A Cry for Peace Circles the Globe
by John Catalinotto / ANSWER
November 8, 2002
BERLIN A demonstration of more than 20,000 in Berlin on October 26 was only one of about 80 in Germany and hundreds around the world during the international day of protests to "Stop the war against Iraq before it starts."
Peace protests ring out in Madrid, Tokyo, Berlin and hundreds of cities around the Earth. Credits: Andrea Comas (Reuters), Kimimasa Mayama (Reuters), Jockel Finck (AP).
The international action, called by the US-based ANSWER coalition, gained the support of the anti-war movement in countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America. These groups wanted to show solidarity with the US anti-war movement at the same time they targeted the Bush government as the main threat to peace in the world.
This historic first International Day of Protest saw groups around the world working together on this one common essential task: stopping the US aggression against Iraq.
The center of the protest was the White House, which was surrounded by some 200,000 people on October 26 the largest anti-war action since the US military was defeated by a peoples army in Vietnam in 1975. Another 100,000 demonstrated in San Francisco and thousands others in cities across the US.
In Puerto Rico, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the National Guard armory in San Juan to denounce possible US military action in Iraq and the US Navys continued use of the Vieques bombing range. Someone in a George W. Bush mask carried a placard reading: "World Terrorist # 1."
On October 25, demonstrators in Manila protested in front of the US Embassy and demanded that US troops leave the Philippines. Washington has used the excuse of the terrorist threat to reintroduce US military forces into the US's former Pacific colony. A day earlier in Indonesia, demonstrators rallied at the US Embassy to protest a possible US attack on Iraq.
In Japan, some 600 members of zengakuren, the leftist students' organization, and other anti-war groups marched in Tokyo on October 21. There were similar-sized actions in Osaka, Hiroshima and Nagasaki the same day. On October 26, another demonstration of 700 people, including many non-Japanese, took place in Tokyo, organized by 14 non-government organizations.
In Ankara, Turkey on October 21, students braved attacks by riot police to protest a visit by US Central Command Chief General Tommy Franks, who has been named to become the regent of Iraq should the US occupy that country. Their banners read: "We will not become soldiers of the USA."
The Berlin demonstration joined the traditional anti-war activists with sections of the large Muslim community. They met in Alexanderplatz and marched to the Gendarmeplatz, a large plaza near the concert hall, opera house and the cathedral. Since the Gerhard Schroeder regime has spoken against the war, German activists emphasized the need to pull German tank units out of Kuwait and to forbid the use of the US air bases like Spangdahlem and Ramstein to support the war on Iraq.
Despite heavy rains and gale-force winds in many areas, demonstrations numbering in thousands took place in Frankfurt and Stuttgart. In Hamburg, 350 people tried to demonstrate despite a hurricane that drove them inside. Some demonstrators targeted the US air bases inside their countries. At Spangdahlem, hundreds of anti-war activists handed out protest leaflets in English to US service people.
Another group of hundreds braved heavy rains to protest the planned construction of a gigantic US command center in Heidelberg. The group said that civilians from the US and war-resisting GIs were welcome, but not the US war machine.
On October 27, there were demonstrations in all the major Spanish cities Madrid, Bilbao, Oviedo, Valencia, Caceres and Sevilla. The largest was in Barcelona with more than 30,000 people. There were actions in many smaller cities and villages as well. The banners in Barcelona read in Catalan, "Stop the War in Iraq, and "Bush, Blair, Aznar: Who pulls the Trigger?" (Aznar, the Spanish premier, has supported Bushs call for military aggression.)
On October 26, in Rotterdam, 1,200 people braved torrential rains and gale-force winds that stopped public transportation to protest Bush's threatened war against Iraq. The crowd chanted in Dutch, Turkish and Kurdish. In Amsterdam, nearly 10,000 people took to the streets to say no to Bush's war.
The same bad weather that hit all of northern Europe couldn't keep 3,000 rain-soaked demonstrators from gathering under umbrellas near the US Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. Another 1,500 hit the streets in Stockholm, Sweden, and hundred more in Oslo, Norway. There were smaller demonstrations in other Scandinavian cities.
In Italy, the Sabra and Shatila Committee, the Palestine Forum, the leftwing trade unions and various prominent individuals helped give the ANSWER initiative a worldwide dimension. Despite recent mass mobilizations against the war and another set for November 9-10 during the European Social Forum in Florence, the turnout was still 20,000. Participants cheered a live report from the Washington demonstration given by Naomi Cohen. Another march of over 2,000 took place in Turin.
Belgium hosted three different actions. On October 25, 150 people gathered in front of the US Embassy to say no to the war against Iraq.
In Brussels, members of the International Camp gathered outside the European Union Headquarters to protest against a list labeling many revolutionary groups as "terrorist" organizations. Hundreds of people gathered to defend groups like the Herri Batasuna party in the Basque Country and the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Palestinian PFLP and the Turkish DHKC.
International ANSWER Representative John Catalinotto was in Berlin where he spoke before a crowd of 20,000 anti-war protestors. For more information click on www.internationalanswer.org
Peoples Congress Aims for Capitol in January 2003
The People's Anti-War Referendum, which is part of a major grassroots nationwide initiative opposing the Bush administrations scheme to wage pre-emptive wars of domination around the world, states:
I Vote No to War. The US Congress did not represent me when it voted to authorize George W. Bush to carry out an illegal war against Iraq. Thousands will die needlessly unless the people stop this war drive. I join with millions of people who believe that the $200 billion planned for war against Iraq should be spent instead to fund jobs, education, housing, healthcare, childcare, assistance to the elderly and to meet people's needs. When three-fourths of the US congress rubber-stamped Bush's ambitious plan to conquer the oil, land and resources of the Middle East, the majority of the politicians signaled that they represent the interests of Corporate America rather than the people of the US. When Congress rejects the will of the people, the Referendum organizers argue, the people must act themselves.
