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The biggest US anti-war coalition UFPJ is trying something brand new on Saturday, October 27, eleven big rallies across the US all at the same time. The rallies are not being organized top down, but region by region by whichever groups show up at meetings. Sometimes this can lead to blunders (as Sharon Smith recently pointed out) like the Chicago group sending invitations to Obama, Durbin and Daley. Yet it can also lead to a lot of creativity.
In New York there’s going to be feeder marches from Washington Heights, Brooklyn, East Harlem and from New Jersey across the George Washington Bridge. Jonesborough, Tennesse will be the site of another rally. It’s home of Aerojet Ordnance Tennessee the company that makes depleted uranium munitions. [A notice on the Jonesborogh rally site cautions those who routinely carry guns and knives to leave them at home or in their car, not something we here in the East would think to mention.] The New Orleans protest will march through the French Quarter. The San Francisco demo will include Malik Rahim the founder of Common Ground Relief (for New Orleans), Justin Raimondo, libertarian director of Antiwar.com and Michel Shehadeh, a Palestinian who the government has tried to deport for decades.
We’re most involved in the New England protest which will be held in Boston. Area local, grassroots antiwar, liberal, church, labor and leftist groups from around the region came together to plan the character of the demonstration in a very open and democratic manner. Rather than have Democratic Party double-speak, we will have Iranian, and Iraqi and Palestinian speakers such as Rostam Pourzal and Dr. Dahlia Wasfi and Salma Abu Ayyash.. Labor will be represented by John Olson, President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, who at their state-wide convention last month voted unanimously to support the demonstration, along with very decent resolution on immigrant rights. Radical historian and activist Howard Zinn will be a featured speaker. See www.newenglandunited.org We’re organizing a Palestinian contingent to be gathered right in front of the stage, near a banner “60 Years of Israeli Apartheid and Occupation. Enough!”
The whole march will end at Copley Square where marchers can then join Arab, Jewish and human rights groups who are co-sponsoring a demonstration called: “Tearing Down Walls, Building Bridges: Protesting Apartheid in Israel/Palestine”. Not bad.
Now we have plenty of criticism of UFPJ (a sometime puzzling rivalry with ANSWER, fear of talking about the Israel Lobby, not enough outreach to Arabs and Muslims, and leadership relations with the Dems), but actually its come quite a way. There’s far fewer Democratic pols as speakers at its events even as the Democratic Party pretends to be more anti-war. Part of the reason is that the UFPJ is coming out stronger for Palestinian rights. In its stategic document adopted at its 2007 Chicago Assembly it came out for cutting all economic and military aid to Israel. It gets most of its policy on Palestine/Israeli issues from the “US Campaign to End the Occupation”. The “Campaign” supports the right to return, last year adopted an anti-apartheid framework and in September started a year long program to talk about the Palestinian Nekba (catastrophe) of 1947-1948.
There may have been “priority” plank at the June UFPJ Assembly calling for “engaging in the electoral season” with a “peace and justice agenda”, but the only Democrat in view at the whole Assembly was Tom Hayden. If you go to the website http://www.oct27.org you’ll see plenty of anti-war demands, and nothing about supporting Democracts. And take a look at the Chicago website. Obama and Daley haven’t accepted. There’s a good lineup of speakers (with the the exception of impeachment-avoiding John Conyers.)
Mass demonstrations won’t bring down the government, but they are a great way to show strength and to involve new layers into the movement (as has been done with military families and Iraq vets who now lead all the marches). Sure the speakers could be more Left, but there’ll be thousands or tens of thousands at each demo, a great place for radicals and Palestinian rights activists to show their banners and to leaflet the crowds.
So come on out!
Stanley Heller is on the Organizing Committee of UFPJ affiliate Connecticut United for Peace and host of “The Struggle” video, http://wwwTheStruggle.org
Ben George is an activst with CT United for Peace, the Middle East Crisis Committee and Unidad Latina En Accion.