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News :: Globalization : Organizing : Politics
Anti-War Protests in Boston and DC: 9/24 Remembered
27 Sep 2005
On Saturday, September 24th, 2005, dozens of local activists gathered at the Park Street corner of Boston Common to show their solidarity with protesters in Washington, DC. Meanwhile in DC, September 24-26 was filled with scheduled actions and events on national resistance against the war in Iraq and other issues related to US foreign policy.

Sponsored by The Committee for Peace and Human Rights, a local group affiliated with United for Justice and Peace that has been hosting Saturday Vigils for the Iraqi People for 6 years, the event in Boston featured guest speakers on a variety of topics including: the Iraq War & Occupation, Women's Rights, BU’s proposed Bio-terror lab, Venezuela, SHARC, and Voting and Elections, among others. Several individuals and organizations collected signatures on petitions about local issues, including Affordable Health Care in the State of Massachusetts, and many people sported buttons, badges and signs showing their dissatisfaction with the Iraqi War and the current warmongering Bush administration.
Anti-War Protests in Boston and DC
The crowd was mixed, with folks of every race, shape, age and ethnicity. One young couple whom I spoke with, citizens of Russia who have lived in the states for several years, expressed surprise at stumbling across the protest while in town but shared their satisfaction that many Americans in Boston and across the Nation are fighting against the war. Another young African American named Stephen, a Gulf War veteran, declined to be interviewed on camera but expressed the opinion that he feels that the anti-war movement is not doing enough to stop the policies of our current Government. He also described his feelings about the recent hurricanes, specifically Hurricane Katrina, as proof that the actions of our government and citizens are not doing good work at home or abroad. Several people expressed their desire to attend the protests in DC, but cited different reasons for staying to protest in Boston, including time, monetary restraints, and wanting to support local anti-war efforts.

A representative from the Boston Global Action Network called for people to address the reasons for the war. “When you talk about the war, don’t just talk about the violence,” he said, “Talk about who is profiting from this war!” Another speaker, Boston City Councilman Felix Arroyo, spoke at length about democracy in the United States. “America has not lost its Democracy,” Arroyo said, “We still don’t know it! How can we dare to say that we are invading other countries to impose Democratic values on then, when we don’t have true democracy at home?” Arroyo’s closing words, “You cannot be silent! You cannot be silent! Peace now!” sparked a chant throughout the crowd of “Peace Now! Peace Now!” that rang out for several rounds until the next speaker stepped up to the microphone.

In DC, an estimated 300,000 protesters marched the streets of the nation’s capital to voice their resentment towards the Bush administration. The initial speeches were powerful but were delayed for more than an hour, and after three hours of standing at the Ellipse, many decided to begin walking without the march leaders. Their goal was to reach the White House to vent their frustrations behind three rows of metal barrier, a line of police personnel, and the White House's fence protected by snipers.

“Just look at the group of people that have come together. There are mothers who have lost their sons and daughters to war, families are here, people who are talking about what happened in the aftermath of Katrina,” said Victoria Cunningham, “I think that this is a manifestation of people coming together with different ideas of social justice.”

“This war is immoral, but you know what? It’s going to end because all these people here represent the light. And darkness could never overcome the light, even if it’s just one spark,” said Cindy Sheehan addressing reporters in front of the White House, arm-in-arm with Jessie Jackson, "We will prevail, I know we will." The crowd echoed Cindy's sentiment by shouting back, "One person can make a difference!" and "Thank you, Cindy!"

Among groups present, one could find Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, the Palestinian, Haitian, and Venezuelan contingents, Bread & Puppet, Code Pink, Billionaires for Bush, Katrina survivors, and many others. Much like Boston, the crowd was diverse in age and gender, although the absence of members from the African American community demonstrated a sore disconnect between the rally organizers and that section of the population.

The march ended on the grounds of the Washington Monument for the Operation Ceasefire concert which went on until late hours of the night. The Coup had people dancing and singing to songs such as, “You got to get up right now/Turn the system upside down/Your 'sposed to be fed up right now/Turn the system upside down/Get up!” Many took advantage to take a nap on the Monument’s lawn, discuss politics, or browse literature at the Peace and Justice Festival tables.

Sunday was filled with UJP panels and civil disobedience trainings, as well as other events, including a Mock Trial of Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Tenet and Mr. Gonzales for condoning and paving theway to the use torture as a tactic in their war against terror. Organized by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Physicians for Human Rights; the trial lasted a total of five hours with actors portraying the three accused officials, muslim activists portraying the voices of Iraqi and Afghan prisoners, and actual torture survivors from Latin America who gave agonizing testimony of their experiences. Jennifer Hardbury, author of "Truth, Torture, and the American Way," spoke of her husband disappeared in Guatemala in 1992, and long-term U.S. involvement in torture tactics around the world.

Finally, Monday the war resisters gathered for an all-day civil disobedience action in front of the White House with heavy police presence. About ten policemen on horses were used to intimidate the crowd.

The unfolding of events that day were long and painful, as the direct action organizers negotiated with DC police, and family members waited anxiously behind the rail that divided those risking arrest and those unable to do so. Many of the people sitting without a permit on the sidewalk were elderly and many were members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Gold Star Families, and the Interfaith Alliance. Cindy Sheehan and Professor Cornell West were among those arrested.

Also in the crowd were activists dressed in Guantanamo’s orange jump suits, and people trying to find solace in chanting their frustration at the empty Presidential palace. As a black-hooded man stood with his arms outstretched on a small stool, imitating the well-known images of the prisoner tortured at Abu Ghraib, two Code Pink members took turns to demand fair treatment of the peace protests from the media.

“I saw Terry Schiavo coverage, the same media coverage 78 times in twelve hours while the military families in Ashville, North Carolina, had zip coverage. Zip!” shouted one of the women as video and camera field reporters took pictures of the scene, “That’s a slap in the face of the military families and the media needs to start telling the truth!”

However, those pictures ended up in someone's desk drawer. Media coverage of Monday’s events was minimal, left mostly to news wires, buried under other national news headlines and the ongoing coverage of the cover-up of Katrina’s response failures. A media-watch organization, FAIR, reported today that if you relied on television for your news, you'd hardly know the weekend protests happened at all.

As frustrations rose and protesters waited outside the barrier for the individual arrests to continue, one young man finally decided to leap over the fence of the White House, knapsack and all, only to be jumped in a matter of seconds by five policemen who proceeded to punch, bind, and arrest him. In all, at least 370 antiwar demonstrators were arrested throughout the weekend, including 40 activists who participated on the “Adopt an Intersection” mobilization against the IMF/World Bank meetings that same weekend.

The chants of those present, silenced by the media, will echo in our memories.

[More pics soon to come!]

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