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October 28, 2006

Thousands protest Iraq War

October 29, 2006

On Oct. 28, thousands of people in the United States protested the Iraq War in a day of action initiated by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Militant protests happened in numerous cities and towns across the country with more than 5,000 people demonstrating in Los Angeles, 2,500 in San Francisco, 1,000 in Seattle, many hundreds in Minneapolis, and hundreds more in Chicago, New York, New Haven, Conn., New Paltz, N.Y., Miami, Fla., and elsewhere.

ANSWER's call to action was joined by anti-war groups in Canada and beyond.

Los Angeles

LA Oct28 400More than 5,000 people marched through the busy streets of Hollywood in an anti-war protest initiated by the ANSWER Coalition and endorsed and supported by hundreds of additional groups and individuals. Chants like "Stop the war on Iraq," and "No justice, no peace, U.S. out of the Middle East" rang out from the multinational crowd of all ages.

After the march, people gathered for a People's Anti-War Tribunal on the steps of pro-war media outlet CNN. The marchers arrived to revolutionary music from the young Latino ska group Los Caché.

ANSWER organizer and Free Palestine Alliance member, Muna Coobtee, kicked-off the tribunal by listing the crimes of the U.S. government against the people of Iraq and the Middle East. She stressed the importance of marching against the war at this time: "Neither the Democrats or the Republicans want to put the war on the ballot and let the people of the U.S. vote. Today, we can vote against the war. And we can continue to organize an independent people's movement to stop the war and fund people's needs at home instead."

Other featured speakers included Cindy Sheehan; Ron Kovic, Vietnam war veteran and author "Born on the Fourth of July"; Gloria Romero, California Senate Majority Leader; Arun Ghandi, Indian activist and grandson of Mahatma Ghandi; Jim Lafferty, National Lawyers Guild-LA, Executive Director; Mike Farrell, actor "Mash"; Mimi Kennedy, actor "Dharma and Greg"; Margaret Prescod, Global Women's Strike organizer and KPFK host; Osvaldo Nataren, Frente Universitario Roque Dalton in El Salvador; Fernando Suarez del Solar, anti-war activist and parent of one of the first U.S. soldiers to die in Iraq; Bill Paparian, Green Party Candidate for U.S. Congress, 29th District; Tina Calles, Committee for Democracy in Mexico; and Ernesto Arce, Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Cindy Sheehan gave a rousing call to keep the anti-war movement going strong. "We can't rely on the Democrats to end the war on Iraq. We've got to stay strong and stay in the streets," Sheehan urged.

The tribunal closed with a people's vote finding the U.S. government, headed by the Bush administration, guilty of war crimes. The vote also demanded an immediate end to the war in Iraq. The protest was covered by major English- and Spanish-language media outlets, including NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox News.

Later that night, a major event at Venice United Methodist Church honoring Fernando Suarez del Solar continued the anti-war day of action. Speakers included Cindy Sheehan; Preston Wood, ANSWER Coalition; Frank Dorrel, Addicted to War; Don White, Coalition for World Peace; Vicky Castro, Gold Star mother; and more.

San Francisco

SF Oct28 400In San Francisco, 2,500 came to UN Plaza to demonstrate their opposition to war and occupation and to participate in the "People's Vote on the Iraq War." Throughout the day demonstrators and passersby stopped by the people's voting booth to cast their vote against the war in Iraq, something they won't be able to do in the bourgeois elections on Nov. 7. The demonstration and the People's Vote garnered a lot of media attention; KCBS, Channel 3, Channel 7, Channel 4 were present. Pacifica's KPFA broadcasted the rally live.

Fernando Mendoza of Oaxaca's APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca) spoke at the closing rally. He brought a message from the struggling people in Oaxaca who are remaining steadfast in the face of severe repression. 

The immigrant rights May 1 Coalition also mobilized for the protest. Their participation demonstrated the solidarity between the immigrant rights movement and the anti-war movement.

On the march route, ANSWER showed support for the hotel workers struggle against the Marriott hotel bosses by chanting, "Boycott the Marriott." ANSWER also displayed support and solidarity for the workers of Bristol Farms who are currently struggling for union recognition. As Bristol Farms workers stood outside their stores with picket signs marchers chanted "Boycott Bristol Farms."

Seattle

One thousand protestors gathered at the Henry Jackson Federal building to demand the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The spirited crowd cheered as speakers linked the U.S. wars abroad to increased poverty and racism at home.

A lively march through downtown drew applause from shoppers and people waiting for the bus. To illustrate the protest's theme "Vote with your feet to stop the war," demonstrators cast people's ballots into rolling ballot boxes, voting to get more involved in the anti-war movement.

Speakers at the rally represented the diversity of the local movements for social justice. Vietnam veteran and former GI resister Randy Rowlands kicked things off as he described the anti-war GI movement during Vietnam, and appealed for the anti-war movement's support of today's Iraq war resisters.

Sandra Aguila spoke representing the Committee for General Amnesty and Social Justice, which played a key role in the immigrant rights protests last spring. She linked the movement for immigrant and workers' rights to the anti-war movement.

