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News ::
10/8: 400 Rally for Peace in Government Center
10 Oct 2001
On Monday, October 8, 2001, 400 people gathered at 5:00 at the Government Center T-stop, calling for peace in response to the US government’s bombing of Afghanistan. The protest was organized by United for Justice with Peace, a local peace coalition.
400 Rally for Peace at Government Center
by Matthew Williams

Monday, October 8, 2001; Boston, MA, USA--Today in the first cold of the winter 400 people gathered at 5:00 at the Government Center T-stop, calling for peace in response to the US government’s bombing of Afghanistan. The protest was organized by United for Justice with Peace, a local peace coalition.

Signs included “No More Victims Anywhere”, “Justice Not War” and “Our Grief is Not a Cry for War”, as well as colorful placards bearing images of doves and other symbols of peace. The general sentiment was that war was not the means to solve terrorism and that the war would simply feed into the cycle of violence, promoting more terrorist attacks. Instead, most people advocated putting bin Laden on trial under international law; and addressing the root causes of the terrorist attacks by changing the US’s unjust foreign policy.

Many of the gathered activists had been expecting the US attacks for a while. Others of us had gotten our hopes up, thinking that the voices were peace had been making a difference and something much more limited would take place.

The cold weather made reporting difficult--I eventually had to give up writing down what people were saying because my fingers got too cold. This is therefore a somewhat incomplete report.

Cathy Hoffman, the Cambridge Peace Commissioner, said, “We came together by the thousands on September 12 to mourn the deaths of innocent people. Many of us have gathered here today to mourn the ongoing process of innocent deaths in Afghanistan. Their deaths are not the answer to our deaths. We reject the government’s policy--not in our name! It is time to end the cycle of violence. The deadly violence of September 11 will never be ended by more violence.”

Merrie Najimy of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) said, “Terrorism has many faces. The faces of individual fundamentalists, Christian fundamentalists like Timothy McVeigh and Islamic fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden who blow up buildings filled with innocent people. Terrorism has the face of corporate greed creating poverty. Terrorism has the face of governments engaged in direct repression and funding terrorism. It is time to face terrorism, but not with more terrorism. We have to hold accountable those who create the conditions that foster terrorism--including our government.”

A number of other speakers contextualized Hoffman’s and Najimy’s comments. (This is where my fingers gave out and I have to rely on memory, so no more direct quotes.) US foreign policy has created a great deal of misery in the Middle East. The US has allied itself with and supported repressive governments such as those of Saudi Arabia, which is ruled by an Islamic fundamentalist absolute monarchy. The US has consistently supported Israel in its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. US sanctions on Iraq have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians for the crimes of a government they have no control over. It is these policies that create the resentment that drive a few to resort to terrorism to fight the US government’s violations of democracy and human rights.

Others clarified the US government’s past role in Afghanistan and what it is doing there now. The US actually helped create the Taliban and Osaman bin Laden. In order to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan after their 1979 invasion, the CIA worked with the Saudi royal family and the Pakistani government to create armies of Islamic fundamentalists--including the Taliban. They recruited people from outside Afghanistan to join the fight--including Osama bin Laden. Now these fundamentalists have turned on their makers. Afghanistan is a miserable country after twenty straight years of war--first against the Soviets and then between rival fundamentalist groups. US actions now have only make matters worse--they are driving more refugees from their homes. The humanitarian food aid is totally inadequate--it is being dropped only in areas controlled by the Taliban’s rivals, the Northern Alliance; to effectively relieve the hunger in Afghanistan the airdrops of food would have to be increased a hundred fold.

As the speeches went on and the cold got into people’s bones, people drifted off and the organizers wrapped up the protest after an hour and a half. The protest finished with everyone singing, “Going to Keep on Moving Forward”. People’s spirits would probably have been better kept up in the cold by more singing interspersed with the speakers.

As people left, they hopefully carried in mind a warning about domestic repression that Gary Hicks, a poet and activist, had given them earlier: “Look in the mirror tonight and you will see who George Bush has fingered as a terrorist. They have us picked out as terrorists because we stand for democracy, progress and peace, everything the George Bushes, Colin Powells and John Ashcrofts of the world oppose.”

United for Justice with Peace is holding weekly peace vigils on Tuesday evenings, 6:00-7:00 in Copley Square. Organizing meetings are held afterward at 7:15 at the Community Church of Boston, 565 Boylston St.; all are welcome to attend.

There will be another peace rally on Sunday, October 14 at 3:00 in Copley Square, also organized by United for Justice with Peace.
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