Protesting a decade of war

October 12, 2011

ACTIVISTS IN several cities marked the 10th anniversary of the U.S. war and occupation of Afghanistan by protesting on October 7-8.

In Chicago, nearly 1,500 people took to the streets to demand an immediate end to the U.S./NATO-led occupation. Noting that the lives of the Afghan people continue to worsen, speakers connected the war to unemployment and the evisceration of social services at home.

Before stepping off for the permitted march, the protest was joined by a 200-person strong feeder march from the ongoing Occupy Chicago protest. The previous night's General Assembly at Occupy Chicago was notable for a debate of whether to endorse the antiwar protest. Officially, the GA did not endorse the march, since the proposal failed to garner the 90 percent approval required by the GA's process rules.

Nevertheless, Occupy Chicago activists expressed their solidarity and added to the energy of the antiwar demonstration. Chanting "Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation," protesters passed by an Army recruitment center as well as Obama's national campaign headquarters. There, marchers shouted, "Obama, don't lie to me--bombs don't bring democracy!" Additionally, protesters took up the slogans of the Occupy movement, declaring "We are the 99 percent!"

Of note was the presence of right-wing Ron Paul supporters and "End the Fed" libertarians at the Occupy and antiwar protests. Their politics can only serve to weaken the development of the movements and act as a barrier for activists interested in building solidarity.

Unfortunately, the consensus model utilized at the Occupy assemblies can act as a backdoor for these reactionary elements to hinder the movement's development--there is no reason that Occupy Chicago should not have endorsed the antiwar protest.

At the conclusion of the protest, activists marched back over to the Chicago occupation location and joined in the protest there. This year's antiwar march was an important step forward in building activist opposition to the war, connecting with the Occupy movement, and preparing for the NATO/G8 summit planned for May 15–22 in Chicago next year.

In Rochester, N.Y., antiwar forces joined up with the Rochester offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement on October 7 to mark the 10th anniversary of the war.

More than 70 people joined the demonstration at the Rochester Liberty Pole, the site of daily Occupy Rochester rallies, located across from Bank of America's offices and next to the city's central public bus stop. Calling the protest "Don't Occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, Join Occupy Rochester," the demonstrators demanded the wars be ended and the money used to pay for "things the 99 percent need" like good public schools and universal health care.

Chants like, "Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Obama's crimes," and "They got bailed out, we got sold out," reflected the diversity of demands among the crowd. Many carried signs opposing Obama's increased use of unmanned aerial drones to carry out extra-judicial assassinations in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia as part of a campaign across upstate New York called, "Ground the Drones." Others brought attention to the $3 billion in direct aid that the U.S. gives Israel each year to enable to continued oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

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