On the outbreak of war: The masses are on the streets

In spite of what the media is saying, there is still a strong antiwar mood among a significant part of the US population as the following reports clearly show. They report on events shortly after the war broke out.

Antiwar protests in the USA

In spite of what the media is saying, there is still a strong antiwar mood among a significant part of the US population as the following reports clearly show. They report on events shortly after the war broke out.

Boston, USA: MIT students and staff walk out against the war

Yesterday, Thursday, March 20, at least 500-600 M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) students and staff walked out of their classes and workplaces at 11:30 a.m. to fill the plaza in front of the Student Union Building in a demonstration against Bush's war. The tactic of standing up in class and announcing that one is walking out to protest war comes from the student antiwar movement of the 1930s, and it is a welcome revival, in my opinion. MIT students braved cloudy skies, a silly, scolding editorial in the campus newspaper calling the antiwar walk-out a "destructive" "attack," and a monitory letter from the MIT administration to have their demonstration against the war. Police copters circled overhead, making it difficult to hear students and professors who spoke to the crowd to decry the war. Today (Friday, March 21), the campus paper was forced to admit that, "it proved difficult to find students who supported the war."

After the speeches, MIT students joined students from Harvard and Tufts universities in a march to Government Center, in downtown Boston, where an enormous crowd, some thousands of opponents of the war, filled a vast plaza in front of Boston City Hall. The demonstration in Boston was in full swing at 5pm when I arrived, and as I left shortly before 6pm I saw more demonstrators continuing to fill the plaza. There were so many people in Government Center, it was difficult to walk from one point to another. The crowd was so large, the sound system for the speeches could not reach all the demonstrators.

Around 300 copies of the WIL leaflet, "No to the War on Working People At Home and Abroad," were distributed at the antiwar rallies at MIT and Government Center, Boston. I handed them out until I ran out of copies. The Providence WIL branch is planning to attend the New England regional antiwar demonstration on Saturday, March 29, as well as the next Providence, Rhode Island antiwar demo this Sunday, March 23, where we will table, leaflet and sell. Our task is to reach as many students as possible through the antiwar movement and provide them with a Marxist analysis (from the WIL and YFIS) of what is happening.

Anti war demo in Providence (Rhode Island)

Today in providence there was an antiwar demo. Not a bad turn out really, just about as big as before the war, which was about 300 to 400. We sold mostly buttons and stickers and handed out a bunch of fliers. A lot of the groups that organize the rallies here are “pacifist” types, many have religious connotations and there are even some semi-conservative elements.

So typically the rally leads to a march to some point for a moment of silence or whatever. Today however the rally ended up marching to a highway overpass so we all could display our placards. We got a lot of honks and thumbs up and fists, (and of course, also a few middle fingers). But all in all most highway drivers responded very positively. Next Saturday there will be a large demo in Boston.

WIL, Providence,
March 23, 2003

Antiwar protest in Washington DC

Hey Y'all!! I thought I'd let y'all know how the DC protests went today. We got to some park a few blocks away from Lafayette Park (the one in front of the White House) around 10.30. Initially there wasn’t much going on so we walked around with our "NO to WAR on IRAQ" sign with the YFIS/WIL websites on it and made ourselves visible handing out a few flyers here and there.

As people started showing up around 12.00 we all headed to Lafayette park only to find cops in riot gear not letting us through even though we had a permit to be there. Never to fear. together with a group of anarchists we pushed through to our approved rally area. After lots of screaming and yelling (and in response to mobilizing police on horses) we (about three or four thousand of us) began our march down 14th street (with permit and all!). After a few blocks the police had formed a barricade, pushing us down a side street. Following their directions we went to the end of that block and found another barricade made of popo and motorcycles. So here we all were. trapped in a single block. We stayed here for an hour under pressure from the police. It was total bullshit because they were angry at us for leaving our "permitted" march area but they wouldn't let us get back there or keep going or move at all.

San Francisco demo (March 22)

So we screamed and yelled. Finally the ANSWER people in charge dealt with the cops and they decided to let the march continue. but. there were some requirements. They said if we wanted to keep marching we could, and if you wanted to leave right then, we could. But say we wanted to leave in the middle of the march??? No way. We would get arrested if we left the permitted marching area. Total bullshit. So we had to leave because we knew we had to get back to our school, with its oppressive reactionary rules and we had to sign in. It was a good march though. 

We handed out some flyers. One highlight: we were in the entire segment on channel eight here. The first shot of the reporter had us in the background, then it switched to John making signs, then it switched to me yelling and leading chants in Lafayette. I thought it was cool. I’m looking forward to other reports from other areas.

Eamon Coy,
Washington D.C. Organiser for the Workers International League,
Saturday, March 22, 2003

California Responds to War – San Francisco shut down

Tens of thousands of people throughout California have been demonstrating - many engaging in civil disobedience - since last night. In San Francisco, demonstrators succeeded in shutting down both the Federal Building and the downtown Financial District this morning before gathering for a noon rally in Civic Center. Local radio news reporters were advising listeners not to go into San Francisco if not absolutely necessary.

