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At demonstrations across the U.S., thousands say...
We'll stand up to the Bush attack

By Nicole Colson | Janury 28, 2005 | Page 12

DONNA ESBJORNSON had a message to send as George W. Bush was being sworn in for his second term a few blocks away.

She made the trip from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to protest for the first time in her life, wearing a shirt that read "Marine wife against the war"--her husband is currently serving in Iraq--and carrying a sign saying "1,526 military families are grieving while you celebrate." "I think it's very important that the world knows that not all Americans are like [Bush], are behind him or approve of the way our country is handling itself in the world," Donna told Socialist Worker.

Protesters like Donna turned out in dozens of cities January 20 to send a message that Bush's claimed right-wing "mandate" from the November election is a figment of his imagination.

In Washington, people demonstrated despite the tightest security in the history of inaugurations. Checkpoints--manned by thousands of National Guard troops and double the number of police from four years ago--were so jammed that thousands waited for hours before being allowed into a protest area.

Nevertheless, more than 5,000 people turned out along Pennsylvania Avenue to jeer the presidential and vice presidential limousines--as well as the crowds of fur coat-wearing Bush-supporters--at a demonstration organized by International ANSWER. Another 5,000 protesters, far more than organizers had expected, gathered for a march organized by the D.C. Antiwar Network (DAWN) from Malcolm X Park to the inaugural parade route.

Spirited protests took place in other cities across the country. In San Francisco, at least 5,000 protesters rallied at City Hall, carrying banners and signs that read "Not Our President," "Drop Bush Not Bombs" and "Hail To The Thief." In Los Angeles, an estimated 3,000 gathered at the Federal Building for a march and rally featuring Vietnam veteran and antiwar organizer Ron Kovic. A "jazz funeral for democracy" drew 1,500 in New Orleans, approximately 2,000 turned out in Portland, Ore., and demonstrations numbered in the hundreds in a dozen other cities.

Meanwhile, some of the most exciting shows of anti-Bush opposition came on high school and college campuses, where students organized walkouts and anti-recruitment actions--from Seattle on the West Coast, to Evanston Township High School north of Chicago, to plenty of other cities.

In Washington, demonstrators had to deal with the intimidation tactics of police. At one point, cops near the site of the ANSWER protest pepper-sprayed a crowd of demosntrators after a handful threw snowballs--one of which hit Dick Cheney's limousine.

But that didn't stop 16-year-old Ellen Long. On a school trip from Frankfort, Ky., the high school sophomore eagerly joined in the protest with classmates after finding a spare sign--a picture of Bush and Cheney with the word "Warmongers" printed underneath. "Bush took money from the education system after he said that he supported it," she said. "That's my main reason [for protesting]--and because he tried to get an amendment against gay marriage. Amendments are to protect people, not to go against them."

Brent Copenhaber, a senior at American University, carried a sign that read "I want my $17 million back: Pay for your own party"--a reference to the fact that the Bush administration made the District of Columbia pay $17.3 million for inauguration security.

"My main issue is the war, because I'm afraid of getting drafted," Copenhaber told Socialist Worker. But, he added, "Civil rights is a big issue for me, too...Gay rights is a big issue for me. I think gay people should be allowed to get married, because there are rights that straight people have that are denied to gay people--it's tax breaks, it's right to visitation in the hospital.

For the majority of protesters, Washington's bloody war on Iraq led them to speak out.

According to Donna Esbjornson, her Marine husband supported her decision to protest. "He does know, yes, and I think that he's glad that I'm willing to speak my mind," she said. "It's fair to say that he's probably proud of me."

As for Bush's "Commander in Chief" inauguration ball to "honor" the troops, Donna wasn't impressed. "Well," she said with a sigh, "that does the soldiers a lot of good, doesn't it? Especially the ones that are dead."

Later that day, Stan Goff, a member of Bring Them Home Now! echoed the frustration at the Bush administration's arrogance. Goff told a crowd of 100 at a town hall meeting sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, the Washington Peace Center, DAWN and George Washington Students Against the War about an attempt the day before to get Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to meet with "Gold Star" relatives--family members of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We had dads and moms, sisters and wives and grandmas, and they've been writing letters to Donald Rumsfeld, asking for a meeting," he said. "And we walked across the bridge and were met with a phalanx of police over there. All these cars and guns--for some grandmothers and widows."

