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anti-war movement: don't let it become mere rhetorical resistance!

the anti-war protest: what we did and didn't do.
Immediately following George W. Bush’s order to begin the war of aggression against Iraq on Wednesday night, nearly 100 anti-war protestors and demonstrators gathered at the Clock Tower and corners of Pacific and Water. This, like any other “Friday Peace Vigils” before and others to come, policed itself to be contained on the sidewalks and Clock Tower. When a handful of young people, mainly students (including myself), began rallying for an un-permitted march, we found ourselves the only participants of the angry (and sad) mob against this unjust war. They’re not ready, I thought. Maybe tomorrow, as it is scheduled, we will rally and march against this fucking baseless war.

Sure enough, anti-war and peace activists gathered at the Clock Tower the following day, March 20, 2003, again to protest the unsupported invasion of Iraq. This time, a march began without much of a rally. An estimated 500 to 700 participants chanted, shouted, and marched through Downtown and the Beach Flats neighborhood. Despite the large turnout, the march remained peaceful. Too peaceful, I thought.

A handful of young dykes, including myself, attempted to re-direct the marching crowd down Pacific Ave. when the organizers of the march led a senseless turn at Cooper St. We almost had the crowd confused enough to follow us. Unwilling to abandon the march, though, we continued on with the crowd. Throughout the march, the Santa Cruz police simply followed the marchers on their motorcycles, profiling quietly with their video camera. But when we marched through the Beach Flats onto the intersection of Soquel Ave. and Ocean St., some of us realized that this supposed angry march had turned into a parade.

As we approached the intersection of Soquel and Ocean, some of us mentioned blocking Highway 17, a suggestion quickly ignored, and the march leaders took a turn on Soquel, heading Downtown. Dani Drake, a student activist, and I sat down and began pounding our hands on the pavement, chanting “Sit-down! Sit-down!” About 20 people gradually sat down around us, but kept their silence. Our (Dani and I) demand was met by hesitance and resistance from most of the marchers. I heard people saying stuff like “we don’t want to get arrested,” and saw people looking at each other with fear and uncertainty in their eyes. Again we stopped the marching traffic, yet we failed to convince them of the import of taking a real stand. I wanted to at least block traffic, having heard that the Bay Bridge and other locations were successfully taken over by anti-war protestors in San Francisco.

The remaining march trickled lifelessly onto the county buildings on Water St. And there, it died. The momentum had been lost; maybe 30 people stood in front of the county building, singing a slow, depressing song to show their discontent. That night, the 24-Hour Peace Vigil continued at the Clock Tower, and the following day, protestors came back from their houses to resume the peaceful protest against Bush administration’s continuous bombings and ground invasion, regardless of the domestic uprisings demanding an end to the war of aggression.

Anti-war protestors’ demands for peace cannot be allowed to become shallow, token resistance. Calling an end to the war is only part of the resistance. The 12-year long economic sanction against Iraq needs to be addressed within the anti-war movement; it must be incorporated into the demand. The Smart Sanction of 2002 is not at all smart; it’s still killing Iraqi children and elderly everyday. Moreover, the rebuilding of social infrastructure must remain in the hands of United Nations, not Brown and Root a subsidiary of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton Corporation.

The question for anti-war activists is not how should we continue the struggle against this display of arrogance and inhumanity. The question is, what are we willing to do to seriously pressure the White House into changing its positions and actions. Americans have shown that we care, but do we care enough to change the current circumstances?

Now, I understand the implications of civil disobedience. I am a first generation immigrant who cannot afford to get arrested for the potential of eventual deportation. I cannot afford it because the consequences of deportation lay not on my shoulders, but on those of my parents, who have spent all their lives just to make sure that their children are relocated in the United States.

But despite all that, I know that if enough number of people are willing to break civil laws in order to actually be heard, there won’t be enough police in the country to arrest all of us, nor will be there be enough time and money to legally indict every each one of us. Anti-war activists have been largely unsuccessful at the attempt to stop the war on Iraq through the first Gulf War, economic sanctions, and post-war bombings. And now, more than a decade later, George W. Bush’s clear disregard for the public’s opinions is leaving us without much of a choice.

