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Los Angeles: Activists build unity

Published Oct 4, 2007 2:14 AM

The week leading up to the anti-war demonstration at Olympic and Broadway on Sept. 29, which included a tent city to “Occupy the Occupiers,” was historic in many ways.

Lead banners in L.A. march.
WW photo: Cheryl LaBash

When the idea was first introduced by members of the Troops Out Now Coalition-L.A., a group that was formed to build for the September actions in Los Angeles, many in the anti-war movement were excited about this idea, seeing it as a powerful way to move from protest to resistance. However, many others believed it was too ambitious and would never be allowed by federal authorities, since a week-long anti-war encampment on federal property had never been done before in Los Angeles.

However, the determination of TONC-L.A. not only made the encampment a reality but brought together various anti-war and social justice organizations, which organized their own teach-ins and actions at the encampment. As if this weren’t enough, the tent city not only occupied one federal building but, during midweek, organizers marched 15 miles to the downtown Federal Building to repeat the encampment there for another four days, culminating in the march and rally on the 29th.

John Parker talks with Ron Kovic.
WW photo: Julia La Riva

Each day and evening at these very visible encampments informative workshops, discussions and anti-war films focused on how to build a movement to stop U.S. imperialist aggression around the world. Although there were different views on how to make that happen, everyone learned from each other and drew strength and optimism from the unity that was built with individuals and organizations that hadn’t worked so closely together before.

Organizations led workshops that included the history of struggles in the Philippines by BAYAN USA and in El Salvador by the FMLN. Life in present-day Cuba and the struggle to free the Cuban Five was presented by FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) along with the Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba and the American Friends Service Committee.

Los Angeles, Sept. 29.
WW photo: Cheryl LaBash

U.S. Labor Against the War organized a discussion on the trade union movement. The Garment Workers Center led a discussion on labor rights and immigration. A very exciting multimedia presentation was done by members of the March 25th Coalition, Students for a Democratic Society and Latinos Against the War on Venezuela and Colombia that included the immigrant rights struggle. Workers World Party held a teach-in on building unity to stop the war, using the book “Bolsheviks and War” by Sam Marcy.

Presenters at the Encampment included Ron Kovic, author of “Born on the Fourth of July”; Eisha Mason of AFSC; Namibia Donadio of FIST; Don Bustany of Pacifica Radio’s Middle East in Focus; Carol Frances Likins of the Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba; Andy Griggs and Tom McKenzie of USLAW; Carlos Montes of Latinos Against the War; Martha Rojas of the March 25th Coalition; Eric Gardner of SDS and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization; Berny Motto of the FMLN; Mazen Almoukdad, member of Al-Awda; Terrie Cervas, Bev Tang and Apollo Victoria of BAYAN USA; and Larry Hales of Workers World Party and FIST.

One of the most powerful and moving films shown at the Encampment was “Occupation 101,” exposing the horrific nature of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

At the demonstration on the 29th, Palestine was a prominent focus. Mahmud Ahmad, representing Al-Awda Los Angeles, was one of the first speakers at the main rally who made the connection between U.S. wars of aggression and their unbreakable link to the struggle in Palestine.

Although some in the anti-war movement advocate dropping all other issues, which has minimized participation of those affected by such issues, the TONC demonstrations in both Washington and L.A. included not only the struggle for Palestine but the fight against racism. The large lead banners in the demonstration in L.A. said: “Cut all war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan—No war on Iran” next to “Stop the war—No war on immigrants—Fight racism—Free the Jena 6.”

Those slogans were reflected in the makeup of the very militant demonstration, which included many more people of color with more official union participation than previous anti-war protests. In fact, SEIU’s banner was moved up alongside the lead banners. UNITE HERE and USLAW also had official delegations on the march.

Speakers at the main rally included actor Mimi Kennedy; Fernando Suárez del Solar of Military Families Speak Out; Hamid Kahn of South Asian Network; Omar Jubran of CAIR; Jasimen Syler of United Liberation Army; Cheryl LaBash of U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange; Andy Griggs of USLAW; Deanna Taylor, national co-chair Peace Action Committee—Green Party USA; Gloria Verdieu of San Diego International Action Center; Eric Gardner of UCLA SDS; Carlos Montes of Latinos Against the War; Hwa Young Lee of Korea Truth Commission; and Terrie Cervas of BAYAN USA, who gave a rousing speech about the significance of the week’s events.

Jasimen Syler had organized a large rally of college and high school Black youth for the Jena 6 in Los Angeles on Sept. 20.

The main rally was co-chaired by Namibia Donadio of FIST and Berny Motto of FMLN.

The entire week from Sept. 22 to 29 proved to be a very unifying experience for the movement for social justice and against war. TONC organizers here are anxious to begin work on the grassroots level around all the issues that affect the working class in this country, like housing, health care, and the fight against racism and repression.