Under the banner “Stop the War at Home and Abroad,” the United National Antiwar Coalition will hold a protest march from New York’s busy Herald Square to the U.N., with a closing rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.
Other slogans include “Money for Jobs and People’s Needs, Not War,” “Rebuild Flint! Rebuild Our Cities,” “Stop Islamophobia” and “Defend the Black Lives Matter Movement.” The demonstration will feature speakers like former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart and Lawrence Hamm, of the People’s Organization for Progress.
UNAC released a statement March 6, stating, “None of the major candidates for president have taken on the issue of Washington’s endless wars — unless they are defending them.”
“None of these candidates,” the statement continues, “address how the cost of militarism is literally poisoning our cities. The latest budget for the Pentagon is $608 billion — while the cash-strapped city of Flint switched its water system to save money and left the children of this majority-Black city with irreversible brain damage.”
In addition to the call for money to be spent on people’s needs instead of war, UNAC activists have chosen the U.N. as a target because the contamination of water is against international law.
Sara Flounders of the International Action Center, one of UNAC’s coalition members, said, “We have chosen the U.N. because the Michigan authorities, by systematically and intentionally depriving Flint of clean drinking water, are in violation of international law.”
This echoes the concerns of Flint residents. Melissa Mays, of the activist group Water You Fighting For, has three sons who are anemic, have daily bone pain and miss school due to compromised immune systems. She herself has seizures and other complications from drinking and using the area’s contaminated tap water.
Mays told the Pacifica radio/TV show Democracy Now!: “It’s bad enough that the Geneva Convention says that as an act of war you cannot poison a city’s water supply. We’re not in war, but guess what? It kind of seems like it, because a whole city’s water supply was poisoned by our state government.” (Feb. 17)
Mays is referring to Article 56, Section III of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, which states that the authorities have “the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.”
Last week’s UNAC statement called it appropriate to cite Geneva Convention statutes that refer to an occupying power since “Flint police delivering water filters also ambushed residents with arrest warrants. What are police in communities of color but occupying forces? In the case of Flint this extended all the way to the city’s state-appointed and unelected emergency manager, given authority over the mayor and city council.”
Flounders added, “The Black Lives Matter movement has proven that only the people can bring attention to society’s most pressing issues. Only the people can consistently oppose racism. Only the people can stop war, militarism and the elevation of profit over people’s needs.”