Perhaps three decades ago the White House was influenced by national resistance; nowadays it seems that even a large urban riot like the Battle of Seattle was easily dismissed by mainstream media as only results of urban youth’s ennui. Activists need to find new ways of resistance, ways that work, effective means that not only articulate our demands but also bring about change accordingly. Attack, resident of Santa Cruz, comments after the March 20th peace march that “If the people of Santa Cruz area truly wish to stop the war, they are going to have to reconsider their ineffective symbolic tactics and attact [sic] the institutions that perpetuate misery and slaughter.”* This comment, however, applies to all American citizens and residents. Only as a whole will the public be influential; and only when we address all of the problematic issues at once will we be able to rectify the faults of the Administrations.
 
 


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Comments

It is a Peace movement

"Despite the large turnout, the march remained peaceful. Too peaceful, I thought."
-loocefer


Let's work to create peace.

loocefer, can you describe what "too peaceful" looks like?
 

Get loud; get visible; get public.

I wasn't on the march, but heard afterwards it completely dissipated--so much so that there wasn't even a Peace Camp at the County Building afterwards, and the City declined to move the unused portapotties at the County building over to the Town Clock where the real Peace Camp is located. (GO DOWN AND SUPPORT IT WITH FOOD, COMPANY, MUSIC)

When I brought this issue up at the RCNV tonight at a meeting of organizations and individuals--relaying what I'd heard--that the angry march had turned into a long exhausting parade--, I was poo-poo-ed.

Few new or immediate actions came out of the meeting (though Vandenberg support, a proposed Lockheed action, and several marches next weekend here and in Salinas got help). And there was one activist who offered to organize 10 am dailly caravans to San Francisco from the County Building.

By "too peaceful", I think the writer means "too quiet", "too subdued", "too compliant", and "too afraid". We all are conditioned to follow orders and be "lawful" at all costs--even when a murderous war of aggression is being waged in our name. To "create peace", you've got to stop the war, right?

Unless we recognize this and struggle to find more effective tactics, I fear our efforts are unlikely to succeed. It will take a variety of approaches ranging from passive protest to active resistance to galvanize the critical mass to stop the war and the occupation.

San Francisco and Portland activists--admittedly in larger urban areas--have raised spirits and hopes, even if the shutdowns they've accomplished are only temporary. Overcoming the fear of doing SOMETHING is a vital first step.
 

peaceful options are available

1. Contact your federal representatives -- Senators and House Representatives. Let them know that you consider the current Iraq operation to be unconstitutional, being conducted, as it is, without the required congressional declaration of War. Instruct them to bring the war to a close as quickly as possible.
2. If the federal representatives are unresponsive, resolve to defeat them in favor of antiwar candidates in the 2004 election. For those officials who are not up for re-election in 2004, organize recall efforts. The Congress must also be held accountable for abdicating the warmaking authority, unconstitutionally and illegally, to the President.
3. Vote for candidates for federal office who are truly dedicated to ending this war. This probably means voting for neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Independent candidates and candidates from third parties are probably your best bets here: study the candidates and vote for the one that you are convinced will represent you and your views best, regardless of the party label.
4. If the current President wins re-election, with luck the composition of Congress will have changed, and instructions from you (and other constituents) to commence impeachment proceedings will be taken seriously and acted upon.

You might think that the above steps are less immediate, and perhaps less effective than open, overt civil disobedience. But if people follow those steps with the resolve, and in the numbers, demonstrated by recent protests, CHANGE WILL OCCUR. So please, give this approach some thought.
 

A problem...