The arrogance of the Bush administration has stoked anger across the country. "The president doesn't represent us," retired teacher Barbara Glesener told NBC at the San Francisco protest. "There are too many people dying in Iraq under his regime. He wants to set our country backward."

At the LA demonstration, Kent Wong, director of the University of California-Los Angeles Labor Center, told the crowd that there is a connection between Bush's policies abroad and at home. "We have many students out here tonight, we have many labor unions out here tonight, we have a lot of people who see the connection between what is happening locally and what is happening internationally," he said.

On college and high school campuses, students showed their desire to take a stand against the Bush agenda. At Seattle Central Community College, more than 300 students walked out of classes, and then confronted campus military recruiters--eventually chasing them off campus. The students then marched out of school to join 1,000 more area students for an even larger rally.

At Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., 300 students walked out in protest of Bush and the war. In Boulder, Colo., 100 high school students walked out and rallied--getting honks of support as cars drove by. "Walk out of school and into the moment" was the students' motto.

At the University of California-Santa Cruz, approximately 150 students gathered at the McHenry Library for a speak out against the war. Junior Sarita Pinto took part in the protest because she wanted to "get the sense that not everybody who sees the problem isn't just moping after the election," she said. "Nothing is predetermined, and things can be done." Following the speakout, students began discussing how to rebuild the antiwar movement--and planned for an organizing meeting the next day, which approximately 70 students attended.

Despite the impressive size of the Inauguration Day protests, however, it's clear that there are political questions that activists need to address. For many, the defeat of John Kerry in the November elections has been demoralizing--and it's clear that the antiwar movement has not yet recovered.

"The elections stole everyone's last ounce of energy," Gene Buskin, co-convener of U.S. Labor Against the War, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "In the end, Kerry wasn't able to ignite opposition to the war," Buskin said.

But that's because Kerry supported the war. Sadly, groups like United for Peace and Justice largely backed Kerry anyway.

This only weakened the antiwar movement and sowed confusion--which was on display at the inaugural protests. While some protesters wore "Don't blame me, I voted for Kerry" T-shirts and proudly handed out "blue zone" bracelets and signs--courtesy of a pro-Democrat political action committee--others rightly pointed out, as one sign put it, that "Kerry supports the war, too."

As the two-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq approaches, we need to build more demonstrations like the ones seen on Inauguration Day--and make sure that both Republicans and Democrats are held accountable.

Seattle students walk out against Bush
By Kate Johnson and Jorge Torres

IN SEATTLE, more than 1,400 students from Seattle Central Community College (SCCC) and surrounding campuses and high schools walked out of classes and rallied January 20 to protest the inauguration of George W. Bush.

Organized and led by SCCC Students Against War (SAW), more than 200 SCCC students marched out of classes and through the school's main building, pounding on walls and chanting "Stand Up! Fight Back! Walk Out!" By the time the march ended, 100 more students had joined the walkout, adding to protesters' confidence.

Demonstrators surrounded two Army recruiters who were arrogant enough to show up against the advice of the student government. The 300 students crowded around the recruiters, chanting, "Recruiters off campus!" and "No more war!" Students tore up Army information pamphlets and threw them back in the recruiters' faces, while several pounded on their table.

After a noisy 10-minute standoff, a nervous and intimidated Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Due told one student, "We're not leaving until you leave." Yet just five minutes later, the recruiters were gone, escorted by campus security.

Students were close on the recruiters' heels as they left, chanting, "You should be ashamed!" and "Don't come back!" Outside, students were met by a crowd of over 1,000 protesters, bands and speakers. "We are the majority," University of Washington student Jesse Hagopian told the cheering crowd.

The students took the street and marched downtown to meet up with protesters for a citywide rally and march that grew to 3,000 strong.

The day before, SAW had hosted a successful teach-in, bringing about 50 students to hear speakers on war and imperialism, attacks on civil liberties, gay marriage and the importance of grassroots activism. With a core of only about 13 members and just a few weeks of planning, SAW students were able to pull off a successful teach-in and walkout.

The student walkouts and protests around Seattle were a glimpse of what can happen across the country as Bush continues to push his right-wing agenda.

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