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