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Southern Californians march for peace

by Bronwyn Mauldin Monday, Oct. 29, 2001 at 11:29 AM

Overview of the October 27 peace rally and march in downtown Los Angeles.

Wearing a somber black robe and veil, Sally Marr came as the Statue of Liberty.

But this wasn't a Halloween party. Marr was one of an estimated 1,200 to 3,000 Southlanders who filled Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles Saturday afternoon to demand an end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Marching through the Jewelry and Fashion Districts, many anti-war demonstrators like Marr are also concerned about the post-9-11 loss of domestic civil liberties, which took a stunning blow last week with passage of far-reaching anti-terrorism legislation. "I'm Lady Liberty in mourning," she explained. "The president and the Congress, [are] eating my constitution. Their appetite is voracious. They won't be happy until they have eaten every line.

"I will be in mourning until the people wake up and they get an appetite for freedom," Marr added.

Saeddang Sori, a Korean drum troop whose name means "sound of a new land" led the march. "Our presence here is our anti-war statement," one troop member told the crowd. Koreans have been the victims of bombings by the U.S. in the past, so they understand what the Afghani people are going through right now, he said. In the same way that U.S. officials said they are only bombing terrorists in Afghanistan today, they claimed they were only killing Communists on the Korean peninsula. However, he said, "war does not maim and kill just a single group... it scars an entire nation, and it scars them for a generation."

Near the end of the march Women in Black carried two large banners that read "Peace = Palestine alongside Israel" and "End Israeli occupation of West Bank and Gaza." A group of nine Nahuatlaca-Mexica dancers and drummers brought up the rear.

About thirty members of the UCLA Muslim Student Association (MSA) participated in the march. Ghaith Mahmood said they are concerned that people are losing their ability to see each other as human beings in the current climate. They want to raise awareness and compassion for all people, including Americans and Afghanis.

The U.S. bombing of Afghanistan "could become one of the greatest tragedies of our generation," Mahmood said. Humanitarian groups estimate that millions of Afghanis could die as a result of the bombings and their disruption of food deliveries in the wake of three years of drought there. Mahmood sees a contradiction between statements by the U.S. government that the bombing isn't against Afghanis or against Muslims, when so many of them may be killed by U.S. military actions. If the U.S. wants to build a coalition, he added, "then build a coalition against hunger, against famine."

The MSA is as racially and ethnically diverse as the Muslim world. Its members include people whose background is Arab, Southeast Asian, African, and Americans who have converted to Islam. Mahmood questioned the effectiveness of using racial profiling against Muslims, when many of them have brown hair and blue eyes. A new edition of the MSA UCLA student newspaper will be published in the next few weeks (www.al-talib.com). "Talib" is Arabic for "student".

Rather than carry a sign with words on it, Sonali Kolhatkar carried a painting she made in response to being verbally attacked a week after the 9-11 tragedy. As she was driving through L.A. with a "Free Palestine" sticker on her car, a man driving a car with a U.S. flag on it shouted at her to "get out of here, go home."

Kolhatkar, an Indian woman who has lived in the U.S. as an immigrant for ten years, painted a woman of color surrounded by images that are becoming iconic -- an SUV bearing a U.S. flag, an airplane with flames pouring out of the back, and refugee tents. At the bottom a blue hand covered with white stars points a gun at the woman. Kolhatkar explained that the painting symbolizes the way women are always victims of violent attacks, whether it's women of color here in the U.S. or Afghani women who bear the brunt of U.S. foreign policy.

Kolhatkar works with the Afghani Women's Mission here in the L.A. area, which in turn works in solidarity with the Revolutionary Association of Afghani Women (www.rawa.org).

Artist Diana Tarter also used art to support the peace movement. Using recent pastel paintings and some high-tech gadgets, she created 16 colorful signs with statements such as "Create freedom and understanding, not war" and "Justice through peace, not war." Making the signs also helped her feel better. "It was a lot of fun to do something positive for the anti-war sentiment," she said. "I worked off my frustrations in a creative way."

During the closing rally, a group of thirteen people staged a "death act" in front of the main stage. Dressed in torn clothes and covered in imitation blood and wounds, some wearing skull masks or makeup, members of a Free Radicals affinity group along with members of Southern California Schools Against War lay sprawled across the dirt to represent the violence that is being done by U.S. bombings in Afghanistan, but that American mainstream media refuses to show.

Sponsored by the L.A./Orange County Coalition to Stop the War and the Coalition for World Peace, yesterday's demonstration was only one of at least a hundred anti-war events being held in cities across the U.S. and around the world. The four points of unity for the march were

* Stop the bombing now

* No curtailment of civil liberties and democratic rights

* No to anti-Arab racism

* Money for human needs, not war.

Many other anti-war and pro-peace events are taking place around the country. For more information about events in Southern California, visit the L.A. Indymedia event calendar (la.indymedia.org/calendar/).

###

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