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From Harlem to mayor’s mansion, marchers say,

‘Bring the troops home now! ’

Published Mar 23, 2005 5:15 PM

March in Harlem
stretched 15 blocks.
WW photos: Deirdre Griswold
G. Dunkel, John Catalinotto

As the brutal occupation of Iraq grinds on after two years of death and destruction, its toll on working-class youth and the growing impoverishment of already oppressed communities are reshaping the anti-war movement in the United States.

A demonstration here on March 19, the anniversary of the day two years ago when the Pentagon began its “shock and awe” campaign, reflected this change when it began in Harlem, the historic cultural center for African Americans.

“Why Harlem?” asked emcee Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council. “Because when other communities catch a cold, the Harlems of this country catch pneumonia.” She was referring to the war-induced budget cuts and layoffs, and the disproportionate number of people of color on the front lines.


Brenda Stokely

After a rally at Marcus Garvey Park opened by Brenda Stokely—president of the daycare workers’ union, AFSCME District Council 1707, and an organizer of the Million Worker Movement—some 15,000 people of all nationalities marched through streets where boarded-up brownstones face gentrified new housing too expensive for the average Harlem resident.

Stretching 15 blocks, the march passed an armed forces recruiting center on 125th Street, where the chant went up, “Bring the troops home now” and “Armed forces out of Harlem.” It then proceeded to the “Barrio” of largely Latin@ East Harlem before winding up in Central Park, where thousands more anti-war folks already attending a rally there cheered the arrival of the Harlem contingent.


Ramsey Clark

Later, protesters marched down to the Fifth Avenue mansion of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire supporter of the Bush administration, for a third and final rally.

The Troops Out Now coalition, which organized the protest, represents a coming together of anti-war and -intervention groups like the International Action Center (IAC) with community groups fighting poverty, police brutality and homelessness, as well as the dynamic new Black-led organization of militant trade unionists, the Million Worker Movement.


Nellie Bailey and
Charles Barron

A constant theme of speakers, placards and chants was how the price tag for the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the funding of Israel’s occupation of Pales tine are taking funds away from education, health care, housing and other social needs. Budget cuts in social services are drying up major sources of jobs, too, leaving young people in poor communities vulnerable to the false promises of military recruiters.


Kadouri Al-Kaysi

Now soldiers returning from these wars find that even veterans’ benefits have been cut. A number of veterans, as well as National Guard member Carl Webb who is refusing deployment to Iraq, spoke of how no one should be forced to fight in a “rich man’s war.” Family members of soldiers also called for ending the war and bringing the troops home.

Embattled activists like attorney Lynne Stewart—who faces a 30-year sentence in a case widely seen as a government attempt to intimidate lawyers from defending those it calls “terrorists”—and a group from City College arrested for protesting military recruitment on campus all received impassioned applause. “Dying in Iraq is not a job opportunity!” said one of the students, promising that resistance to military recruitment on campuses will grow.


Larry Holmes

The crowd warmly greeted speakers representing other nationalities—Filipino, Korean, Iraqi, Palestinian, Iranian, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican and Haitian—who exposed U.S. imperialism’s crimes in their countries and called for international solidarity in the struggle for a world without racism or imperialist exploitation. There was broad support for resistance to intervention and occupation.


Lynne Stewart

The poetry, music and rhythms of Harlem were felt throughout the day as young hip hop artists and singers translated the political yearnings of their communities into spoken word and song.

Among the many speakers were elected representatives—U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and New York City Council members Charles Barron and Margarita Lopez—who have bucked their party to come out against the war. Barron has also introduced a Troops Out Now resolution in the City Council.


Chris Silvera

Long-time opponents of imperialist aggression like Professor Howard Zinn and IAC founder Ramsey Clark were interspersed with a rising generation of new activists.

Emmy winner Ruby Dee sent a message of solidarity through her son-in-law, Waleed Muhammad and the voice of death-row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal was heard in a taped greeting to the march. Strong support was also expressed for the Cuban Five, jailed in the U.S. for trying to stop terrorist acts against their homeland.


Military resister
Carl Webb

Michael Letwin spoke for New York City Labor Against the War, which organized a labor contingent in the march from Harlem. Attorney Jeff Fogel, who represented the coalition in a struggle with the city for march permits, spoke for the Center for Constitutional Rights. Brian Becker spoke for the ANSWER coalition.


Justino Rodriguez
arrested at CCNY.

Paul Washington, president of the Vulcan Society of Black firefighters, described how budget cuts due to war spending were endangering poor communities.

A complete list of speakers can be found at troopsoutnow.org.

This new coalition of forces is already planning its next move. Holding up a photo of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez as he spoke, Larry Holmes of the IAC and Workers World Party announced that Troops Out Now and the Million Worker Movement will jointly sponsor a May Day demonstration this year at Union Square, the historic gathering place for worker militants in New York.

As the war in Iraq becomes ever more a war against the workers here, all eyes will be on this important revival of the class struggle in a form that corresponds to the multinational character of today’s working class.


This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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