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Tens of Thousands Say No to War and No to Racism

by Meredith Aby-Keirstead and Kim DeFranco |
October 1, 2001
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Crowd with signs at D.C anti-war march.
Demonstrators filled the streets of Washington D.C. on September 29, more than a week before the bombing of Afghanistan. Following air strikes on Afghanistan, protests have taken place in thousands of cities around the globe. (Fight Back! News/Kim DeFranco)
Crowd with signs at D.C. anti-war march.
A massive turnout from the campuses was decisive for the protest's success. Universities and colleges have become hotbeds of anti-war activity.

Washington, D.C. - Tens of thousands of people rallied here on Sept. 29, rejecting the Bush Administration's drive towards war, and the wave of violence against of Arab and Muslim peoples in the U.S.

From a stage in Freedom Plaza, James Creedon, an emergency medical technician who rescued people at the World Trade Center, said, "We don't want to see the death of innocent people, women, men, and children in a racist war. We need to stand up and say no. No war in our name!"

The demonstration was called by the newly formed coalition, International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). A massive protest took place in San Francisco the same day.

This powerful outpouring of anti-war sentiment showed that many Americans do not support the U.S. government's war against Afghanistan, nor will they remain silent in the face of racist attacks on Arabs and Muslims here. The 20,000 people gathered in D.C. demanded peace and let the world know that they don't support military intervention. In doing so, the anti-war movement showed an immense display of solidarity with the peoples of the Middle East and South Asia a week before the Bush administration began bombing Afghanistan.

AFSCME Local 1022 member Craig Newman said, "It's positive to see so many people out here. We lost many brothers and sisters that day. They worked hard for years in their unions as activists. Our grief is deep. But Bush wants to take our grief and go to war. What I am saying is let's take our grief and organize so we don't lose any more of our loved ones."

On September 11, hijacked airplanes attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, taking the lives of about 6,000 people. As the country grieves the incredible loss of civilian life, the Bush administration is using these attacks to justify military action against Afghanistan and potentially Iraq.

Before these attacks, there had been calls inside the Bush administration for military actions against Afghanistan, and for stepping up the war on Iraq. Currently, U.S. and British warplanes bomb Iraq on an almost daily basis.

Reverend Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, stated, "Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. We rained bombs for ten years down on Iraq, and we gave weapons to all types of despotic leaders to enforce oppression, and then we're surprised that we are hated? Let me tell you something. Today we do not stand with any terrorists, whether it is the United States or foreign terrorists. We stand with the people of the world who yearn for justice and peace and dignity and self-determination!"

Since September 11, the Pentagon has moved 28,000 troops, dozens of warships and hundreds of bombers to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. On Oct. 7, the U.S. and Great Britain began air strikes against Afghanistan. The Bush administration is using the deaths at the World Trade Center as a pretext for a war they have long been considering.

The demonstration in Washington D.C., brought people together from every walk of life, including religious leaders, defenders of civil liberties, trade unionists, community and student activists. The massive turnout from the campuses was decisive for the protest's successes. There were students from across the country, including Vassar, Gettysburg, Minnesota, Nebraska, Columbia, Bard College, Oberlin, Howard, and from the four campuses of the University of Wisconsin.

Kara Ferguson, a student from the University of Minnesota, came as an organizer for the Minnesota Anti-War Committee. "It was a gathering of both young and old who came together for peace. I took particular inspiration from the people on my bus who not only protested this war, but who had been protesting since the war on Viet Nam. We showed a great message of solidarity to the people of South Asia and the Middle East."

Marwa Hassoun, from the Coalition for Justice in Palestine, said, "It was important for all of us to attend the rally to show the anti-war support in this country and to counter the war rhetoric from the media and the U.S. government. It was really powerful to have 20,000 anti-war protesters in the same place, to say not to war and to racism."

According to Leslie Feinberg, of Rainbow Flags for Mumia, "We too have grieved for our loved ones when the bomb of AIDS exploded from here to South Africa. We say to our immigrant brothers and sisters, documented and undocumented, we know that there are no borders in the workers' struggle. We say to our Palestinian brothers and sisters, we are with you in your fight for justice, the right to return and to stop the $10 million in U.S. aid to Israel. And finally, to all the Afghanis, Arabs, Southeast Asians, and Muslims brothers and sisters, we will be out to stop the racist U.S. war."

Teresa Gutierrez, from New York chapter of A.N.S.W.E.R. declared, "We New Yorkers say no to war and say no to racist attacks."

Stephanie Simard, Women's Fight Back Union, said, "We all died on that morning. Millions of women and children all over the world wake up to this kind of terror every single day. And that terror is made in the United States. To bring it back home, I want to bring up these tens of billions of dollars that are going to fight this racist war. Will that money build youth centers? Will it go to health care? Will it help young people get education? Will it rebuild New York and all the lost jobs? And will it assist the families and individuals who have been hurt by anti-Arab and anti-Muslim attacks since the 11th and forever? No, it won't! Bush's program is an anti-women, anti-gay, and anti a lot of us."

International Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sam Jordan, slammed Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. "Friends, I bring greetings from Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has spent 20 years on death row. No race war abroad and end the race war at home! We need to put George Bush and his evil twin Ariel Sharon in prison. George Bush, 5 years as governor [of Texas, and] the only thing we know about him is 152 executions. He will never be known for anything else. Ariel Sharon might live for 1000 years, and he will only be known for the attacks on [Palestinian refugees at] Sabra and Shatila."

The rally marched from Freedom Plaza to near the Capitol grounds. Chants were heard for miles as the thousands of people demonstrated their anger at the government's rush to war. "George Bush we don't want your racist war!" "Our grief is not a cry for war!" "No war in our name, Islam is not to blame!" "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, This racist war has got to go!"

This demonstration is only the beginning of a national movement to end the U.S. war against Afghanistan and to prevent a wider war against Iraq or other Middle East countries. After the U.S. began attacks against Afghanistan on Oct. 7, people around the country held demonstrations in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and San Francisco to protest the bombing of Afghanistan

Steff Yorek, a leader of Freedom Road Socialist Organization, said, "We are here to show opposition to the government policies in Afghanistan and the Middle East. This U.S. war will only create more injustice. It is vital that we speak out and build a powerful anti-war movement "