn the tragedy of September 11 into war. But people across the country are standing up to challenge him.
Within a week of the attacks in New York and Washington, every major city in the U.S. and many more towns and college campuses saw events of all kinds to oppose Bush's war drive and the tide of racist attacks on Arab Americans.
In New York City, just a few miles from the World Trade Center, more than 2,000 turned out September 14 to Union Square, the site of a round-the-clock vigil ever since the attack. "Mourn the victims, Islam is not the enemy, war is not the answer, fight for global peace and justice," was the crowd's message.
A week later, 5,000 marched from Union Square to Times Square--the site of a U.S. army recruiting station. The march joined up with a vigil of Muslim and Arab people at Madison Square Park.
Once at Times Square, a few hundred people got past police and entered the recruiting station, where at least eight people were arrested. "It was amazing to be there," said one protester. "I think a lot of people are angry and upset, but the overwhelming sentiment was that we don't want more innocent people to die."
At a vigil of 250 people, Rev. Al Sharpton and members of the Jewish community spoke out against racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims.
Citywide planning meetings for an antiwar coalition have drawn nearly 400 people. Elsewhere in the country, the stories are similar.
At the University of California-San Diego, when campus administrators tried to turn one vigil toward pro-war patriotism, antiwar activists led the crowd in singing, "War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing." A "Protest for Peace" rally later in the week attracted more than 400.
In Boston, nearly 1,000 people took part in a silent vigil for peace, and 300 stayed for an organizing meeting to plan the launch of a citywide antiwar coalition.
Peace demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis., drew 1,500 and 500, respectively. Five hundred came to a panel discussion at the University of Iowa, where Iowans for Peace is planning a rally.
At the University of North Carolina, 800 people attended a teach-in. In Portland, Ore., two peace marches drew more than 2,000 people each. Portland Peaceful Response, which called the demonstrations, said that it was united "to see a peaceful resolution to these events, and to promote and protect the peace of those who may be unduly discriminated against as a result."
College campuses across the U.S. have become centers of antiwar organizing. Within days of the attack, students at Wesleyan University in Connecticut formed Peaceful Justice, a nationwide student antiwar network.
The network coordinated a National Student Day of Action for Peaceful Justice on September 20. "We started sending out e-mails Friday morning, and by Sunday, we already had 80 schools," Wesleyan sophomore Mary Thomas told ABC News.
In all, some 150 campuses in 36 states participated--although the events were largely ignored by the mainstream press. In Boston, students at eight campuses held antiwar activities, including a 600-person rally at Harvard and a 150-person rally at Boston College. Students from both schools joined together and marched through downtown Boston and Cambridge, Mass.
In New York City, an antiwar teach-in organized by Columbia students drew more than 400 to St. John's Cathedral, and at Hunter College, 200 gathered to express a pro-peace, antiracist message.
Even on Bush's home turf, opponents of the war drive took a stand. Just two days after the attacks, an antiwar rally at the University of Texas in Austin drew 200 students. Some 900 people turned out at the state capitol building later in the week. In Atlanta, Georgians for Peace held a rally of more than 250 people to oppose war and anti-Arab racism.
The biggest turnouts were in the Bay Area. At the University of California-Berkeley, some 5,000 people marched in opposition to war. The protest came just one day after more than 100 people protested against a racist cartoon that appeared in the campus newspaper, The Daily Californian.
The cartoon showed two bearded men wearing turbans, saying, "We made it to paradise! Now we will meet Allah, and be fed grapes, and be serviced by 70 virgin women."
In all, 18 students were arrested for protesting this racist garbage. "We understand that it's a matter of free speech, but this is hate speech," said Jaspreet Saini, a council member of the Sikh Student Association. "That kind of speech only encourages more violence and more killing."
The antiwar, antiracist movement in the U.S. is off to a powerful start. Now we have to spread the struggle as far and wide as we can.
"We mourn the senseless loss of life on September 11," said Jessie Muldoon, a member of the Oakland Teachers Association, which passed a resolution opposing Bush's war drive. "But we are concerned about the safety of our Muslim students and believe that a military intervention will only increase the number of dead and injured civilians."