“Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation,” and other chants rang out as hundreds protested yesterday, Sept. 26, at a million-dollar fundraiser for Pres. Obama’s reelection campaign.
The ANSWER Coalition organized the action outside the House of Blues in West Hollywood, and dozens of anti-war, immigrant rights, student, LGBT and social justice organizations endorsed and mobilized for it. By 3:30 p.m., hundreds began to form a massive picket line, which grew to nearly 400 people over the course of the event and stretched the length of a city block.
“We are here to tell President Obama that we will not stand by as the government wages war on the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or anywhere. We will not stand by as U.S. troops die for oil and corporate profits,” said Iraq war veteran and March Forward! co-founder, Mike Prysner. “People right here at home need social services, jobs, education, health care. The wars abroad serve no one’s interests, except Wall Street and the super rich. We will continue to fight against these wars and keep building a movement until we prevail.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of people, including Hollywood celebrities and wealthy Obama backers, were forced to pass through the crowd and stand across the street for over an hour, listening to the anti-war and progressive chants demanding real change.
A steady stream of protesters arrived throughout the three-hour action from as far away as Orange County. It was a high energy protest, which made connections between the U.S. wars abroad, the economic crisis at home, the attacks on unions and immigrant workers and the racist, anti-worker death penalty.
MLK Coalition organizer Kwazi Nkrumah spoke about unity and the need for continued struggle in the months and years ahead. ANSWER Coalition steering committee member and National Lawyers Guild leader Jim Lafferty denounced Obama’s record. Lafferty said, “Obama said nothing as Troy Davis was killed, he drops bombs on people in Libya and Afghanistan, and he wants to cut Social Security, Medicare and other essential social programs for people in need.”
Other protesters from the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition highlighted the need for legalization for all and noted that the increased repression targeting immigrants under the Democratic administration. Iinstead of pushing for immigration reform as promised, Obama has ordered the deportation of more undocumented immigrants in two years than the Bush administration did in eight.
The protest also had a cultural component. People playing guitars, drums and signing anti-war songs marched, along with artists who came out against the war, and newly politicized activists calling for people to Occupy LA, in solidarity with the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests.
California State University, Long Beach student Enas Abdelkhaleq said she attended and brought classmates to the protest because, “The President hasn’t kept his promises on any issue. As a student, I’ve seen money taken out of public education, while my tuition has skyrocketed. As a Palestinian, Obama has condescendingly lectured us about ‘peace’ while pouring billions into apartheid Israel. Progressive people need to break free of simply voting for what they see as the ‘lesser evil’ and instead get into the streets.”
Dozens of people attempting to enter the protest, including students, were stopped by L.A. County Sheriffs dressed in full riot gear. The sheriffs attempted to prevent them from getting to the protest. But the strength of the crowd prevailed and they were able to join in.
The protesters’ message was heard loud and clear, not only by the President and his supporters, but also by millions across the world. Major local, national and international mass media outlets covered the protest, including the Associated Press, NBC news, KTLA, the L.A. Weekly, LA Times, La Opinion, Xinhua News, Press TV, Korea Times, Annenberg News and others. After the House of Blues action, another protest greeted Obama outside a fundraising dinner nearby.
Keep the struggle going
The next major anti-war actions in the Los Angeles area are on Oct. 7 and Oct. 15.
Oct. 7 is the 10th anniversary of the U.S. war on Afghanistan. That evening, beginning at 4:30 p.m., ANSWER Coalition has initiated a mass anti-war Protest and Die-In at the Westwood Federal Building, 11000 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. Click for more info on the Oct. 7 Los Angeles action.
One week later, on Oct. 15, the ANSWER Coalition is hosting a major celebration in honor of the organization’s 10th anniversary. ANSWER was founded just days after Sept. 11, 2001, and since has been the leading force in the U.S. movement for peace and social justice. The Oct. 15 event will take place at SEIU-USWW, Local 1877 union hall, located at 828 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, and last from 6-9 p.m. Click for more information and to RSVP to Oct. 15.