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Washington D.C., April 19-22
San Francisco, April 20

Why we're protesting

April 12, 2002 | Page 5

ACTIVISTS FROM across the country are mobilizing for protests in Washington, D.C., on the weekend of April 19-22 and in San Francisco on April 20.

The demonstrations were called over a range of issues, but they are linked by a common thread--opposition to the U.S. government's imposition of its military and economic power around the globe.

Antiwar activists have called for marches and teach-ins to build opposition to George Bush's "war against terrorism," which has already killed thousands in Afghanistan.

Also planned are protests against the School of the Americas, where the U.S. military trains military strongmen for Latin America, and against U.S. intervention in Colombia.

Global justice activists are planning to protest global economic policies that punish the world's poor at the annual meeting of representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

And on April 22, Israel's war criminal prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is scheduled to speak with Bush at meetings sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee--so supporters of Palestinian rights will turn out to protest.

This weekend of protests can be a critical step in linking the struggles against the many faces of U.S. power around the world--and in galvanizing the opposition to Bush's wars, both at home and abroad. Here, activists explain why they're protesting April 19-22.

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Dennis Brutus
is a renowned South African poet and veteran of the struggle that brought down the racist apartheid regime. In recent years, he has become a leading figure in the global justice movement, working with the international Jubilee network to demand abolition of Third World debt.

THERE ARE several issues at stake in Washington. There are people coming out to shut down the School of the Americas. There are people coming out on the Palestinian issue. There are other people coming out on the World Bank and the IMF. Many of us are coming for several of these.

What I think is important is that nationally, there is a movement now that is catching fire. People are becoming active, and people are becoming committed. They're becoming committed both locally and globally, and this is where Washington is important.

You can do things in Seattle and Pittsburgh and Chicago or wherever. But we also have to be in Washington, because Washington is where we pull it all together. This is especially important during Bush's war.

More and more, I think people are understanding that the real heart of corporate power is the military corporations. We can see the connections being spelled out--that if you challenge the global corporate agenda, inevitably, you have to challenge the corporations that are involved in the production of arms, the military-industrial complex.

We're pulling it together, and there's a real political sophistication. People understand the connection between war and social justice, which is developing all the time.

Rania Masri
is a peace activist for ending Israel's occupation in Palestine and the U.S. siege on Iraq.

To put it simply, we have a responsibility to be there. We, who recognize that the U.S. government is leading us down a very vicious and destructive path, have a responsibility to be in Washington, D.C., to show that there is a significant portion of Americans and non-U.S. citizens who very strongly oppose the current U.S. policy. And at the same time, we believe just as strongly that we can change it.

To me, it's vital that the protest on April 20 be very large, very powerful. It's a wonderful opportunity for us to show that we are here and we oppose this massive destruction that the U.S. government is planning.

AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] has done us a terrific favor by inviting two war criminals at the same time--accused war criminal Ariel Sharon and George Bush Jr., who has already committed crimes against humanity.

This is the way I regard Bush's bombing of Afghanistan and his planned usage of nuclear weapons against any country he so wishes. He is declaring himself publicly to be planning to commit genocide and to be very open about it.

So they're doing us a favor bringing these two people together--and bringing them at the time when we're already in town. We have to stay there until Monday and show our presence vehemently--that we are opposed to these two leaders who represent nothing but the violence of the military.

Daniel de la Pava
is a member of the Colombia Support Network.

WE'RE INVITING people to go to Washington for the different mobilizations--specifically for the Colombia mobilization, because the U.S. involvement has grown.

It seems that even the conditional language--that it's necessary for the Colombian government to fulfill human rights conditions, especially related to their connections with the paramilitaries, before getting any aid from the U.S. government--is being waived.

These conditions, according to even the U.S. State Department, have not been fulfilled by the Colombian government. Yet they're talking in the U.S. Congress about lifting the restrictions.

Considering the very clear relationship between the Colombian army and the paramilitaries, the question is: How is it possible to keep on supporting and giving more economic aid to an army that is clearly involved with paramilitary activities?

If those conditions are released or waived, then that means that the U.S. government will be completely free to do whatever its wants to do, without any accountability.

I think the most important point for people to know is that a recent report from Human Rights Watch clearly shows how the Colombian government keeps working with paramilitaries. We have to understand that by giving military aid to the Colombian military, the U.S. government is supporting paramilitary groups.

How can your tax money be used to support a group that is openly recognized to be heavily involved in the drug trade--the paramilitaries? It makes no sense.

Jessie Kindig
is a member of People for Peace, an antiwar coalition at Columbia University/Morningside Heights in New York City.

The vast array of protests in D.C. on the weekend of April 20--from Plan Colombia to the IMF and Ariel Sharon--provide the perfect forum for discussion about the ways in which America's foreign policy and domineering capitalism are linked, not only to the causes and reasons for Bush's "war," but to issues of globalization and oppression around the world.

The connections that can be made will link individual global justice movements to each other and build a sense of solidarity in which all leftist movements can begin to work toward another world.

Considering the projected attendance at the demonstrations, as well as my own experience selling bus tickets and tabling for the event, the marches in Washington will be huge. Hopefully, this will give a much-needed inspiration to the left.

Many antiwar coalitions have seen their numbers fall in the past few months, and the globalization movement has been partially crippled since the September 11 attacks.

Like the recent World Economic Forum protests in New York and the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, I hope that the Washington demonstrations will become another important step in rebuilding the enthusiasm of activists and spreading the idea of a need for change around the country and the world.

I believe that it's important for the world and the American government to realize that the American people do not stand behind the government. For all these reasons and more, I am attending the demonstrations in Washington from April 19-22.

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