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Washington, D.C.: Protest hits FEMA, ICE

Published Oct 4, 2007 2:28 AM

Two months of anti-war activity culminated at the end of September in dynamic encampments to stop war at home and abroad and militant, anti-imperialist and anti-racist demonstrations in both Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

D.C. march steps off from Encampment.
WW photo: Deirdre Griswold

Here in Washington, during the Sept. 22-29 Encampment to Stop the War at Home and Abroad, more and more participants arrived and staked their tents in front of the Capitol building as the Sept. 29 mass march approached. A real sense of unity could be felt among the many activists from varied struggles who share a common enemy.

A FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailer brought by Katrina survivors direct from New Orleans joined the Iraq Veterans Against the War bus, which had been parked in front of the Encampment since Sept. 22. The tent city was treated to a delicious meal of shrimp, crawfish and sausage cooked by the Common Ground Collective organizers who, after traveling more than 17 hours to get to the Capitol from New Orleans, spent the next day cooking the meal.

WW photo: G. Dunkel

Encampment participants, mostly women from Code Pink, disrupted a Senate Appropriations Hearing on Sep26 in which Secretary of Defense Robert Gates requested an additional $42 billion in funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates’s appeal brings the 2008 request for war funds—above and beyond the even larger Pentagon budget—to a record high of almost $190 billion.

Members of the cast of “SiCKO”—Michael Moore’s movie exposing the exploitative for-profit health care system—arrived on Sept. 28 to augment the demand for “Health care, not warfare.”

WW photo: Deirdre Griswold

Other events in the last three days of the Encampment included a meeting on the struggle of survivors for justice in the wake of Hurricane/Rita, and immigrant rights; a delegation that called on the acting Attorney General to free the Cuban Five; a health care vigil; a militant youth action with several targets; and a concert to demand an end to martial law in the Philippines. Rock the Rulers, the week-long concert series of the Encampment, brought cultural inspiration and resistance every night.

Mass march ties issues together

WW photo: Gary Wilson

A preliminary report issued by the Troops Out Now Coalition states: “The march on Saturday, Sept. 29 was a departure in tone and make-up from many past anti-war demonstrations. It was a serious and highly successful effort to involve more community-based organizations and issues and to link the struggle against the war with the struggles against racism, oppression and economic injustice at home.”

A multinational crowd of some 10,000 to 15,000 included contingents from organized labor; lesbian, gay, bi and trans activists; Katrina survivors; International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; the Peoples Organization for Progress; Iraq Veterans Against the War; the Green Party of the U.S., BAYAN USA; and more.

The march route included stops to protest at the offices of FEMA, where Katrina survivors accused the agency of neglect; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where protestors shouted “Melt ICE” and “Stop the raids;” the Department of Social Services; and the Department of Education, where Code Pink, chanting “Books not bombs,” covered up part of the “No child left behind” slogan to read “Every child left behind.”

Palestinian speaker Mohammad Awdallah,
Sept. 29th rally D.C. Behind, Nana Soul holds
Palestinian flag.
WW photo: Liz Green

Speakers and performers at the rally all drew clear links between the war in Iraq and the war at home, including a labor delegation with Brenda Stokely of the Million Worker March Movement, Charles Jenkins and Larry Adams of the New York City Labor Against the War, and members of District Council 37; political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, via a recorded greeting from death row; Malik Rahim, Common Ground Collective; Medea Benjamin, Code Pink; Bernadette Ellorin and Christine Hilo, BAYAN USA; Larry Hamm, People’s Organization for Progress; and David Swanson, After Downing Street.

Also speaking were Ardeshir Ommani of the Stop the War On Iran Campaign and American Iranian Friendship Committee; Ignacio Meneses, National Network on Cuba; Walter Sinche, May 1st Immigrant Rights Coalition; Rosita Romero, Dominican Women’s Development Center; Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus; Adam Kokesh, Iraq Veterans Against the War; Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army veteran and 16-year diplomat who resigned in opposition to the Iraq war; Victor Toro, Chilean leader of MIR being threatened with deportation; Debra Sweet of World Can’t Wait; and Teresita Jacinto Oliva of Mexicanos Sin Fronteras.

Continuing the short, punchy talks were Jared Ball, and Sara “Echo” Steiner, Green Party members; Charlotte Kates of Al-Awda New York, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition; Pam Africa, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; political prisoner Leonard Peltier, via a statement; Sonia Umanzon of the FMLN (Faribundo Martí National Liberation Front); Katrina survivors Ivey Parker and Christine Gavin-Lathan; Mohammad Awdallah, U.S. Popular Palestine Conference Network; Ricardo Prado of the Colombian political party Democratic Pole; Tyneisha Bowens of FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand Together; Larry Holmes, Teresa Gutierrez and Sara Flounders for TONC and the International Action Center; Omowale Clay, December 12 Movement and Friends of Zimbabwe; and Milton St. Germaine, New England Human Rights Organization for Haiti.

Independent media part of movement

While the capitalist media practically boycotted the marches on Sept. 29 and provided limited coverage of the Encampments, independent media was there in force to convey the event’s message to the world. In Your Face radio broadcast daily interviews from the Encampment throughout the week. Pacifica’s KPFK radio was the media sponsor for the Los Angeles march and Encampment.

An enthusiastic report on the march in Washington, D.C., can be heard on the local Indymedia affiliate (dc.indymedia.org/newswire/display/141002/). The commentator states: “On the 29th of September, the campaign against the war in occupied Iraq once again took to the streets ... demanding an end not only to the war in occupied Iraq, but the global war on the poor, as fought in New Orleans, fought in Jena, fought on the Mexican border. This was a surprisingly militant march that tied the different aspects of George Bush’s crimes together.

“Apparently Troops Out Now understands that this is not just about Iraq; the same regime that wages war on the people of Iraq is also the regime that sponsors gentrification in our cities and the wholesale incarceration of African-American youth, the vicious fascist crackdown on Latin@ immigrants, and so many other evils. ... All this noise can certainly be heard in Central Cell Block where prisoners are being held.”

The report quoted Larry Adams, who expressed “solidarity with the historic Iraqi resistance, who are on the frontlines of the fight against our common enemy, which is U.S. imperialism.”

Describing the youth action that took place at the end of the rally—which blocked the streets in front of the Capitol until 10 p.m. that night—the reporter concluded: “You can think of the long occupation of Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues as target practice for things that are surely going to come as people get more and more pissed off about this war that is one war from occupied Iraq, to occupied New Orleans, from occupied Palestine to Jena, to the neighborhoods right here in occupied Washington. ... George Bush says ‘Bring it on’; well that’s exactly what we’re gonna do!”