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Encampment targets FEMA, ICE & Congress

Published Sep 27, 2007 12:26 AM

Anti-war activists, veterans, military families and community organizers from across the U.S.—from as far away as Oregon, Florida and Maine—arrived here beginning Sept. 22 for the Encampment to Stop the War at Home and Abroad, a tent city positioned in front of the Capitol building organized by the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC).

WW photos: LeiLani Dowell

The Encampment will culminate in a march on Sept. 29 with multiple targets: Congress for its complicity in funding the war; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its continued racist neglect of the survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices for the anti-worker raids and detentions against immigrants.

On Sept. 22, a large banner was erected that reads, “Congress, the whole world is watching: CUT OFF WAR FUNDS.” The Encampment is timed to coincide with the expiration of the current round of funding for the war and the ongoing debates in Congress. The appropriations passed in the last session of Congress are due to expire on Oct. 1.

Parked in front of the Encampment is the tour bus of Iraq Veterans Against the War, which features large signs reading, “Don’t attack Iran” and “Impeach Bush.” Along with TONC, Code Pink—Women for Peace, the Green Party and others have pitched their tents. More tents will be pitched as Katrina survivors, youth and students, Cuba solidarity and immigrants rights activists arrive in the coming days.

Press conference announces Encampment

Organizers held a press conference Sept. 24 to announce the Encampment and the mass march on Sept. 29. TONC spokesperson Larry Holmes opened, saying, “The Democrats say they want to cut war funding but they can’t get past a veto. But they could simply make sure the funding question doesn’t get to the floor.”

Rev. Lennox Yearwood spoke about unity in the struggle: “I’m so pleased to see support here for the struggle in Jena; I was pleased to hear, in Jena, people talking about how the bombs in Baghdad are affecting people in the United States. ... Our struggles will continue, but we will win.” Yearwood was recently beaten by D.C. police at an anti-war press conference.

Adam Kokesh, co-chair of the board of directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War, described his organization’s demands, including immediate withdrawal of all forces from Iraq—”and we mean Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Blackwater, Halliburton”—and full payment of reparations to the people of Iraq.

Nana Soul of Artists and Activists United for Peace described the weeklong concert being held as part of the Encampment. “The movement needs cultural inspiration, talent and creativity. We know that [Iraq] isn’t the first time that the United States has invaded a sovereign nation. ... We have a chance to translate the [U.S. government’s] actions.”

Representing the Green Party, Vietnam War veteran Rick Clemens stressed: “This war is about imperialism, about the exploitation of labor power and markets of other peoples. There is no thing as ending the war without ending the economic system that perpetuates war—capitalism.”

WW photo: Dustin Langley

Toby Blomé of Code Pink described the encampments their group has undertaken at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s house, after months of her refusing to meet with them to discuss war funding. They plan on visiting her office regularly during the Encampment and will be fasting throughout the week; the group hosted an organizing meeting on Sept. 24 at the Encampment.

Vernon Hoffman, who biked 4,500 miles with his family from Portland, Ore., to join the Encampment, said he’d “rather bike for peace than kill for oil.”

Lastly, a young war resister described how he enlisted in the military in 2005 because of limited career opportunities in his rural hometown. However, he says, “I happened to join at the same time as Hurricane Katrina, and I saw on TV the bodies floating in the streets. It really hit home to me. I got out of training 25 weeks later and nothing had changed. Despite all the rhetoric about homeland security and national security, this government’s priorities are not for the people.”

Hub of anti-war activity

The Encampment has become a veritable hub of anti-war activity in the D.C. Metro area. At daily morning and evening meetings, activists converge to plan their outreach strategies to build for the mass march on Sept. 29.

From the Encampment, teams have fanned throughout the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., areas putting up posters, handing out leaflets, riding in sound cars and talking to students on campuses and workers on the streets. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

In addition, passersby to the Encampment, including many tourists, have been appreciative of its work. An activist reported that one such person showed his identification card—as an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. He assured the activist that many people in the Green Zone in Iraq are in agreement with the sentiments of the Encampment.

‘Get out of Iraq! Stay out of Iran!’

Responding to the venomous attacks against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit to New York for a UN General Assembly meeting, Encampment activists piled into the IVAW bus on Sept. 26 and rode to the White House, where they held a picket line to demand, “Get out of Iraq! Stay out of Iran!” Recalling the demonization of former Iraqi President Sassam Hussein, activists denounced the attacks on Ahmadinejad as an attempt to prepare the U.S. population for an expansion of the war to Iran.

Upcoming events include a discussion on the war at home in Washington, D.C.—where libraries are closing, thousands of units of affordable housing have been lost, and residents can’t vote—hosted by the Green Party; an event entitled “Justice for the Jena 6, Katrina/Rita survivors and immigrant workers: Fighting racism is building solidarity”; a vigil with the cast of the movie “SiCKO” for those who have died due to inadequate health care; a youth and student day of action; and events to free the Cuban 5 and to demand an end to political repression in the Philippines.

For more information, visit www.troopsoutnow.org.

E-mail: ldowell@workers.org