On the weekend of March 18-20, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in over 1000 cities throughout the world to demand an end to the U.S.-led war and occupation in Iraq. The events marked the end of the Iraq war’s second year.
One of the largest rallies was in London, where organizers estimated the crowd at 100,000. Throughout the day in Trafalgar Square, many chanted, "George Bush, Uncle Sam, Iraq will be your Vietnam." Others carried signs reading, "After Iraq—Iran? Syria? Cuba?" Rome saw an antiwar demonstration of at least 100,000 on March 19, following a demonstration of twice that size the day before of public-sector workers protesting the policies of the Berlusconi government. Some 100,000 marched in Brussels on March 19 in an antiwar demonstration that was combined with a march for jobs and free education. Stockholm, Athens, Warsaw, and scores of other European cities held protests.
Ten thousand marched in Buenos Aires, 3000 in Sao Paulo, and 4500 in Tokyo. A crowd of 15,000 in Istanbul, Turkey, marched through the Kadikoy neighborhood, a major commercial and cultural center of the city. One sign there read, "Murderer Bush, Get Out!" Protests took place in many cities in Canada, including 5000 in Toronto, 5000 in Montreal (according to CBC radio), and 4000 in Vancouver.
In the United States, demonstrations took place on the March 18-20 weekend in more than 800 cities. The biggest protests, on March 19, were in New York and San Francisco; some 10,000 to 15,000 people participated in each city.
The San Francisco march, sponsored by International ANSWER, stretched 15 blocks and ended in an afternoon rally at the Civic Center. In New York, protesters marched through Harlem to Central Park, the rally site that had been denied by city officials during the August 2004 Republican National Convention protest organized by United For Peace and Justice.
The New York City demonstration, organized by the International Action Center, included a Lynne Stewart contingent. Stewart, the attorney recently convicted on frame-up terrorism charges, addressed cheering demonstrators at the rally.
Nearly 4800 gathered in Fayetteville, N.C., near the Fort Bragg military base, from which 10,000 U.S. soldiers have been deployed. Family members of active-duty soldiers traveled to the rally from as far away as Ohio, Hawaii, Vermont, and Texas to demand that their sons and daughters be brought home now. This was the largest rally there since a 1970 protest against the Vietnam War.
Other U.S. cities in which protests took place include Los Angeles, 5000; Chicago, close to 3000; and Minneapolis, close to 1000.
Across the country, demonstration organizers linked the war in Iraq, whose war dead since 2003 numbers over 100,000, to Washington’s attacks on civil liberties, health care, jobs, education, and social services at home. This scenario repeats that of past U.S. wars, in which billions are spent on weapons while funding is cut for socially beneficial programs.
Although a majority of Americans oppose the Iraq war (53 percent, according to a March 15 ABC/Washington Post poll), the U.S. mainstream press largely downplayed the demonstrations. Some media, such as The New York Times, chose to focus on the smaller numbers of this year’s rallies compared to those of the giant demonstrations on the eve of the invasion in 2003. But this disregards the fact that antiwar sentiment has been growing in the U.S., and deepening into ever more diverse social layers, though it has not as yet been effectively organized into political protest.
Antiwar sentiment has been magnified because of the images of U.S. military abuses at Abu Ghraib and the collapse of the administration’s explanation for going to war (“weapons of mass destruction”)—not to mention the over 1500 U.S. soldiers killed and over 11,000 wounded.
These facts, combined with the persistent anti-imperialist Iraqi resistance, have the war-makers off-balance. Recent shortfalls in U.S. Army and Marine recruitment goals underscore the deepening unpopularity of the war. Protests at U.S. high schools and campuses have succeeded in forcing out military recruiters.
More than 5000 soldiers have deserted since 2003 and many others have refused to follow orders, while more and more GIs and their family members are speaking out against the war. Meanwhile, the ABC/Washington Post poll shows that seven of 10 people "call the level of U.S. casualties in Iraq unacceptable."
The U.S. antiwar movement, led primarily by United for Peace and Justice and International ANSWER, has successfully mobilized millions in a matter of two years, but the leadership remains narrow.
The movement will become qualitatively stronger and broader with the introduction of a single, independent “united-front” coalition that can include everyone opposed to the war in the decision-making process. It is a realistic goal of everyone wanting to end this war to make sure that both parties of the war-makers soon feel the strength of such a coalition.
Below is the recorded speech by Mumia Abu-Jamal played at March 19 antiwar rallies around the country. To listen to the speech, go to http://www.prisonradio.org.
I thank you for your kind invitation to speak at this protest against the war. This war in Iraq isn’t the end; it’s the beginning of wars to come all around the world at the whim of the neo-cons in the White House. This is the Bush Doctrine come to life: war, war, and more war. War brought to you by the big corporate masters who run the show.
This isn’t just a war against Iraqis or Afghanis or even Arabs or Muslims. It is ultimately a war on us all. That’s because the billions and billions of dollars that are being spent on this war—the cost of tanks, rocketry, bullets, and yes, even salaries for the 125,000-plus troops—is money that will never be spent on education, on health care, on the reconstruction of crumbling public housing, or to train and place the millions of workers who have lost manufacturing jobs in the past three years alone.
The war in Iraq is, in reality, a war against the nation’s workers and the poor who are getting less and less while the big defense industries are making a killing—literally. What’s next? Iran? Syria? North Korea? Venezuela? We’ve already seen the corporate media play megaphone to the White House to build and promote a war based on lies.
It’s been a long time ago, but that great Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, said, “War is utilized by the imperialists, first and foremost, to crush internal enemies.” We’re seeing the truth of his insight when we see the sad state of American education, the rush of seniors to buy affordable medication from the Canadians because American drugs are just too expensive, the threatened privatization of Social Security, and the wave of repression that comes with an increasingly militarized police. Does the Homeland Security Department make you feel any safer?
In Black America things get grimmer every day as resources that are already scarce begin to shrink even further. Young people feel that prisons are rite-of-passage, an inevitable place to visit. And a decent job seems like a distant dream.
This is a war on all of us, and the struggle against war is really a struggle for a better life for the millions of folks who are in need here in this country. The fight against the war is really to fight for your own interests, not the false interests of the defense industries, or the corporate media, or the White House.
Down with the wars for empire! Ona Move! Long live John Africa! From death row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
© 2005 MUMIA ABU-JAMAL