Antiwar activists gather in NYC

By Shaun Joseph

NEW YORK--More than 200 people attended a regional antiwar conference on November 6 at St. Mark's Church on the Bowery. The conference was sponsored by the United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC), a national antiwar formation created out of a large conference in Albany, N.Y., this summer.

In a period of continuing weakness in the antiwar movement, UNAC has distinguished itself by its opposition to all U.S.-backed wars and occupations in the Middle East--including, centrally, the occupation of Palestine--and by its supporters' activism against Islamophobia and state repression.

These factors were evident in the turnout for the conference, which exceeded expectations and included a notable number of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians. Speakers included representatives of the Muslim Peace Coalition USA, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) and several Palestine solidarity organizations.

In addition to a panel on integrating the multiple wars and occupations into a single movement, meetings also took up the fight against the persecution of Muslims and immigrants and the struggle to "bring the war dollars home."

Unfortunately, the organizers' desire to open space for multiple political issues, while itself a welcome advance from the outmoded "Iraq-only" approach of the antiwar movement, resulted in a conference that was too jam-packed with speakers at the expense of discussion.

The final organizing session, meant to initiate planning for a major demonstration on April 9 in New York City, had to be abbreviated. Hopefully, future meetings, especially those of the New York-based organizing committee, will leave greater time for discussion, feedback and democratic decision-making.

If this occurs, the April 9 demonstration could become a significant milestone on the road to rebuilding a fighting antiwar movement in the "belly of the beast" of imperialism.