As demonstrations took place across the country to mark the eighth anniversary of the "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq, bombs and missiles began raining down on the people of Libya. The ANSWER Coalition immediately put out a call for protests to take place across the country to demand "Stop the bombing of Libya."
Demonstrations took place in cities and towns nationwide, including Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; New Haven, Connecticut; Naples, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Albuquerque, New Mexico; New York City, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Greenville and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; Austin, Texas; Seattle, Washington; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; as well as internationally, including in El Salvador and Canada.
Please see below for reports and photographs from several cities.
San Francisco, March 23
Photo: Bill Hackwell
Outside the New Federal Building anti-war and community activists gathered for an emergency demonstration on March 23 in San Francisco to condemn the United States and NATO bombing campaign in Libya.
Around 5 p.m., people gathered and began picketing with signs reading “Stop U.S./French/British War on Libya,” “War in Libya: $100+Million Per Day” and “U.S. Imperialism OUT of the Middle East!”
The rally began with a moment of silence for Leonard Weinglass—civil rights lawyer and strong supporter of the sovereign rights of countries in their struggle with U.S. imperialism—who had passed away earlier that day of cancer.
Following the respectful silence, Dr. Henry Clark of the West County Toxics Coalition came to the microphone and pointed out the connections between the U.S. thirst for oil profits and its intervention in Libya, which has the largest oil reserve in Africa.
Several speakers, including an Iraq war veteran, a representative of Code Pink and Richard Becker, West Coast Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, all spoke on the hypocrisy of U.S. imperialism bombing any country for “humanitarian” reasons.
Saul Kanowitz with the Party for Socialism and Liberation highlighted the ridiculous claim to be “protecting civilians” on the part of the imperialist members of the U.N. Security Council. For instance, he pointed out that France had massacred millions of Algerians in their colonization of North Africa, and Britain had carved up the Middle East and North Africa with the Sykes-Picot treaty for their own colonial profits.
Leila Al-Lahham and Frank Lara of the ANSWER Coalition held down the microphone throughout the rally as MCs, unifying the picketers in the rain with chants like “Humanitarian aid, it’s a lie, bombs fall and people die!”
It was a successful demonstration at the time when it is most important to speak out against and defend the sovereignty of Libya as it is being attacked by U.S. imperialism and its allies.
Washington, D.C., March 26
Photo: Matt Murray
On March 26, protesters gathered directly in front of the White House to show their opposition to the bombing campaign being carried out by the U.S. government and other imperialist countries. For hours, they chanted slogans such as “War in Libya—We say NO! U.S. intervention has got to go!” as others stood just feet away chantinga in support of intervention while holding Libyan, U.S., French, British and Canadian flags.
Brian Becker, the National Coordinator of Act Now to Stop War & End Racism, explained to the many media outlets, tourists and those demonstrating on other issues why the group had gathered:
“In order to understand the war in Libya, it is important to understand the historic role of those governments that are now bombing Libya—Africa’s largest producer of oil. Britain and France cruelly colonized Africa to exploit its resources and to profit off the labor of African people. The United States grew rich off of the enslavement of millions of African people. It is inconceivable that these same powers could be intervening in Libya because of their tender concern for democracy or freedom.
“They are at war against Libya because they hope that the outcome will be the creation of a client regime in Tripoli or a partition of the oil-rich eastern part of the country with a new governing authority that would be beholden to the Western governments who are bombing today. We are here to stand in opposition to the illegal, criminal bombing of Libya, and to assert that the Libyan people—and they alone—should determine the destiny of their country.”
Throughout the event, many groups of families and students visiting the White House showed their support by holding signs and signing a petition against the war.
The demonstration was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition and was attended by activists from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and by other progressive organizations, including the FMLN-DC (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front).
New York City
New York City, March 23
Photo: Karina Garcia
Despite below-freezing temperatures and a “wintry mix” of hail, snow and rain that preceded and followed the event, protesters stood their ground in front of the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square to say no to the imperialist attack on Libya. The New York City demonstration was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition and took place on March 23. It was the first of many coordinated events that took place across the United States March 23-26.
Even with NYPD cars parked on the small island that houses the Recruiting Station and cops standing nearby to prevent the use of mechanized sound, everyone held their ground and made their voices heard, chanting “Libya for Libyans—Not for Wall Street dividends” and “Money for jobs and education—Not for war and occupation.”
