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Protests across U.S.: Why do Iraq, Afghanistan wars continue?

Published Mar 25, 2009 4:17 PM

Protests across the country on March 19 and 21 marked the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in varied ways. Clearly the charge that “Occupation is a crime—from Iraq to Palestine” will not stop until the U.S. troops are withdrawn, regardless of the economic crisis or any change in the political administration of the U.S. government.

WW photo: Monica Moorehead

In San Francisco on Mar. 21, riot-geared police targeted young Palestinians, attacking, beating and arresting 10 people and reportedly injuring others among the several thousand protesting there.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported: “Much of the protest focused on the economic crisis. ... Judy Greenspan, a third-grade teacher in Richmond who recently received a pink slip, led the crowd at Justin Herman Plaza in a chant, ‘Jail the rich, bail out the poor, stop the foreclosures, stop the war.’” Greenspan, who spoke for Workers World Party, yelled: “It’s all connected! It is time for us to take power in this country!” (March 21)

On March 19, the sixth anniversary of the war against Iraq, hundreds of San Francisco Bay Area activists protested in several locations and at different times. Some were arrested during a civil disobedience “die-in,” blocking trolley rails in the heart of the financial district in San Francisco. Others marched in front of the U.S. military recruiting office in Berkeley, Calif. And Iraq Veterans Against the War stopped traffic near the U.N. Plaza in San Francisco.

Cindy Sheehan and Kofi check out
a Workers World article, ‘Which
way forward for the antiwar
WW photo: Gloria Verdieu

Also on March 19, organized labor protested the economic crisis, directly related to the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, in a national “Day of Action Against Corporate Excess.” In San Francisco more than 100 demonstrators in front of local offices of big financial institutions stated, “Banks get bailed out! People get sold out!” Organized by the Service Employees International Union and many other labor and community organizations, union workers and supporters first protested in front of Wells Fargo Bank chanting: “Wells Fargo, you can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!” Then the group marched a block away to the Bank of America Building, which houses, in addition to Bank of America, the local office of the American Insurance Group, the focus of rage against big-shot, million-dollar bonuses of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars. They marched in a huge circle on the spacious patio, chanting: “Hey big banks! Where’s OUR dough? Working families have a right to know!” Upon leaving both locations the demonstrators all promised, “We’ll be back!”

On March 21 in Los Angeles 2,000 protesters—including Ron Kovic, paralyzed Vietnam veteran and author of “Born on the Fourth of July”—gathered at Hollywood and Vine, and then carried many U.S.-imperialist-flag-draped coffins, signifying the deaths of soldiers, to the euphemistically named “Armed Forces Career Center.” Cindy Sheehan spoke in Los Angeles and also in San Diego, where 300 activists marched to the War Memorial in Balboa Park.

In Washington, D.C., on March 21 about 10,000 protesters marched three miles from the Washington Mall to the Pentagon. The march culminated in front of the cluster of war profiteering corporations whose offices are located near the Pentagon: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and KBR. Demonstrators labeled them “merchants of death.”

A contingent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans led the predominantly young crowd. There was also representation from Arab and Muslim communities.

The Arlington County Police mobilized in full riot gear in an attempt to block the demonstrators from delivering symbolic coffins at the doorsteps of the war corporations. Major organizers of the March 21 Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco demonstrations were the ANSWER Coalition; the National Assembly to end Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations, which demanded “Fund Jobs and Human Needs, Not Wars, Banks and Billionaires” on their signs; and chapters of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

After the rally, organizers with the New York chapter of the Bail Out the People Movement moved on to Baltimore to organize for a march on Wall Street on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, April 3 and 4.

The Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition organized a spirited anti-war march on March 19 that spontaneously took to the streets in downtown Atlanta and ended in front of the CNN building. The march was led by veterans from the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. At CNN, effigies of former U.S. President George W. Bush along with pictures of former Vice-President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were placed on two trash cans. While chanting the words of the heroic Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who threw his shoe in protest at Bush in Iraq last year—“This is from the widows, the orphans and those killed in Iraq!”—the participants threw shoes at the effigies and photos of the three war criminals. Al-Zeidi was recently sentenced to a three-year prison sentence for his defiant action.

Buffalo, N.Y.’s Peace, Justice and Anti-War Coalition participated in March 21 national actions by holding a noisy, seven-mile-long caravan of about 30 cars through much of the city.

Downtown Detroit was the scene of an anti-war action organized by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice. Activists gathered at the “Spirit of Detroit” statue and marched behind a banner demanding, “Rebuild our cities! Don’t destroy Iraq’s! Money for Schools, Health Care, Housing and Jobs—Not War!” to rally at Central United Methodist Church.

The rally chair, Pan-African News Wire editor Abayomi Azikiwe, called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and expressed solidarity with the people of Palestine, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the African continent, Latin America and the Caribbean. Representatives of Students for Justice in Palestine and the religious and community-based organizations present focused on uniting for upcoming struggles like the movement for boycott, sanctions and divestment from Israel; the struggle to end foreclosures and evictions; the May 1 march for immigrant and workers rights; and the Peoples Summit countering the National Economic Summit in Detroit, June 15 through 17. Ann Arbor and Flushing, Mich., both had anti-war gatherings.

The International Action Center and Troops Out Now Coalition affiliates participated in, organized for or initiated these reported actions.

Contributors to this report include Abayomi Azikiwe, Ellie Dorritie, Judy Greenspan, Dee Knight, Joan Marquardt, Dianne Mathiowetz, Monica Moorehead, John Parker and Gloria Verdieu.