By John Catalinotto, Workers World, March 24, 2010
The seventh anniversary of the criminal U.S.-British occupation of Iraq on March 20 gave impetus to demonstrations in cities around the world. Anti-war protesters could not forget the suffering this U.S.-led aggression has imposed on the Iraqis, killing over a million and driving 5 million people into exile.
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On top of the Iraq occupation, the Barack Obama administration has begun a serious escalation in Afghanistan, destined to inflict similar damage upon other peoples of that region; it has intensified pilotless bombing of areas of Pakistan; and it threatens to bomb Iran.
This situation aroused protests across the U.S. Regional actions attracting thousands took place in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco, initiated by the Answer Coalition and in which many anti-war forces participated.
In Washington, some 10,000 people joined the protest, according to organizers. Among the key speakers was Cindy Sheehan, who has been an active spokesperson against U.S. wars since her son, Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and anti-monopoly fighter Ralph Nader were also featured. Sheehan was arrested as part of a civil disobedience protest following the march.
Protest slogans included demands for jobs at home, not wars abroad, and pointed out how military spending drained wealth away from social benefits. The Bail Out the People Movement and the International Action Center had strong delegations from New York at the demonstration.
Workers World Party leader Larry Holmes was at the protest. “Considering all the activities going on this weekend,” Holmes told WW, “we were pleased to see so many people coming out. People came from around the country to show solidarity with the Palestinians, to tell the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and to refrain from starting a new war against Iran. Young people were ready to march up to the Mortgage Bankers Association and make it a target of the protest. It’s a good sign for the future.”
In Los Angeles, thousands, including many youth of color, gathered at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine and marched down Hollywood Blvd. to the rally site at Highland Ave. There they listened to speakers prominent in left and progressive movements demand an end to U.S. militarism and money for human needs at home and abroad.
In San Francisco, 5,000 demonstrators gathered at City Hall Plaza, called by a broad coalition of anti-war, solidarity and social justice organizations.
Under the lead banner “Occupation is a crime — Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine! Fund people’s needs — not war and bank bailouts!” speaker after speaker demanded an end to all U.S.-backed military adventures abroad, including U.S. support for the continued occupation of Palestine, while at the same time demanding that funds be used for jobs, health care and education.
One of the most moving talks was given by Father Andres Tamayo, a priest and popular leader who was expelled by the Honduran junta. Tamayo brought solidarity greetings on behalf of the people of Honduras who are struggling against the U.S.-backed military government. Father Tamayo stated simply that the land and wealth of Honduras must be returned to its people.
Following the rally, a march moved through downtown San Francisco, passing two hotels, the Hilton and the Four Seasons, to express solidarity with striking hotel workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2.
Anti-war protesters in Detroit, called out by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, on March 19 demanded that the U.S. immediately stop the wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, Pakistan and other nations and that the Pentagon budget be used instead for people’s needs, including jobs, housing, health care and education.
According to the National Priorities Project, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone have cost Michigan taxpayers at least $25 billion. Protesters rallied at Detroit’s city hall and then marched behind a lead banner declaring “Michigan says no to war” to the Central United Methodist Church while chanting “Money for jobs, not for war!”
In Stockholm, Sweden, 300 people joined a cultural protest. Under banners reading, “Crimes against peace are the worst of all crimes — Nuremburg 1946” and “U.S. out of Iraq,” the Iraqi music group SUMER was joined by leading Swedish poets and actors who recited anti-war poetry. The former Swedish Foreign Minister and U.N. Ambassador Pierre Schori denounced the invasion and the fact that Swedish authorities did not charge former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for war crimes when she was in Stockholm for a conference to raise funds for the occupation regime.
An Iraqi guest speaker concentrated on the destruction of the Iraqi state and the horrendous situation for women and children. A speaker for Iraq Solidarity suggested that if Dante were writing today he would have to add another layer of hell to describe the present situation for Iraqis in their ravished homeland.
Expatriate U.S. citizens called a protest in Rome, Italy, and in Lisbon, Portugal, there was a public meeting denouncing the continued occupation of Iraq.
Judy Greenspan, Bob McCubbin, Bryan G. Pfeifer and Mike Powers contributed to this report.