A problem exists in the Republican party's lack of reason to listen to California. They don't care what we think because we are not their voters, their supporters, quite frankly. Disrupting life in California is not NEARLY as effective as acts of civil disobedience and truly bold moves and disrupting of everyday life on the east coast and DC, or places with a much more pro-war stance. Acts like blocking Highway 17 are going to be ignored by the government, and piss the fuck out of commuters. Do it in DC, and the bigwigs will have to face the fact that there is an opposition willing to act in their backyard and on their streets.

Everyone should take to their cars, buy a plane ticket, or hitch their way to DC and show that we'll bring the battle to them.
 

Withdrawing Consent

One rationale for continued blockage of roads, stopping of business-as-usual in San Francisco and other cities--even those distant from Washington--is to force the community to make a choice: are we so determined to continue this war that we will quietly accept massive arrests of disruptive but peaceful protesters, huge jailing costs, likely national intervention with national guard and troops somewhere down the road, etc.--in order to pursue Bush's war aims in the Middle East and his imperial policy generally? That's the question the protesters are forcing members of the community to answer. Or, in more traditional terms, which side are you on?

Waiting until a (possible) 2004 election seems to me to be an extremely naive and passive alternative. If someone stole your bank account and began murdering people with the funds, would you "wait to vote them out?"

The key issue here is to get the community to withdraw consent from this government as quickly as possible.
 

who is being naive?

To the gentlemanly Robert Norse: Some people have been talking about government stealing bank accounts (in effect) and using them to rob and plunder worldwide for some time, now -- decades. Some people have consistently criticized adventures such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Gulf War I, and now Gulf War II, on that very basis. Some people have warned through this entire time that raising taxes even for so-called "good purposes" -- social programs and the like -- permanently raises the tax bar and establishes a broad funding base that can later be turned to war, as is being done now, before our eyes. Yet through it all, many others obstinately would not listen. It was too important for them to get "their guys" into congress or the white house, or to fund their favorite programs. So the devil's deal was struck, over and over, and now we are reaping the consequences of that collective, long-term naivete.

Some call others naive, yet blind themselves, would presume to whip the mob of blind men and women into disruptive, violent action. To what end? To make the out of control leaders obey? To establish a new order? Do you think that will really happen? Do you even know where the advocated path will lead?

If there is a peaceful way to solve a problem, Mr. Norse, don't you have a moral obligation to take it? If 2004 won't come soon enough for you (believe me, it will be here before you know it -- wasn't it just yesterday that we were struck dumb by the spectacle of the 2000 election shenannigans?), then organize and act NOW to recall elected representatives who supported the unconstitutional war; and to impeach the war-mongering president. Do it in 2003. Use the mechanisms of the system to change the system. The only thing that can happen "overnight" is bloody revolution that will NOT improve our situation, either in the short run or long run. So, you have some time. Use the time that any reasonably-paced change must take, to change the system under its own rules. In the end, the result will be stronger, last longer, and be more beneficial.

I know this isn't what the more hot-headed (or more ambitious) in the crowd want to hear -- or want the rest of the crowd to believe. But as far as I have been able to see throughout several decades of life, it is true. I offer the truth as I see it in the spirit of patriotism: acting in concert with one's conscience with the intent to benefit one's country. Our system offers numerous, peaceful ways to achieve social goals, many more than the English system offered the founders of this country in 1776. Yet, they bent over backwards to exhaust all peaceful measures before turning to other types of approaches. If we can't do the same, with more tools at our disposal, then there's only one word to describe us: pathetic. It is a word, I'm sure that (in translation) is used by our terrorist enemies. Let's prove them wrong.
 

An addendum

Of course, US senators and congress reps cannot be recalled, and I regret if I gave that impression in the previous posting. In those cases, you must wait until 2004 (or later, in the case of some Senators) to use the power of the ballot. On the other hand, we can lobby our officials in Washington for impeachment of the President and VP, and very strong constitutional grounds exist to support that action. Lobbying our congress reps and senators for impeachment now will not only put the fear of the electorate into the White House, it will educate those in congress about the hordes of voters who will be ready to cast THEM out when their times come.

If enough people actually get in the game of the normal political system, beneficial change can occur, well before election day.
 

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