The demonstration called by the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition drew 10-15,000 people directly outside Madison Square Garden last night. While Bush was being coronated inside, antiwar protestors filled the streets of Manhattanon the sixth straight day of round-the-clock mass actions.
The spirit of last night’s demonstration was noteworthy. The atmosphere of fear and intimidation created by the police in the last days only made the crowd more determined. Nearly two thousand people have been arrested in the last week, many in mass sweeps and in so-called “pre-emptive” arrests. But last night people showed that they were unwilling to be silenced. Thousands of riot-clad police surrounded the protest. In the adjacent blocks along 7th and 9th Ave. police blocked access to the demonstration site. Many people reported that it took almost an hour to find their way to the demonstration. And yet they came, young and old.
The demonstration was also significant for the wide support and various community endorsements for the action as evident in the additional sponsors. See the list of co-sponsoring organizations below. Despite the fear and intimidation, this explicitly antiwar action that stood in support of self-determination was specifically supported by the Haitian, Arab American and Palestinian communities.
Although Bush’s acceptance speech was the main focus of the mass media, the protests last night at the convention could not be ignored. The surprising large night-time demonstration – that lasted till past 10:00 pm and clogged the streets of the west side of Manhattan – received widespread media attention at the very moment Bush was using the national spotlight to regurgitate his lies justifying the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The New York Times reported this morning, “Outside Madison Square Garden last night, the antiwar group A.N.S.W.E.R. also drew thousands of people in a rally that stretched more than five blocks.” The international media also gave wide coverage.
This has been an incredible week. There is a great deal for the progressive movement to evaluate as we prepare the next steps in building the antiwar movement. It was clear this week that while the antiwar movement was united in the street actions there is a significant debate about political focus. Some focus on the slogan “Say No the Bush Agenda” rather than “End the Occupation of Iraq, Bring the Troops Home Now!”
John Kerry and the Democratic leadership can say No to Bush or No to the Bush Agenda but they will not oppose the continued criminal occupation of Iraq. Kerry shares Bush’s objectives of U.S. domination over the oil-rich Middle East. If elected, Kerry will continue this criminal occupation. Kerry will continue to send U.S. soldiers to die for corporate conquest, sacrificing the lives of those disproportionately from African American, Latino and other working class and poor communities.
Another major debate has to do with Palestine. Kerry has announced that he supports the Israeli Apartheid Wall and will extend Bush’s policy of wholehearted embrace of the Israeli government as it carries out the assassinations ofPalestinian leaders and the mass arrests and torture of Palestinian political prisoners. The A.N.S.W.E.R.-initiated demonstration at Madison Square Garden last night was against the war and occupation of Iraq. It was also a conscious act of solidarity with the 4,000-plus Palestinian prisoners who started a hunger strike nearly three weeks ago to protest the brutal and anti-human treatment they receive in Israeli prisons. Likewise, last night’s A.N.S.W.E.R. demonstration was an act of political solidarity with the Haitian people who were subjected to Bush’s colonialist coup d’etat that overthrew the democratically elected government on February 29 followed by the installation of a U.S. puppet government. Kerry won’t stand against the coup but the antiwar movement in the U.S. must continue to support the right of the Haitian people to self-determination.
Part of the debate about political focus and whether to have meaningful political slogans and discourse also relates to the nature of the actions undertaken. The government and the media criticize the antiwar movement for staging loud and angry protests. The response by some is to tone down the message and the spirit of the movement, and to capitulate to police directives even where they are contrary to the fundamental First Amendment rights of the people.When thousands of people are being killed in Iraq and elsewhere we believe that the people must act, as they did during the Vietnam era, making it clear that they cannot be silent in the face of U.S. government atrocities.
The protests of the last week prove that the antiwar movement that took shape after September 11, and announced itself as a mass phenomena when more than 200,000 took to the streets on October 26, 2002 followed by ever growing protests in the subsequent months, continues to have great potential. The political orientation of the movement becomes now, just as it was in September and October 2002, all important. At that time, some said the most important task was to convince the Democrats in Congress to stand against Bush’s push toward war.A.N.S.W.E.R. focused on building a mass movement of the people, in the streets and independent of both parties.
The movement that has developed has shown that it cannot be ignored as an independent political force in U.S. and world politics. Already across the country people are starting to mobilize to turn out for a groundbreaking demonstration bringing together the progressive labor movement and the antiwar movement on October 17th in Washington, DC. This rally called by the Million Worker March will be held at the Lincoln Memorial.
Both major political parties have stated their intention to prolong the occupation of Iraq by foreign troops and the ongoing slaughter of Iraqis, and to continue to send the sons and daughters of the U.S. to die in the Middle East for a long term plan of colonial occupation of sovereign lands. The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition has initiated the Counter-Inaugural demonstration for January 20, 2005. No matter who is elected, thousands of people are coming to Washington, DC to demand from the very first day of office that the troops be brought home now!
The many A.N.S.W.E.R. volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this past week’s events so successful deserve great thanks. And many are already working to mobilize and organize for the October 17th and Counter-Inaugural demonstrations. If you have wanted to get involved in this powerful peoples movement – become a volunteer and organizer. Contact information is below for the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and we urge you to join us in building a real force for change.
Thanks also to the many generous supporters who have donated the urgently needed funds to keep operations running, to pay for the tens of thousands of leaflets, signs, banners, placards, the rally sound and set up, and all the many expenses that really add up. We could not accomplish this without you. If you have donated before, we urge to consider donating again, and if you have never done so now is the time. We need your help to build from the great momentum of this week. You can donate online using the secure server by clicking here.
If you wish to make a tax-deductible contribution of $50 or more, mail a check payable to A.N.S.W.E.R./AGJ to: A.N.S.W.E.R., 1247 E St. SE Washington DC 20003. You can also make a tax-deductible credit card donation of $50 or more by calling 202-544-3389.The September 2 demonstration was initiated by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and sponsored by progressive and community organizations including the Free Palestine Alliance, Haiti Support Network, Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, The Palestine Right of Return Congress, NYCLAW (New York City Labor Against the War), Muslim Students Association – National, Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, Global Women’s Strike, African Services Committee, James Earl Chaney Foundation, Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines, Nicaragua Network, Mexico Solidarity Network and others. It was also endorsed by the National Council of Arab Americans (NCA).