Jane Cutter of ANSWER served as the MC of the rally. She addressed the crisis regarding North Korea's nuclear program. "How dare the US point the finger at North Korea for testing one weapon when the U.S . has not only tested more than a thousand weapons, it is the only country ever to use the nuclear bomb, against Japan in Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

Celso Tolman, of the Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines and a member of the International Longshore and Wharehouse Union, electrified the audience as he lambasted U.S. support for human rights abuses in the Philippines and around the world.

New York

NYC Oct28 400Braving the heavy rain, a strong, militant protest composed mainly of young people and high school students marched through the community of Washington Heights yesterday. The march stopped at several locations to drive home its demand, "Money for Jobs and Education, not for War and Occupation."

The first stop for the march was Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, which is run by Columbia University, the largest landlord in the predominantly Dominican community. Community members have long struggled with the hospital administration to receive adequate translation services. The next stop was Gregorio Luperon High School, which for years has been relegated to a mere storefront, lacking gym and lab facilities. The high school brought a contingent to the protest, and spoke out at the entrance to demand that the city make education its top priority. The march then stopped in front of an Army Recruitment Station, where more high school students got on the bullhorn and called on military recruiters to "leave us alone!" The march concluded with a rally emceed by Jeanette Caceres of the ANSWER Coalition and Claudia de la Cruz of the Iglesia de San Romero - UCC. Other speakers included Rhadames Perez of Accion Comunitaria La Aurora, Karina Garcia of the Chicano Caucus of Columbia University, as well as representatives from the youth group Da Urban Butterflies, Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism (KAWAN), Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Chicago

In Chicago, the ANSWER Coalition organized a "People's Street Campaign to Vote to End the War on Iraq." Campaign teams set up at busy street corners at 12 noon all over the city with people's ballots, ballot boxes, sandwich boards and leaflets for an upcoming anti-war educational forum on Sunday, Nov. 12.
 
The teams were very well received, especially on Chicago's south side, a predominantly African American community where disgust with the capitalist elections is very high.
 
Throughout the city, cars honked in approval and people stopped at campaign tables to line up to vote on the people's ballot against the war. Campaign organizer Stefanie Beacham said, "There really was an overwhelmingly positive response to the campaign. It's obvious from being out on the street that the vast majority of people are against the war. If a referendum about the war was on the ballot on Nov. 7, the troops would be coming home on Nov. 8."
 
The people's campaign in Chicago was part of a month long effort in Chicago by activists and volunteers to take the anti-war movement to the people. All throughout the month of October, campaign teams went out to every community to conduct the people's vote on the war. The campaign reached out to thousands of people in the greater Chicago area.

Florida

Braving strong winds and rain, activists came out to protest in downtown Miami in response to the call by ANSWER Florida, ANSWER-Florida International University, the Broward Anti-War Coalition, and the Bolivarian Youth. The spirited rally was chaired by Muhammed Malik and Rachael Caines of the executive board of ANSWER Florida International University.

Abdullah Rahim, an Iranian professor of sociology at FIU, talked about the overthrow of the Soviet Union as key to the opening up of the hegemonic drive for U.S. domination in the Middle East. Rahim said that 48 percent of the weapons made in the U.S. are used to control Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations in the region.

Paul Lefrak of the Broward Anti-War Coalition raised the importance of defending Iran and North Korea against imperialist aggression as they are both named part of the "axis of evil" by the Bush administration. Lefrak also raised the need for support and solidarity with the Cuban Five, who are being held unjustly in U.S. prisons for protecting Cuba from terrorism based in Miami.

Max Rameau, from the Center for Pan African Development and organizer for the Oct 23 takeover of state land in Liberty City, an African American neighborhood in Miami, to house homeless in response to the crisis of affordable housing for low-income and the homeless.

Sheridan Murphy, of the American Indian Movement, tied the struggles for reclaiming the people's land in the U.S. with the Iraqi and Palestinian forces fighting to free their nations in the Middle East.

After the ANSWER rally, many of the participants caravanned to the site of the "liberated land" in Liberty City to hold a solidarity rally with the participants there.

Other inspiring speeches were given by Mike Prysner, an Iraq war veteran; Mel Reeves, an African American anti-war activist; and Sonya Swanson of the Bolivarian Youth.

In Ft. Myers, Fla. ANSWER activists held a five hour outreach event as part of the national day of protest. There was also an anti-war protest in Melbourne.

New Haven, Conn.

Despite torrential rains, high winds and thunderstorm warnings, protesters marched in New Haven, Conn., to a spirited indoor rally, which included spoken word performers, speakers, and a performance art piece that drew attention to the continuing crisis in New Orleans. The performances and speakers illustrated the desperate need of funds for people's needs not war.

Of many highlights were spoken word performances by Andre Davis of the New Haven Family Alliance, Baub Bidon, and Anthony Dixon. The energetic program of speakers included Jamilah Rasheed, coordinator of the Connecticut Islamic Speakers Bureau, Kamala Jackson from Albertus Magnus College, Raul Rivera of Unidad Latina en Acción, as well as representatives of the Connecticut Coalition for Peace/New Haven, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Connecticut chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the Danbury 11 Defense Committee, the Middle East Crisis Committee, the Connecticut chapter of ANSWER and more.

The action received local television coverage that spread the message that the elections will not end the war; only the people can stop the war. Protesters also cast ballots in the People's Vote on the Iraq War. The enthusiastic crowd took mail-in ballots to distribute in neighborhoods and workplaces to continue local organizing against the war and attacks on communities at home.

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