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Gainesville activists protest 11 years of war in Afghanistan

By Chrisley Carpio |
October 10, 2012
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Students flyer for the rally to oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan
Students flyer for the rally to oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Gainesville, FL - On Oct. 8, about three dozen Gainesville activists held a rally to protest the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Florida (UF), Occupy Gainesville and Gainesville Veterans for Peace gave a round of speeches in Turlington Plaza, demanding the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan and the end of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and other parts of the Middle East.

The walls surrounding Turlington Plaza rang with the sound of students and Gainesville residents chanting, "Troops out now!" Speakers also addressed the devastating costs of the war and the resulting cuts to public education and social services.

"Every week, Washington spends $2 billion on the occupation of Afghanistan. That's billion with a capital 'B'," said SDS organizer Pamela Maldonado, as protesters chanted, "Up, up with education! Down, down with occupation!”

This action also officially launched Gainesville SDS's campaign to end the expansion of drone manufacturing in Gainesville. The Gainesville-based company Altavian, Inc. revealed in late August that it is officially the first company in U.S. history to receive a federal contract solely for expanding drone production. It is accompanied by Prioria Robotics, also based in Gainesville, which actively hires recently graduated UF students.

This protest occurred a week after a successful student-led discussion of Syria, U.S. intervention, and the human rights atrocities committed by the Syrian rebels. About 40 students filled the room, and before the event was over, a consensus was built around opposing all forms of Western intervention and the U.S.-backed rebels. All students present called for Syrian self-determination instead.

This sentiment reappeared during speeches at Monday's protest of the War in Afghanistan. "Sept. 11 may have been an excuse to go into Afghanistan, but no Afghanis were actually involved in the terrorist attacks," said Maldonado. "The only reason we invaded was to consolidate the U.S.'s control over the Middle East's resources, and the only people who benefit is the top 1% of this country. Thousands of people are dying, so that a few hundred can live like royalty."

Speakers also emphasized the importance of staying in the streets and protesting the war from our own country, rather than staying content with the ballot box. The same millionaires who stand to gain from these wars have compromised both the Democrat and Republican parties.

Eric Brown, another SDS organizer, said, "Even though Bush sent in the first troops, the Obama administration has stepped up these unmanned attacks to unprecedented levels and redefined the potential destruction of U.S. imperialism. It is more urgent than ever that Americans protest these wars where they can, locally, here at home."