On a breezy spring day in San Francisco, April 20, 2002, some 20,000 or more people came from the Western states to march for peace and most importantly, to march for peace in a free Palestine. By making a free Palestine a priority, our peace movement has made a major qualitative advance as it has clearly cast its lot with the dispossessed, the disinherited and the disenfranchised, in a word, the workingclass, which is the class that has the power to make fundamental change as it is labor that creates all wealth.
The marchers were of all ages and colors, many religions and no religion, gay and straight. This was the first peace march in memory where there was a very large presence of non-European marchers, and it is much needed and appreciated. It means our movement is broadening its base and thriving among the workingclass. Most notable was the very large presence of Arab Americans, and a significant presence of African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos.
This writer marched in the Labor Contingent, which was near the front of this fabulous, densely packed, energetic stroll through San Francisco's neighborhoods. Our Labor Contingent featured the sharp and snappy drill corps of the International Longshoreman's and Warehouseman's Union (ILWU), whose general strike of 1934 made San Francisco a union town. Other labor unions officially present were the National Writers' Union, the teachers' union, the office workers' union, the farmworkers union, the Letter Carriers' Union (mail delivery people), some of the Service Employee Union locals (in particular, hospital workers), the gay Pride at Work labor organization and members of and supporters of various labor unions and labor organizations such as Labor Video Project which has a program on the local cable TV station. The San Francisco Labor Council endorsed this march.
One longshore union speaker at the Civic Center expressed his solidarity with the Palestinian people and the peace march and announced that the ILWU may have to go on strike in July to defend its hiring halls. He called upon the peace movement to support labor if a strike should be necessary, as an injury to one is an injury to all. Of course, we all will support the ILWU and were very glad to see them at this important peace march.
The tremendous energy of the many young people was matched by the wonderful color provided by the hundreds of Palestinian flags, which is a red, green, black and white flag. One very large Palestinian flag became a much appreciated windbreak hanging between trees at the Civic Center rally.
The Civic Center rally filled most of the grassy areas of that wonderful plaza. That means the center grass area was densely packed from front to back; the grass area to the left of the stage near the Civic Center Auditorium was densely packed, and there were large numbers of people in the grass area to the right of the stage.
The chants were in Arabic and English, and included "No Justice, No Peace, US Out of the Middle East," "Bush, Sharon, You Will See, Palestine Will Be Free," "Free, Free Palestine," "They Say Cutback; We Say Fight Back;" "We're All Fired Up, Won't Take It No More, Money for Jobs Not For War, Money for Schools Not For War, Money for Housing Not For War, Money for Healthcare Not for War," "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, the Occupation Has Got to Go!"
At the Civic Center, we were entertained by a rock and roll group that sang John Lennon's peace song, "Imagine" in Arabic and English! That is a sure sign that the torch has been passed from the Vietnam War generation to the young people who are the first generation to lead a peace movement in the 21st Century, hopefully to finally put an end to war.
This march was as big as those just before the opposition to the Vietnam War became very large, that is, just at the time the US economy started to decline in the late 1960s due to the war. To have a peace march of this size at the beginning of this latest war drive means the economy is in serious trouble and cannot sustain this or any war drive.
We much keep marching, speaking out, participating in the political arena in whatever manner we can. We must do so not only to bring peace, but also to stop the attacks on civil liberties, which is more serious than during the Vietnam War. The government is now ignoring court orders to uphold the Constitution. We have to build a movement strong enough to become the government.
Future peace actions include:
Sunday, April 21, 2002 at 3 p.m., Fellowship of Humanity Hall, 390 27th St at Broadway, Oakland, a forum of "The Middle East, Palestinian Workers, War & the AFL-CIO" sponsored by the Bay Area Workers Democracy Network, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Wednesday, April 24, 2002 at 6:30 p.m., at La Pena, 3105 Shattuck, Berkeley (1 block east of Ashby BART): "Dissent: Waging After Nine/Eleven," a cultural program mixing art, film, spoken word and music. Contact http://www.4orum.net
Thursday, April 25, 2002 at 7:30 p.m., St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison, Berkeley, Michael Parenti speaks on "Terrorism, Imperialism and Conspiracy" Contact Peace & Freedom Party at http://www.peaceandfreedom.org
Thursday, April 25, 2002 at 7 p.m., Radical Women forum at 1908 Mission St (near 16th BART), San Francisco, "Antiwar Roundtable: Feminists Organize for Peace in the Middle East" Dinner served at 6:15 p.m. for a .50 donation.
Saturday, April 27, 2002, San Francisco peace demonstration at 11 a.m., starting at 24th and Mission and marching to the UN Plaza. The contact number is 415/861-7444.
Sunday, April 28, 2002, 5 p.m., San Francisco Women's Building (men are welcome), 3543 18th Street between Valencia and Guerrero (near 16th St BART): Forum on "Palestine: the Fight for Freedom" with the following speakers: Elias Rashmawi, Free Palestine Alliance; Richard Becker, International Action Center; Barbara Lubin, Middle East Children's Alliance, an Observer from the International Solidarity Movement" and Gloria La Riva of Iraq Sanctions Challenge. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.internationalanswer.org, http://www.actionsf.org
Other peace actions: Constant calls to Congress, letters to editor, resolutions presented at your union meetings, peace vigils in your local communities, discussing the issues in your current events section of your social science classes, filing lawsuits to stop the outrageous attacks on our civil liberties and the like. Every opportunity to promote peace and civil liberties must be used.