‘Walking to New Orleans’ to show solidarity
Published Mar 21, 2006 10:50 PM
Hurricane Katrina survivors, U.S.
veterans, and other activists participated in an historic event, “Walking
to New Orleans,” from March 14 through 19. United in political purpose,
more than 100 people marched 150 miles from Mobile, Ala., to New Orleans, La.,
under the slogan, “Every bomb dropped on Iraq explodes on the Gulf
Tritta Neveleff of Jackson,
Miss. (left) and Vivian Felts,
director of SOS (Saving Our Self)
in Mobile, Ala., March 14.
WW photos: Minnie Bruce Pratt
The slogan, taken from the Rev. Martin Luther King’s
famous 1967 anti-war statement, “Every bomb dropped in Vietnam falls in
Harlem,” concisely expressed the solidarity of the dedicated march
participants with each other as U.S. civilians and service people, and also in
solidarity with the people of Iraq, in ending a war that is taking a brutal toll
there and within the borders of the U.S.
An impressive list of community
co-spon sors organized for the march, ranging from Common Ground Collective and
People’s Hurricane Relief Fund in New Orleans; the Gulf Coast from S.O.S.
(Saving Our Self) in Mobile; MIRA (the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance);
Bayou Liberty Relief in Slidell, La., and C-3 NOLA.
involved included national and local units of Veterans for Peace, Iraq
Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Military Families
Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace.
The deep importance of the event
showed in the range of people who committed to a grueling trek that involved a
week of sleeping on the ground out-of-doors, cold-water bucket hygiene, and
marching through rough terrain in heat, cold and toxic dust from chemically
contaminated ground near the storm’s center.
William Perry, a
and Terry Perry in
Mobile, Ala., on
March 14, first day
of ‘Marching to
Some marching were
neither veterans nor survivors but had either been born in the South or lived
there at some time—people who identified their home towns as Jackson,
Miss.; Carbondale, Ala.; Macon, Ga.; Memphis, Tenn.; Baltimore; Orlando, Fla.;
Houston, Texas; and other deep and border Southern towns—as well as at
least 16 states outside the South.
Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son Casey
in the current Iraq war and drew national attention to the opposition of
military families to the war by camping out at President George Bush’s
ranch in Crawford, Texas, participated on the march.
Stephen Funk, the gay
Filipino Marine who was the first Iraq war resister, marched, as did
conscientious objector Sgt. Camilo Mejía. Both Funk and Mejía
emphasized the intertwining of injustice—in the hypocritical
discrimination of a U.S. “don’t ask, don’t tell”
military that recruits lesbian and gay people as cannon fodder while denying
their very identity—and in the fate of Latin@ soldiers driven to
enlistment by the poverty draft and immigrants who join the armed services in
desperation to get citizenship for themselves and their
Two generations of Alabama
ctivists, Quinton Amerson
and Mamie Mackey, Katrina
survivors, in Congo Square,
New Orleans, March 19.
Connecting wars here & abroad
commented during the march that they were walking a road made for this new
generation by the Black civil rights and nationalist struggles in the South in
the 1960s, and for generations before.
At the Macedonia Missionary Baptist
Church in Ocean Springs, Miss., where the multi-national group of marchers were
welcomed at the end of their second day, the Rev. Jesse Trotter said, “Not
so many years ago we would not have even been able to meet together legally as
we are tonight,” referring to the apartheid-like segregated system of the
South that was finally broken by massive organizing.
As marchers passed
through large and small Gulf Coast towns, from Mobile to Irvington and Codene,
Ala.; from Biloxi to Gulfport, Ocean Springs, and Pascagoula, Miss.; from
Slidell to New Orleans, La., they were greeted everywhere with peace signs,
thumbs-up, cheers and car and truck horns blaring approval.
Iraq Veterans Against the War in
Gulfport, Miss., March 16.
spontaneously joined the march at points along the route—like the four
10th-grade students from Van cleave, Miss., who said that armed-service
recruiters were at their high school “every other day” and said
everyone their age was against the war.
Perhaps most significant was the
positive reception for the marchers in Slidell. One local resident, Naurine
White, an African American born in New Orleans who has lived in Slidell for 20
years and has a son in the military, commented, “This is still a very
conservative, very segregated town. So conservative that this is where David
Duke [Grand Wizard of the new Ku Klux Klan] moved when he started to re-build
At one point in Slidell, as marchers passed a production
facility for the military that makes Strykers armored vehicles built for two
persons and used in Iraq, a group of white workers came out to the fence and
gave the peace sign.
The South is the most militarized region of the U.S.,
dependent especially on the civilian jobs associated with military bases. It is,
of course, also the region where the ruling class, from slave-owners to big
business, has used racism and extreme violence to pit white workers against
people of oppressed nationalities.
So the warm response to the march
suggests that the double crisis generated by the Iraq war and the failed
governmental response to the Katrina catastrophe has opened a possibility for
working-class unity across nationality lines.
In Slidell, the Arabic news
network Al Jazeera was interviewing participants. Iraq War veteran young Michael
Blake summed it all up with this statement: “We are here in solidarity
with the Iraqi people, with the people serving overseas, and with the people of
the Gulf Coast. We want peace and justice.”
Minnie Bruce Pratt,
born and raised in Alabama, took part in the entire march.
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