On March 19, thousands of people took to the streets to demand an end to U.S. war and military intervention abroad and funding for people’s needs at home. Mass demonstrations took place in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and many other cities across the United States and the world. Below are some initial reports.
Thousands of people hit the streets in Los Angeles in a spirited, youthful demonstration to stop the wars. Led by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, including active-duty soldiers and marines, the march of well over 4,000 people chanted, “Money for jobs and education, not for wars and occupation!”
A huge student contingent from high schools and community colleges in Long Beach, Orange County and L.A. participated, along with large numbers from the Muslim community. Speakers included Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic, students, teachers, union leaders and anti-war activists. Chris Shiflet, the lead guitarist for the Foo Fighters, spoke and played a song.
The ANSWER Coalition initiated the March 19 protest in Los Angeles. Over 100 additional community and progressive organizations endorsed the action.
Despite cold, steady rain, 1,800 people marched and hundreds more rallied in San Francisco demanding an end to the wars and occupations around the world and the war on working people here. Speakers at the opening rally condemned the launching of a new war against Libya, which had begun just hours before.
A strong contingent from UNITE HERE Local 2, the SF hotel workers union, helped lead the march, which ended with a massive picket line in front of the boycotted Westin St. Francis hotel at Union Square. The demonstration was organized by the March 19 Coalition, which was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition.
Over 1,500 people participated in a veterans-led civil resistance action initiated by Veterans for Peace that led to the arrest of 113 people at the White House. The ANSWER Coalition, March Forward! and many other organizations supported the event.
At the rally in Lafayette Park, Brian Becker, the national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, said:
“The U.S. government never tells the people that ‘we’ are going to invade or bomb another country in order to control and exploit its natural resources—especially oil and natural gas—or the labor of the occupied people. That is, of course, the truth. But no mother or father would allow their child to go to war for the crass function of exploitation. The U.S. government always states that each Pentagon invasion or bombing attack is for humanitarian rather than imperial objectives.
“Today, on the eight anniversary of the criminal invasion of Iraq, the United States, Britain and France are poised to begin a massive bombing of Libya–again, they say, for noble, humanitarian reasons. That is a lie that we must expose. Libya is the largest producer of oil on the African continent and the imperialists want to re-conquer the country and its resources. We, in the ANSWER Coalition, stand against any military action against Libya. The Libyan people, and they alone, must be the masters of their own destiny.”
Caneisha Mills, an organizer with the ANSWER Coalition, also addressed Libya in her talk, saying:
“The U.S. government claims it will bring democracy and freedom to Libya; these are the same terms used to invade Iraq! After the massive and ongoing slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan we know that is not true!”
Ryan Endicott, a member of March Forward! and an Iraq war veteran who served in Ramadi, told the crowd: “We know firsthand that our enemy is not the people of Iraq, who for eight years have been struggling to survive a brutal occupation. It is not the people of Afghanistan who for over a decade have been struggling to survive a brutal occupation. The biggest threat to the people of the United States is not thousands of miles away, but hundreds of yards away, right here in the White House, in the Pentagon, on Wall Street. It’s the bankers that take our homes, the CEOs that lay off from our jobs only to take million dollar bonuses.”
On March 19 in Chicago, 1,000 people marched on Michigan Ave. to demand an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Protesters carried signs that read “No War on Libya!” and “Stand Against War and Racism: Money for Jobs and Education, Not War!” A very popular chant was “End, End the War! Tax, Tax the Rich!”
The many contingents in the march included Palestine solidarity groups, free Bradley Manning activists, youth and student contingents, many neighborhood peace groups and the ANSWER Chicago contingent, which carried Egyptian and Wisconsin flags, and a banner that read: “From Egypt to Wisconsin to Chicago … : Time to Fight Back!”