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Preparing to march against war on March 20

By Nicole Colson | March 12, 2004 | Page 11

WITH THE one-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq approaching, protesters are organizing to tell Washington to end the occupation and bring the troops home now. March 20 will be a day of action in cities across the U.S.--and countries around the world.

In many cities, organized labor is making its voice heard. The 18,000-member Coalition of University Employees (CUE) representing clerical workers in the University of California system passed a motion in solidarity with Iraqi workers February 8. "Iraqi workers deserve the same rights and freedoms we want for ourselves: the right to organize, to bargain, and defend their interests, the right to form their own unions," reads the resolution.

In a show of solidarity with ordinary U.S. soldiers, Military Families Speak Out, the Bring Them Home Now coalition, Veterans for Peace, the International Socialist Organization and more than 100 other peace and justice groups are planning to gather in Fayetteville, N.C.--near Ft. Bragg, one of the largest military bases in the U.S.

Across the country, activists have been holding campus teach-ins and citywide meetings for weeks. At San Francisco State University, Students Against War has been working for more than a month to build for the March 20 protest, holding weekly meetings, tabling and debating campus Republicans.

The Campus Antiwar Network's chapter at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) organized a meeting with activist Khury Peterson-Smith reporting on his recent trip to occupied Iraq, along with Chris Gauvera, who visited Israeli-occupied Palestine last summer.

In Cincinnati, students, community activists, peace and religious groups and more are planning to hold a rally downtown. In San Diego, students in the Campus Antiwar Network at the University of California-San Diego held a meeting titled "End the Occupations, Bring the Troops Home" on March 3, featuring Rania Masri of the Institute of Southern Studies, Fernando Suarez de Solar of Military Families Speak Out and others.

There have also been several sharp political debates around March 20 particularly around two issues--whether the antiwar movement should call for an immediate end to the occupation and whether it should take a stand against Israel's occupation of Palestine.

In Berkeley, Calif., 50 people turned out for a March 3 teach-in on Palestine and Iraq sponsored by the Berkeley Stop the War Coalition and agreed to call for an end to the Israeli occupation. But there was passionate debate between those calling for U.S. or international troops to stay in Iraq to "maintain order" and those arguing that U.S. imperialism is directly responsible for the death and destruction suffered by Iraq and can't be expected to bring safety or security.

In Seattle, the majority of local antiwar organizations voted to include an end to the occupation of Palestine as one of its March 20 slogans, but some other peace and justice groups refused to take up this demand, saying it would drive people away. But instead of splitting into two separate marches, those opposed to the occupation of Palestine decided to organize an anti-imperialist contingent within the broader march in order to have a unified demonstration that would allow everyone to march together.

This debate has also arisen in New York City, where United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and International Answer have disagreed on the issue. According to UFPJ organizer Leslie Cagan, such a demand could potentially be "confusing to people and makes it sound like Palestine and Iraq are the same thing."

But avoiding the issue of Palestine will not help strengthen the antiwar movement--it will only marginalize Muslim and Arab allies from feeling connected to it. We need to continue to build solidarity between our movements and win people to the idea that the brutality of occupation, whether in Iraq or in Palestine, must be actively opposed.

Justin Akers, Patrick Durango, Ellie Houston, Naveen Jaganathan, Sid Patel, Martin Smith, Michael Smith and Dan Trocolli contributed to this report.

West Coast longshore workers
By Sue Sandlin

CONTINUING ITS long tradition of solidarity with antiwar and social justice movements, the membership of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 voted to hold a March 20 "stop work" meeting to coincide with antiwar demonstrations planned for that day. Ports across the state of Oregon are also holding "stop work" meetings.

An important provision in the ILWU's contract allows the union to schedule such meetings once a month--in effect, stopping all work at a port for one day. In the past, workers have exercised this right in solidarity with demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle, in support of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, and against apartheid in South Africa. The motion passed by ILWU Local 10 members calls for an end to the war, an end to the occupation and the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops.

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