Participants included activists with the ANSWER Coalition and World Can’t Wait, high school and college students, teachers, and other workers who had taken the day off or left work early so they could participate. Several passers-by, including New Yorkers and tourists, joined in the picket line to express their opposition to the bombing campaign that had begun just four days earlier.
Austin, Texas, March 23
Photo: Patrick Moore
A spirited group of demonstrators gathered at the corner of 6th and Lamar in Austin on March 23 to demand an immediate end to the bombing of Libya.
Austinites from all walks of life showed their support; pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike expressed their disapproval of the war. Some picked up signs and joined the protest. Others signed a petition.
The overwhelming support and enthusiasm that the people of Austin showed the demonstrators points to the fact that the vast majority of workers in the United States are fed up with war and want to see that money used instead to meet human needs.
Baltimore, March 24
Photo: Aurora Bonucci
Despite chilling winds and a frigid temperature, a spirited rally in Baltimore demanded an end to the war on Libya. On March 24, Baltimore community members and activists gathered at McKeldin Square near the Inner Harbor for a rally condemning the U.S., French and British war on Libya. The rally was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition of Baltimore as part of a national call for demonstrations against the war on Libya.
The diverse, multinational crowd carried signs that read “Money for jobs and schools, not war against Libya!” This message resonates with a city where poverty and unemployment rates are on the rise while schools are severely underfunded. But the crowd was not only concerned with domestic issues that are continuously neglected by the U.S. government, but also showed solidarity with all victims of imperialist plunder, chanting “From Baghdad to Tripoli, stop the U.S. war machine.”
Participants drew connections between wars in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, and pointed out that the bombing of Libya began exactly eight years after the invasion of Iraq.
Chicago, March 24
Photo: Ana Santoyo
On March 24 in Chicago people came out on a below-freezing night to join a militant picket outside the downtown federal building to demand an end to the bombing of Libya. The emergency protest was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition.
Protesters unfurled a large banner that read “Stop the War on Libya Now!” Dozens of placards demanded “Money for Jobs and School, Not for War on Libya!” and “U.S. Out of the Middle East!”
The protest was joined by members of many Chicago-area anti-war groups and by members of the American Muslim Alliance. Hundreds of ANSWER Coalition statements, titled “This is not a war for democracy,” were passed out to people walking by the downtown action.
Speaking at the protest, ANSWER Chicago coordinator John Beacham said, “This new war on Libya is not about democracy or humanitarian intervention. The bombs raining down on Libya are not saving lives, they are killing civilians and destroying whole sections of urban infrastructure … all so Washington and Wall Street, the occupiers of Iraq and Afghanistan, can attempt to enforce their will on the largest producer of oil in Africa.
“The Pentagon is bombing Libya and backing the brutal crackdowns in Yemen and Bahrain in order to halt and reverse the revolutions happening in Tunisia and Egypt, and throughout the region. We oppose the U.S., French and British war against Libya because it is a savage attempt of the former colonizers of Libya and Africa to strike a blow against the new freedom struggle in the Arab world. We must stand up to Washington and say, ‘Hands off the People of the Middle East and Africa!’”
As it rained bombs in Libya, protesters assembled in Los Angeles at the Westwood Federal Building on March 24 to demand an end to this new U.S./NATO war.
Students and workers carried signs that read “No U.S./U.N. War on Libya” to show their opposition to the authorization of a no-fly zone over Libya and the beginning of bombing.
The demonstration was opened by Iraq war veteran Mike Prysner, co-founder of March Forward!, the veterans and service members affiliate of the ANSWER Coalition, who demanded: “The U.S. government must stop bombing Libya immediately. These are the same bombs that were dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Libyan people must decide how to run their country—not the U.S. government.”
Following his statement, the crowd began chanting “Libya for Libyans—not for Wall Street dividends” and “No justice, no peace, U.S. out of the Middle East.” Numerous cars passing the protest honked in solidarity. The number of protesters increased as pedestrians walking nearby joined the demonstration.
As it began to rain, few demonstrators budged. Instead, they began to chant louder, saying “We’ve seen this all before—same story, different war.”
Hector, an electrician holding a sign that read “$ for jobs and schools, not war against Libya,” remarked: “They say they’re going to do one thing and they do another. They say they are going to help Libya but they are bombing Libya. The government cannot help them by dropping bombs.”