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Money for health care, not for war

May 6, 2005 | Page 11

ON MAY 1, thousands of people gathered in New York City to say no to war in Iraq.

United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), in conjunction with the anti-nuclear organization Abolition Now, called the protest to oppose the war in Iraq and to demand an end in to nuclear proliferation. The march passed the United Nations building, where a conference to reassess the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was scheduled to begin this week, and ended in Central Park where protesters formed a human peace sign.

Estimates of the size of the demonstration ranged from 10,000 to the organizers' figure of 40,000--including a 1,000-strong contingent of anti-nuclear protesters from Japan.

A survivor of the U.S.'s 1945 bombing of Hiroshima gave a compelling firsthand account of what it was to be a victim of an atomic bomb attack. Other speakers reminded participants how the Bush administration had used people's fears over Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to justify invasion--and warned against similar groundwork being laid for North Korea and Iran.

At a separate demonstration in Union Square, about 1,000 people joined a demonstration called by the Out Now Coalition and the Million Worker March to celebrate May Day by demanding that troops come home from Iraq. Protesters held signs that made a variety of demands, including "Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation," "Free Mumia" and "Reclaim international workers day."

Speaker Brenda Stokely of AFSCME District Council 1707, told the crowd, "If you're in a workplace that is not organized, organize the hell out it!...We have many battles ahead." Million Workers March co-chair and International Longshore and Warehouse Union member Clarence Thomas asked, "Why do we always have money for prisons, but not for schools? Why can't we pay teachers more?"

After the rally, protesters took to the streets and marched down 14th St., past Beth Israel Hospital, whose services are being threatened by cutbacks, and back to Union Square Park.

The turnout for these two protests showed the potential to rebuild the antiwar movement--but the fact that they took place in the same city on the same day signals a debate in the movement that must be addressed.

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Members of Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) No War and UNITE HERE Local 217 picketed and marched to demand a fair contract for dining hall workers and an end to the war.

The April 27 day of protest was organized to oppose Army recruiters, who were scheduled to table all day on campus and an appearance by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Early in the day, recruiters were forced to leave campus after just 90 minutes--without talking to a single student.

When antiwar activists learned that workers would be holding an informational picket in front of the dining hall, they moved their protest there to show their solidarity. As Rich, a antiwar coalition member said, "The same people in corporate boardrooms are making profits by waging war in Iraq and slashing our wages here."

Afterward, they all marched to picket the Albright meeting. "This solidarity is incredible!" said Bransley Barnaby, a Local 217 activist who has worked at SCSU for 14 years. They're stealing our health care and insurance the same way they're stealing it from soldiers. Those soldiers just want to find a way to take care of their families--same as us and the students who go here."

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At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Air Force ROTC canceled its annual information day on April 30 after the threat of a protest called by UW-Madison Stop the War. This success comes on the heels of a successful walkout on April 14 against the occupation of Iraq and the presence of military recruiting on campus.

This protest resulted in a public forum on April 21 with Chancellor John Wiley, where Stop the War presented the case for pulling all military off campus. Tim Hellar, a six-year veteran of the Air Force and member of Stop the War, described his experience at the forum: "The military targets less fortunate students who can't pay for their education."

Stop the War is circulating a petition calling for the removal of ROTC and all military recruiters from campus.

Aaron Amaral, Sam Bernstein, Kiersten Greene and Bill Linville contributed to this report.

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