At one point nervous police surrounded a large segment of the demonstrators who were standing or marching along the closed-off Market Street, not letting anyone out while, contradictorily telling them it was illegal to be there. At one point Sierra was leading the chanting, and led people in chanting: "Who's surrounded? They're surrounded!" Police eventually realized that they were more surrounded than the group they had encircled, and let everyone out.

University of California at Berkeley's famous Free Speech area, Sproul Plaza, is filled with angry, protesting students, as are many other campuses around the state. In San Jose (the heart of Silicon Valley), demonstrators have been blocking traffic, getting arrested in civil disobedience in front of the Federal Building. Bechtel offices have been closed down in several cities.

Report by Karen Wald,

March 21, 2003

Antiwar protests in Winnipeg, Canada

The city of Winnipeg is holding 3 back to back protests. Thursday (March 20), Friday (Mar 21), and Saturday (March 22). I just returned from the Friday protest. This was a student walk out against the war. CBC news and several other bourgeois media outlets were eager to interview the youngest looking kids they could find. Although the local colleges were pamphleted on the protest most of the attendees were high school students. Some kids as young as elementary school attended (with their parents). 

The high school protest was weakly organized, yet still went well. A young man from the World People's Resistance Movement spoke to a crowd of a thousand with megaphones. They marched several times around the city legislative building before the police arrived to block the doors and escort those who had taken the protest indoors out. Almost all the voices participated in standard chants of "no blood for oil." The protest then moved to the neighboring park. The students had planned on taking an un-sanctioned march through the streets of downtown Winnipeg, but the police (ten in number) kept the crowds out of the street by simple commands. No force was used by or against the police. The teens danced, chanted, and sang songs against war. 

Copies of L'Humanite (Canadian Marxist journal) and The Communist Manifesto were sold until all copies were exhausted. The protests lasted roughly three hours.

Steve Barman,
Winnipeg, Canada
Friday, March 21, 2003

Police brutality against peaceful anti-war protesters in Austin, Texas

Just want someone to know what happened here today. seems like there is a media blackout on Austin, Texas. Today all day nearly 2000 people expressed their opposition to the war on Iraq by blocking traffic on the main drag near the University of Texas. Then beginning at rush hour they marched very slowly with die-ins in the intersections from the capitol to the main tourist bridge. There were signs that said, "'Iraq' is arabic for 'Poland'" and "Iraqi lives are sacred too" and "Draft the twins" (a reference to bush's daughters) and "Not in my name" and so on.

Dozens of riot police with no names, no badge numbers, (unaccountable and anonymous) waited for night to fall and then began "clearing" the streets of protesters. About 20 or so people committed to sit in the street in an act of peaceful civil disobedience and be arrested and the rest of us stayed on the sidewalks as witnesses. With absolutely no cause a policeman approached those of us on the sidewalk and sprayed us in the face with pepper spray. When we complained that it was uncalled for and that the sidewalk is public property, we were told that "tonight it's not" and "we're about to spray you again if you don't leave." We began walking with the police walking behind us and they started to walk faster and hitting us in the back with their batons, screaming "move." We screamed that we WERE walking and they had no cause or right to hit us in the back but they kept doing it. As soon we were pushed far enough away so as to block our view of those who were sitting in the street, they began the arrests. The chants of "this is what democracy looks like", quickly turned to "this is what a police state looks like."

As we were pushed along, off the sidewalk and into an intersection, one of the riot police grabbed a young man (right in front of me) who was chanting peacefully, just like the hundreds of us who remained, and slammed him onto the concrete. At the same time another cop sprayed a woman at close range directly in the eyes with pepper spray. The rest started running toward us to push us far away so as not to see what was happening with the young man who was on the ground.

All of this was completely, utterly, unprovoked. It actually seemed as if they were trying to provoke a riot so that they could become even more violent. It was clear that this group of riot police had a sense that it was accountable to no one and/or that they could do absolutely anything and that they would be protected/absolved at a higher (federal?) level.

My name is Annette D'Armata. I am a composer and human rights activist. I was there with my partner, Lourdes Perez, vocalist/songwriter and activist, Diana Hamad, of the Palestinian Childrens' Welfare Fund, and Patrice Mallard of the American Friends Service Committee, all of whom were also pepper-sprayed in the face. There were many other witnesses to what I wrote above. There were several television cameras but to our knowledge nothing was shown on the 10 p.m. news.

We are meeting tomorrow with Latino community leaders, city council people and the mayor about these deplorable actions against peaceful people. There are actions planned every day while there is war.

Please let the rest of the world know that Austin is overwhelmingly against the war and the only reason you don't hear about it is because it is not being reported.

Annette D'Armata
Austin, Texas,
March 20, 2003.