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Anti-war protests in U.S., Canada

‘Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan’

Published Oct 31, 2007 11:49 PM

A total of more than 100,000 people demonstrated Oct. 27 in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Orlando, Fla., Jonesborough, Tenn., and dozens of other locations against the U.S. war on Iraq, according to the web site of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a major organizer.

San Francisco
WW photo: Judy Greenspan

Protests called for bringing the troops home now from Iraq; many also called for ending the occupation of Afghanistan—the major issue in Quebec and Canada, which have troops fighting and dying there and where there were also demonstrations. Most rallies connected the costs of the war with the cuts to social services, especially to health care, and many raised the danger of a new U.S. war against Iran.

The actions in the eastern part of the United States took place despite heavy rains. Students and young workers had strong contingents on many of the demonstrations, with labor unions having a presence in the big cities.

Los Angeles
WW photo: Bob McCubbin

Mainly UFPJ groups coordinated the actions in the eastern cities, working also with ANSWER on the West Coast. Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC), the World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, Military Families Speak Out and many local organizations were present; among the youth Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Campus Anti-war Network (CAN), Fight Imperialism-Stand Together (FIST), and other youth and school groups took part in many of the cities, along with some immigrant-rights and anti-racist organizations.

Workers World correspondents covered a large sample of the protests.

New York
WW photo: G. Dunkel

From Detroit, Kris Hamel reports that Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI) organizers several weeks ago decided to call a demonstration to coincide with the Oct. 27 protests and to focus also on denouncing the very real war at home on workers and people of color.

The Detroit March Against Racism and War stepped off from Zussman Park on Davison Avenue, in the heart of the city’s economically devastated Black community, taking a two-mile route through block after block of what used to be a thriving section of Detroit. Among occupied homes and buildings were dozens of burned-out and abandoned structures, dozens of businesses shuttered, vacant lots and homes with foreclosure notices posted out front.

New York
WW photo: John Catalinotto

Marchers with banners and signs, as well as a car caravan, chanted loudly against the war and for jobs and health care here at home. People came outside to see the march pass by, eagerly took literature, and many drivers honked their car horns in support.

At a rally at the historic New Bethel Baptist Church, speakers included Minister Malik Shabazz of New Black Panther Party and New Marcus Garvey Movement; Melissa from SDS at Wayne State University; Debbie Johnson of the Detroit Action Network For Reproductive Rights (DANFORR); Rosendo Delgado of Latinos Unidos of Michigan; and Jerry Goldberg, progressive attorney and MECAWI activist. The rally was chaired by MECAWI leader Abayomi Azikwe.

UFPJ estimates that 30,000 marched in Chicago, the largest protest there since the invasion. Dante Strobino of FIST reports that youth and students made up the largest contingent, coming from dozens of Midwest campuses and including CAN, SDS, FIST and others. United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Teamsters and others made up a labor contingent.

From Jonesborough in the northeast corner of Tennessee, Dianne Mathiowetz reports that several hundred people, including many youths—with a big contingent from the University of Tennessee, and another block of older people in their 60s and 70s—made up the protesters. An International Action Center (IAC) contingent carried a banner reading “Troops out of Iraq now, no war on Iran.”

State police insisted on searching everyone entering the downtown park, using a metal detector and going through bags. Counter-protesters from “Rolling Thunder” drove around town on their motorcycles and trucks; 20 or so stood across from the park on the street and hollered at the protesters to “leave Jonesborough,” although many Jonesborough residents also participated in the anti-war action.

FIST organizer Larry Hales reports that 1,500 people in Orlando, Fla., demonstrated and most finished the march despite a tropical downpour. A Green Party member spoke about the Cuban Five political prisoners and an IVAW speaker raised Afghanistan. The rest of the talks focused on ending the war in Iraq.

ANSWER and UFPJ organizers estimate 15,000 marched in Los Angeles. John Parker reports that many participants carried TONC placards that read, “From Iraq to New Orleans to Jena, from Palestine to the Mexican border—Stop the war at home and abroad.” Marching with the TONC contingent were FIST and the FMLN as well as SEIU Local 721 representatives from the Latino and African American Caucus and members of the March 25 Coalition and IAC, all sharing chants with an Asian community contingent that included BAYAN-USA.

From San Francisco, Judy Greenspan reports that thousands of youth, students, workers and other anti-war activists took to the downtown streets of this city to demand “No More War in Iraq.” The rally and march from Civic Center to Dolores Park included a dramatic “die-in” on Market Street.

Several spirited feeder marches, including a large labor contingent, filled the Civic Center plaza. Speakers included Malik Rahim of Common Ground, who traveled to the demonstration with a group of Katrina survivors; Dennis Banks of the American Indian Movement; and Richard Brown of the San Francisco 8, a group of Black activists and leaders who were just recently framed up on conspiracy charges of killing a local cop back in 1971.

Rahim announced plans to travel to San Diego after the demonstration to deliver thousands of hygiene packets to people made homeless by the wildfires that have raged through southern California.

Tens of thousands braved heavy rains in New York to march from the area north of Union Square Park south on Broadway to Foley Square. Many labor contingents, including a large group from the Professional Staff Congress at the CUNY schools, filled the first part of the march. Students and youth made up another large section.

From Boston, Gerry Scoppettuolo reports that 10,000 people marched through the downtown streets. City Councillor Felix Arroyo and author Howard Zinn were among those delivering speeches at Boston Common. The Boston School Bus Drivers, District 1199/SEIU and UE unions had major contingents at the march.

Pan-Canadian protest focuses on Afghanistan

G. Dunkel writes that Canadians in over 32 cities—from St. John’s in Newfoundland to Montreal in Quebec and Toronto in Ontario to Vancouver in British Columbia—protested Oct. 27 against Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. There was even a protest in Calgary, Alberta, the hometown of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Conservative, who has announced that Canada will maintain its troops in Afghanistan until 2011.

Two opposition parties, the Liberals and the Bloc Québecois, support a 2009 pullout, while the New Democratic Party is demanding an immediate departure. Public opinion polls show that a strong majority of Canadians in every province want Canadian troops out of Afghanistan.