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Connecting the dots between war & poverty

Published Feb 28, 2010 8:56 PM

Two street meetings held on Feb. 19, one in Los Angeles and the other in New York City, confirmed mass opposition to the war in Afghanistan and disillusion with the government by a population reeling from unemployment, foreclosures and budget cuts.

That week the U.S. had started a new offensive in Afghanistan. There were already reports that the Air Force had “accidentally” bombed civilians, killing children and adults in their homes. Here are brief reports on these two anti-war meetings.

Los Angeles: A question gets a response

It would have been a typical Friday evening in the city of Los Angeles at the busy intersection of Vermont Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard last week except for about 10 protesters holding a well-observed and well-received street meeting.

Participants in the protest were members of the Al-Awda Coalition, the United Teachers of Los Angeles, the SEIU Labor-Community Coalition and the International Action Center/Bail Out the People Movement.

This metro station daily serves hundreds of thousands of a very multinational and working-class ridership. Commuters on their way home, to the next shift or to other appointments at first avoided getting a leaflet or making eye contact.

But then a banner was put up reading, “Money for jobs, not war in Afghanistan,” while a speaker asked a question of the commuters: “Why is the government spending $100 billion to bomb and kill children in Afghanistan, like those 12 Afghan children killed last week, when that money could have produced 3 million jobs here in California — a state where one out of every five people is either unemployed or underemployed?”

Many then began asking for leaflets and to be informed about the next meeting. Not one leaflet was seen discarded on the sidewalks or at the entrance to the metro station following the conclusion of the street meeting.

NYC: Putting two and two together

New York City
WW photo: John Catalinotto

It was more than a protest. It was an educational street meeting that showed how the vast Pentagon budget and U.S. corporate exploitation of workers abroad is intimately connected with the dire economic situation at home. The nods coming from many in the dense crowds of workers and shoppers passing by on Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue and 33rd Street showed they understood. Some stopped, exchanged views and signed up to take part in future meetings.

New York City has always been made up of many nationalities. The tabloids — and the “moderate” media, too — try to tear down unity among the workers that could threaten the city’s control by bankers and billionaires like Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The street meeting, in English and Spanish, was a direct challenge to this racism and xenophobia.

Students talked about how young people face grim choices — poverty, the military or jail — as jobs disappear and education is cut back. They assailed the planned closing of 19 public schools and the raising of tuition in the once-free City University of New York system. They called for taking the bailout money and the Pentagon budget and spending it on education and a real jobs program.

Workers World Party, the Troops Out Now Coalition, the International Action Center and the Campus Anti-War Network were among the groups participating.