"Bush buys the bullets, Sharon pulls the trigger"
April 26, 2001 | Page 1
ERIC RUDER and JUSTIN POWERS report on the April 20 antiwar demonstrations across the country.
PROTESTERS TOOK to the streets of Washington, D.C., and other cities on April 20 to send a message to George W. Bush. We say no to your war machine!
The demonstrations were organized around a variety of issues--opposition to the U.S. war on Afghanistan; calls for the U.S. Army to close down its School of the Americas training ground for Latin American dictators; and the struggle against global poverty imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
But the issue that drew the most marchers by far was resistance to Israel's assault on Palestinians. "Our people are dying every day," Houida Saadeh, a Palestinian from New York City who made the trip to Washington, told Socialist Worker. "The Israeli government is the true terrorist. We're not the terrorists. They're using tanks and army gear supplied by the U.S. to fight civilians."
Police say that the crowd in Washington reached 75,000, and estimates by organizers ranged to 100,000 or more--a much larger turnout than expected. The same day, antiwar demonstrations took place in other cities, with the biggest in San Francisco drawing 25,000--the largest protest there in several years.
At all the demonstrations, the atmosphere was angry. But marchers also celebrated the energy and diversity of the crowd. Activists who came on buses organized by student antiwar coalitions and peace groups marched side by side with contingents mobilized by mosques. Many more still--families, unionists and groups of friends--got themselves to the march by car, train or van.
The chanting never stopped--from "Bush buys the bullets, Sharon pulls the trigger" to "No justice, no peace, U.S. out of the Middle East!" But the chant that carried the day was "Free, free Palestine!"
The spirited and multiracial turnout represented a breakthrough for the antiwar movement that will give confidence to activists demoralized or disoriented by the sustained support for Bush's war drive.
And the event showed the growing numbers of people who identify with the struggle for Palestinian freedom. "The fate of Palestinians is linked to that of the Iraqis, that of the people of Colombia, the people of Venezuela and all those fighting global economic domination," said rally speaker Fadia Rafeedie, who became nationally known for her 2000 valedictorian speech at the University of California-Berkeley, where she skewered keynote speaker Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
The outpouring of support for Palestinians is important, and not just because of the urgency of supporting this cause in the face of Israel's war. Embracing the Palestinian struggle for self-determination is a step forward in the political development of the antiwar movement.
In San Francisco, Richard Mead, a business agent for International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, focused in his speech on how the U.S. government is fighting a war abroad and at home. "We have a contract coming up, and they're going to try and eliminate our hiring hall in the name of 'national security,'" Mead said. "Working people died in the '30s for that hiring hall, and we're not going to give it up."
While speakers on both coasts drew out the links between different struggles, the sense of unity was even clearer in the streets, among marchers. This was a refreshing alternative to the divisiveness of organizers in Washington, who battled and maneuvered for weeks leading up to the protest--and ultimately held separate events just blocks apart from one another that only joined up later.
The fantastic turnout and determination of the crowd showed that organizers have some catching up to do to keep up, both with the pace of world events and the growing numbers of people who want to speak out.
"I came down here to be part of this march because separately, we have good numbers, but in a coalition, we have a major amount of people who can make a difference," said Tack, a veteran of the Vietnam War. "I've seen war up close and personal, and I know what it does to people. And I won't see another generation have to go through what me and my friends did. I'll do whatever I
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