by Christine Marie
“No More Support to the Mubarak Dictatorship! Hands Off Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen!” So began a statement from the United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC), the coalition calling and building major bicoastal antiwar demonstrations to be held on April 9 in New York City and April 10 in San Francisco.
As the world watched dramatic video footage in which the Egyptian masses enroute to Tahrir (Liberation) Square pushed Mubarak’s police back across the Kasr al-Nil bridge, UNAC activists in the U.S. fanned out to demonstrations in solidarity with the revolt against the dictators. Seasoned U.S. activists understood that the U.S. State Department was already plotting to limit the impact of the popular revolts in the interest of an only slightly modified status quo. The global stakes involved for those attempting to rebuild the U.S. antiwar movement have never been clearer.
On Jan. 29, close to 1000 demonstrated outside the UN Building in New York in solidarity with the struggle in Egypt. The same afternoon, a march of about 500-700 people went from Harvard Square into Boston, ending near City Hall. There were placards calling for freedom and democracy in Egypt, cutting off U.S. military aid, and some that said “support Egyptian workers.” Some chanted, “Not a nickel, not a dime! No more money for Mubarak’s crimes!”
The revolt against the dictators, if the most earthshaking and historic, is only one of a number of the events inspiring antiwar activists from coast to coast. On Jan. 8, more than 150 Muslim Americans and their allies crowded into the Islamic Center of Long Island to organize a unified response to the McCarthyite and Islamophobic Congressional hearings planned by Congressman Peter King and to plan outreach for the April 10 antiwar march in New York. Representatives from major Long Island mosques—including national Muslim organizations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Council of North America (ICNA), the Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and the Islamic Leadership Council of New York—together with large numbers of young Muslim women and men, all gathered and agreed to a mobilizing plan for the April 9 demonstration.
Five thousand flyers were distributed on the spot, and participants pledged to get them to 50 of their associates and friends as the beginning of a campaign to use personal contact, social networking, and the newsletters of their mosques to reach out to the 500,000 Muslim Americans resident in the NYC area.
Around $10,000 was raised on the spot to support the demonstration building effort of the Muslim Peace Coalition, a recently formed organization with members in 16 states and a commitment to being part of the leadership of UNAC. A public panel of interfaith speakers was anchored by a keynote address by George Gresham, the president of SEIU 1199, who spoke out against discrimination and noted his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Islamic Leadership Council of New York also played a leading role in a large Jan. 13 New York City UNAC organizing meeting for April 9. ILC President Iman al-Amin Abdul Latif joined with 70 others—including representatives from local antiwar formations, student groups, Black is Back, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), the Al Awda Right to Return Coalition, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and dozens of other organizations—to discuss outreach for the spring antiwar action. At this meeting and subsequent New York City gatherings, the potential for April 9 was demonstrated in the plans for nearly a dozen community outreach centers and for the translation of April 9 building materials into Urdu, Hindi, Tagalog, Spanish, and Arabic.
The response of a large number of diasporic communities in the heart of New York City has been more than matched by the response of the antiwar grassroots nationwide. Nearly 400 organizations, representing activists in every corner of the United States, have endorsed the call for the April 9 and 10 marches.
The political breadth of that response is indicated by the fact that new endorsers include groups such as the U.S. Peace Council, Pax Christi, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Veterans for Peace, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the War Resisters League, the U.S. Palestine Community Network, Boston United for Justice with Peace, and numerous New York chapters of Peace Action.
The basis for such breadth and united action was created by the fact that the April 9 and 10 bicoastal actions were called out of the large, inclusive, and democratic conference of over 800 that was held in Albany, N.Y., last July. The United National Antiwar Committee hopes to broaden the April actions even further by lending their endorsement to the call by the ANSWER coalition for local actions on March 19, the anniversary of the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, and in this way urging a united national calendar of spring actions. Such local actions, UNAC believes, can be a powerful tool for building the national actions three weeks later.
Momentum for the national spring antiwar actions is building. Philly Against War, a UNAC affiliate, is reserving buses to the April 9 New York action, and planning a March 12 forum at the Friends Center in Philadelphia to help build the march. Seattle and Portland, Ore., activists are planning to join the April 10 San Francisco march. Canadian activists from three major organizations have pledged to hold solidarity actions on April 9.
Connecticut activists have found a new receptivity to the antiwar message among many community organizations and on the city council of the capital city of Hartford. City Councilman Luis Cotto organized the use of city council chambers for the first meeting of a Hartford Bring the War Dollars Home initiative.
On Jan. 27, activists from more than 10 organizations met to plot out a campaign to win a city council resolution to tell Washington to end the war and use the trillions spent for human needs and jobs. A petition drive, public meetings, and a city-wide hearing on March 17 are designed to be the prelude to the passage of such a resolution and the allocation of funds to get Hartford residents to the April 9 march in New York.
One additional campaign that is animating the movement to end the war is the fight to stop FBI harassment and the victimization of the 23 Midwestern antiwar and solidarity activists being targeted with grand jury subpoenas (see article, page 4). UNAC activists nationally have distinguished themselves in their effective efforts to foreground the attacks on all movement activists in the run up to the April 9 and 10 national demonstrations. In San Francisco, the Bay Area UNAC is building its April 10 national action (which assembles in Dolores Park) by calling a large rally on Sat., March 5, at the Iglesia Presbiteriana de la Misión, at 23rd and Capp Streets.
The rally will protest FBI harassment and link it to the related attacks on Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and the “manufacture” of U.S. terror suspects via the “preemptive prosecutions of Muslim Americans, and the increased government attacks on the Latino, Black, and immigrant communities.”
For more information on the national April actions and for downloadable flyers, visit www.nationalpeaceconference.org. Activists are encouraged to quickly send their bus and transportation information to UNACpeace@gmail.com for posting on the site.
> This article was originally published in the February 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.