Antiwar protest at Obama fundraiser

October 28, 2010

PROVIDENCE, R.I.--Over 50 people came out for an antiwar march and rally at a Democratic fundraiser headlined by President Barack Obama on October 25. The protest, sponsored by the RI Mobilization Committee to Stop War and Occupation (RIMC), raised the demands: "End Obama's wars and occupations now! Money for jobs, not for war! End the attacks on civil liberties!"

Chanting slogans such as "Obama isn't antiwar--we are, we are" and "Can we do it? Yes we can, U.S. out of Afghanistan" the group marched from Burnside Park downtown to the $500-a-head reception at the Rhode Island Convention Center. The march was led by activists dressed in orange prison jumpsuits and supervised by masked jailers--symbolizing the attack on civil liberties and Obama's failure to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Speakers along the way included members of RIMC, the Green Party, Jobs with Justice, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, the Industrial Workers of the World and the International Socialist Organization. Music and poetry were provided by Alan Hague and Jared Paul of the radical band Prayers for Atheists.

Associating the wars with Obama directly was controversial in RIMC. Some felt that calling them "Obama's wars" would alienate potential allies who still supported the president or were worried about being confused with the Tea Party bigots.

The majority of the group, however, felt that it was important for the movement to call out the pro-war role of the Democratic administration, given that it has had nearly two years to change course. The success of the protest--which was notably young and multiracial--appeared to bear out the majority perspective.

At one point, antiwar activists found themselves across the street from members of Queer Action Rhode Island (QuARI), who were rallying to draw attention to Obama's broken promises to LGBTQ people, especially given the administrations recent legal defense of "don't ask, don't tell" and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Although separated by police, both rallies started a joint chant of "Gay, straight, black, white--same struggle, same fight!" in a show of solidarity.

Between RIMC, QuARI, and a jobs rally staged by the RI Unemployed Council, roughly 100 people turned out from the left. This easily overwhelmed the small Tea Party presence, which was disorganized and mostly silent, save for some grunts of disapproval when RIMC marched through them chanting anti-racist slogans.

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