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Big antiwar turnout rocks Boston’s business district

Published Oct 20, 2011 10:13 PM

Occupy Boston youth join union members and veterans to denounce U.S. wars.
WW photo: Stevan Kirschbaum

Occupy Boston and the United National Antiwar Committee rocked the city’s business district as 5,000 protesters marched on Oct. 15 with cries of “Whose streets? Our streets!” A contingent from Steelworkers Local 8751 representing Boston school bus drivers led the march from a union sound truck festooned with placards declaring “Wall Street = War Street.” The truck was ringed by a steadfast security contingent from Vets for Peace/Smedley Butler Brigade.

Many vets had been arrested when Boston riot police attacked the Occupy Boston site at 2 a.m. on Oct. 10. The march tapped into the rising tide of anger and energy of Occupy Boston..

Melida Arrendondo, of Military Families Speak Out, opened the demonstration with a moving tribute to her son who was killed in Iraq.

Miya X, from Women Fight Back, ignited the crowd by demanding an end to the joblessness and oppression being visited upon Boston’s communities of color, particularly youth of color. African-American City Councilor Charles Yancey called for an end to all the wars and to bring the troops and war dollars back to the communities where they are needed.

Frank Neisser, of the International Action Center, urged the crowd to be on the alert and resist phony Pentagon-fabricated lies accusing Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, calling it “a typical noncredible pretext to whip up a new war hysteria.”

Marilyn Levin, national co-coordinator of UNAC, spoke of the wars at home and abroad and the attack on Muslims and civil liberties. She called on protesters to confront NATO and the G-20 when they meet in Chicago in May.

Tamer Mehanna raised the case of his brother, Tarek Mehanna, who has been in solitary confinement for two years for refusing to collaborate with the FBI and lie about members of his Muslim community. Divest from Israel activist John Roberts urged protesters to get involved in the divestment movement.

The march stopped at the Hyatt Hotel to demand the rehiring of fired immigrant workers and then proceeded to a Verizon store to support International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communication Workers fighting for a new contract. Steve Kirschbaum, Executive Board member of USW 8751, rallied the crowd at both sites with chants of “Union! Union!”

Other stops included an Army recruiting station and the same Bank of America where 24 were arrested in a direct action on Sept. 24, the first day of Occupy Boston. Safia Albaiti, of the International Socialist Organization, led chants and urged youth to resist all of Washington’s wars.

Pat Scanlon, from Vets for Peace, urged the crowd to join his group on Nov. 11 for an antiwar contingent at the city’s Veterans Day March and told how Vets for Peace member Rachel MacNeil was the first person to be arrested by Boston police when they brutally cleared Occupy Boston’s extended campsite and arrested more than 100 people. “We are vets!” Scanlon said. “They picked her up by the neck and dragged her away brutally!” MacNeil also addressed the crowd.

At the Occupy Boston site Alberto Barretto, from the Puerto Rican Diaspora Organizing Committee, said, “Puerto Rico has been occupied by U.S. imperialism since 1898. We have 25 percent unemployment! Capitalism is not good for your health. Occupy Boston is about class struggle!”