West Coast April 10 protest U.S. wars abroad, at home
Apr 13, 2011
Three thousand activists demonstrated against U.S. wars abroad on April 10 in San Francisco. Protesters rallied in Dolores Park in the city’s Mission district both before and after a march through the community. The United National Antiwar Committee sponsored the actions. Those who attended were buoyed by what they described as “the renewal of the anti-war movement.”
UNAC Co-coordinator Jeff Mackler called April 10 “a modest but important political success. We effectively got out the strong political message and demands that were in accord with the democratic decisions of the July 22-24, 2010, Albany, N.Y. conference,” which called for the demonstrations in New York and San Francisco.
Mackler pointed out, “Virtually all speakers presented clear and unequivocal positions demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops, mercenaries and military contractors from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya.” He also noted the broad, inclusive and diverse nature of the speakers list.
Speakers at the rally included Jessica Antonio, BAYAN; Porfirio Quintano, Hondurans in Resistance; Monadell Herzala, Arab-America Union Members Council; Cristina Gutierrez of Barrio Unido; John Caldero, Veterans for Peace; Mick Kelly, Committee to Stop FBI Repression; Judy Greenspan, teacher and Workers World Party member; and Frank Lara, Answer Coalition.
Many speakers acknowledged the upcoming May Day demonstrations and called on protesters to not only attend, but also help to build for these actions, which are very important, given the attacks on immigrants around the country.
Speakers link opposition to foreign wars to war against U.S. workers
Keynote speaker, Malalai Joya, an Afghan writer, activist and former politician, denounced the U.S./NATO military attacks and occupation of Afghanistan, which are killing women and children and other civilians and destroying the country. Joya called for all foreign troops to leave her country and denounced the U.S.-backed government of Hamid Karzai.
Cephus Johnson tied political and police repression at home to wars abroad. Johnson is the uncle of Oscar Grant, the unarmed African-American youth who was fatally shot in the back two years ago by Johannes Mehserle, a police officer of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.
Clarence Thomas, dockworker and member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, told of the shutdown of the ports in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., on April 4, the anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. Dockworkers held these actions as an act of solidarity with Wisconsin public sector workers and to support their resistance. The Pacific Maritime Association, Thomas explained, is now suing the ILWU for the so-called “illegal work stoppage.”
Jeff Patterson spoke about conditions for veterans and the inhumane incarceration of political prisoner PFC Bradley Manning at a Marine prison in Quantico, W.Va. Manning has been imprisoned without trial since July for allegedly passing privileged information to WikiLeaks about U.S. war policy.
John Parker, West Coast International Action Center coordinator, spoke about growing U.S.-led or -backed wars and occupations in the Middle East and North Africa, which are killing and injuring our brothers and sisters there. To great applause, he stated, “We have a right to our jobs and our homes, and no CEO or sheriff has the right to throw us out of either of them. And capitalism, be damned. “There’s no power greater than the power of a people united from Wisconsin to the public workers here in California; from Black, Asian and Latino/a activists fighting the police and ICE; to our sisters and brothers incarcerated by injustice; to women and lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer warriors against oppression. If we unite, we have the power to shut down the wars over there and over here!”
Mackler thanked the six co-chairs of the rallies — “a diverse group of UNAC and social justice leaders, including Bill Balderston, Daniel Alley, Judy Greenspan, Zahra Billoo, Kitty Liu and Blanca Missé.” He also called attention to the good coverage given by radio station KPFA, which broadcast the rallies live and conducted interviews with many activists who attended.