In October, Congress approved Bush's new defense budget, which will transfer $1 billion dollars a day from human needs and social services to the bank accounts of the military-industrial complex.
The proposed solution is a grassroots Peace Congress including delegations from all communities opposed to the Bush Administration's war drive labor, students and youth, fighters for civil rights and women's rights, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and people of faith.
By early January 2003, millions of people will have voted in this referendum either on-line at www.VoteNoWar.org or on paper copies circulated across the country. These anti-war votes will be delivered to Washington to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. anniversary celebrations.
Dr. King publicly condemned the US war in Vietnam, providing a powerful connection between the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. In his Beyond Vietnam speech at Riverside Church in 1967, he stated, The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own government. [For more on Dr. Kings speech, see Hoots and Hollers in this edition of The-Edge.]
What You Can Do: To join this movement, visit www.VoteNoWar.org or call (202) 332-5757. To join the mass march on January 18 and participate in the Peoples Congress on January 19, contact the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), (202) 332-5757.
Anti-Globalization Groundswell Sweeps South America
From Brazil to Ecuador, a new wind challenging the Washington consensus and the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) is sweeping South America. Following his historic landslide victory in October, Brazils President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva warned that the FTAA would be "tantamount to an annexation of Brazil by the United States." Lula has also insisted that any agreement would have to include Cuba.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of protestors from throughout Latin America descended on Quito, Ecuador in an attempt to shut down the seventh FTAA summit. The FTAA would expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to 34 countries throughout the hemisphere, creating the world's largest free market zone, affecting 650 million people and $9 trillion in capital.
Protestors argue that the FTAA threatens national sovereignty, living standards, and democracy by greatly expanding the power of corporations to the detriment of small farmers and businesses, the environment, wages, working conditions, public health and education. The FTAA would give corporations a legal framework to bypass democratically adopted environmental and worker protection laws. The FTAA also threatens to turn over the control of our schools, electricity, water, and food to corporations whose only interest is profit.
Since it was initiated in 1994, the business sector has been involved in FTAA talks every step of the way, but the text of the treaty remains a secret to regular people and their elected representatives. Fifty members of the US House of Representatives have demanded that the Bush administration release the text.
Since corporate globalization hurts nearly every sector of society, it offers the possibility of uniting broad sectors into a mass movement capable of stopping the FTAA by creating radical social change.
Brazil's Lula and protestors are not the FTAAs only skeptics. According to a New York Times article, "Even those who salivate over huge new export opportunities sugar growers, soy bean farmers, textile producers are skeptical. A free trade pact would eliminate the steep American tariffs of more than 300 percent on tobacco and sugar and more than 100 percent on orange juice."
For more information, contact www.stopftaa.org.
Seattle in Quito!
Army Called Out to Quell Anti-FTAA Protests
by Peter Rosset / Food First
The seventh summit of the Free Trade Area of the Americas took place in Quito, Ecuador, home turf for some of the strongest social movements in the Americas. Ecuador's indigenous, campesino, labor, womens', environmental and youth organizations vowed to shut the summit down. The following report was filed from the scene by Food First Co-director Peter Rosset.
QUITO (October 31) At 2:00 PM, today the Army arrived in downtown Quito, apparently to restore order to a city at a standstill under clouds of tear gas, as tens of thousands of peasants, indigenous people, students and members of civil society from across the Americas tried to reach the trade ministers meeting at the downtown Marriot Hotel, to present them with a petition.
Yesterday a group of women from across the Americas calling themselves "Women for Life" took over a McDonald's in protest of the US governments plan to use the FTAA agreement to inundate local economies with fast food and cheap products that will drive local people out of business. After burning imported American clothing, the women were dispersed by police, who are guarding all McDonald's in the city today.
A morning rally today at the Arbolito Park, gave way to three separate marches toward the cordoned-off hotel where the trade ministers of 34 countries in the Americas were to meet to negotiate the FTAA. At a morning press conference, a US official told reporters that the media would be excluded from the meeting.
The US is trying to force governments to sign an agreement that spells the end of a way of life for peasants and indigenous people. The negotiators are afraid of the ire of the people.
At 10:00 AM the peasant march headed for the Marriot Hotel and was shortly joined by the student march and later by the march of indigenous peoples. The peaceful marches soon reached the police barricades cordoning off the area around the hotel, where standoffs ensued at multiple entry points around the perimeter. At one point, students placed a rose in the gun barrel of one of the riot police.
When some student protestors climbed atop a water cannon, the police responded by firing tear gas canisters at the crowds. The police behaved unconscionably. They fired at face level. They lobed more grenades over our heads so they exploded in front of us, turning the crowds back in total panic. As a result of the panic, a woman tripped and dropped the baby she was carrying. The baby was seriously injured and was carried off in a bloodstained ambulance together with the crying mother.
As tear-gas confrontations popped up around the perimeter, indigenous leaders tried to negotiate with police, asking that a delegation be allowed in to present the petition to the ministers. That was when the army rolled in. The protestors decided to march back to the Arbolito Park to regroup as military helicopters flew crisscross routes over the city.
This looks, feels and smells like Seattle during the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization. The difference here is the presence of tens of thousands of indigenous people and peasants from Ecuador and other countries in Latin America. They mean business when they say they will not allow their governments to sign a death agreement called FTAA.
© Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, 398 60th Street, Oakland, CA 94618, (510) 654-4400, Fax: (510) 654-4551, firstname.lastname@example.org. For Peter Rossets full report from Quito and for more information of the FTAA, check Food First online at www.foodfirst.org.
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