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January 27 at the UN--Not In Our Name

by Revolutionary Worker Wednesday, Feb. 05, 2003 at 8:25 PM

Protests at the UN during the Security Council. Artists and others read the Statement of Conscience

RW ONLINE: Jan. 27 at the UN: Not In Our Name Jan. 27 at the UN: Not In Our Name

by Osage

Revolutionary Worker #1186, February 9, 2003, posted at rwor.org

Millions of people around the world knew that January 27 was going to be a critical day in Bush's war plans. All eyes were fixed on the United Nations, in New York City, waiting, as Hans Blix led the weapons inspectors to deliver their final report to the Security Council.

But they would not be the only voice heard that day.

In the morning, readers of the New York Times across the country woke up to see NOT IN OUR NAME blazing across two full pages in the main section. The Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience was published on two pages along with a special box that said: "This War is Not Inevitable! We Can Stop It! Do something today! Let Your Voice Be Heard Today!"

That afternoon signatories of the statement--including filmmaker, poet and actress Michelle Esrick; actress Kathleen Chalfant; filmmaker and photographer Henry Chalfant; essayist and critic Vivian Gornick; writer Laura Eisenberg; Malachy McCourt; hip hop recording artist and actor Mos Def; Serpico; writer Jeremy Glick; artist Joyce Kozloff; art critic Max Kozloff; artist Dred Scott; playwright and actor Ellen McLaughlin; playwright Tony Kushner; theater director and actor Andre Gregory--delivered a powerful reading of the statement outside the UN, joined by 750 to 1,000 determined folks who braved the bitter cold. Peter Geredy and Mos Def finished the reading together, arm in arm: "Let us not allow the watching world today to despair of our silence and our failure to act. Instead, let the world hear our pledge: we will resist the machinery of war and repression and rally others to do everything possible to stop it!"

By the next morning, people around the world had heard the message. The Irish Times reported that as Kofi Annan entered the UN, "one of his aides carried the New York Times folded over at a two-page advertisement from `Not In Our Name Project,' which declared the opposition of anti-war personalities." Annan was greeted by more than 100 protesters--chanting, jumping, dancing, and holding beautiful signs against the war. Called by United for Peace & Justice, No Blood For Oil, Not In Our Name Project and the New York Social Forum of Concerned Religious Leaders, the protest was part of a whole day of resistance against the war and inspections. Twenty people were arrested when they blocked the busy avenue in front of the United Nations.

Not In Our Name Project had called for a nationwide hour of resistance--as the UN inspectors delivered their report. The idea was to `build some muscles' for the kind of massive opposition to the war that is needed to impact throughout society. In Los Angeles, there were significant walkouts at several high schools (See article page 13). Around the country, people took up the hour of resistance in diverse ways-- vigils, teach-ins, prayers, taking over intersections, demonstrating at military recruitment offices, and dropping banners from freeway overpasses--in cities such as Atlanta and Savannah, GA; Skokie, IL; Cleveland and other Ohio cities; Woodstock, NY; Orlando, FL; Eugene, OR; Honolulu; Seattle; Denver; and Frankfurt and Lexington, KY. The Riverside Church in NYC rang its bells during the hour. And in San Francisco the following night, as George Bush began his speech, a torchlight march of several hundred took the streets.

*****

Globe flags and a defiant spirit filled the UN plaza as people gathered in the late afternoon on the 27th.

At one point, a large group of young people of different nationalities took the stage. Mike, from New York City Youth Bloc ("high school students from New York City taking back the future"), rhymed: Raise it up if you down for peace/Welcome to the terrordome/ we found the beast/Wake up if you sound asleep/If you bounce with the movement, war is bound to cease. Then Optimist of Universal Zulu Nation, Jana of the RCYB, and Wes Hunter of Philadelphia gave a few short statements before the youth led the crowd in reciting the NION Pledge of Resistance.

Wes Hunter said, "We are the people of a country which has plans to drop their bombs and shoot their guns in an effort to kill in the name of something far below even questionable. We are the people of a nation which has plans for more of this and we may be the people of a nation which is the most hated and feared in the world. Made in America will scream the falling hiss of the bombs as they fall on Baghdad... Made in America will be in the tears of the injured and the family and friends of the dead, both Iraqi and American, and worldwide.... We must make our stance clear. We must clear our names and provoke others to do the same."

"Iraq is phase two of their whole war on the world," Jana said. "Their policy is war will last a generation. Think about it.... We already live on a planet where the whole continent of Africa is in dire desperation, starvation and an AIDS epidemic. We live on a planet where you can go in the remotest village in every part of the world and you can get a bottle of Coca Cola. They have the infrastructure for that, but you cannot get clean drinking water. This is their imperialist world."

In the crowd, many people told the RW they felt they needed to be there to show the world that the U.S. government does not speak for them and that many people in this country are opposed to the war, whether it gets the UN's approval or not. Michael Ratner, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, called the "coalition of the willing" the Bush administration talks about uniting for war on Iraq, "a coalition of the coerced, a coalition of the bribed." "It's not about democracy," Ratner said. "It's not about stopping terrorism. It's not about weapons of mass destruction... This country wants to continue empire."

Father Simon Harack, from Voices In the Wilderness, spoke about defying the sanctions on Iraq. "Several times I have been guilty of the crime of bringing medicine to children in Iraq.... We have been going into Iraq to look for weapons of mass destruction. We do not have to look far. I have gone to the hospitals and seen the results of the typhoid and the cholera and the dysentery and the diphtheria that we, the United States, have unleashed on the people of Iraq for the past 12 years, that have sickened and killed 500,000 children under the age of five. And so we are here today, all of us in this freezing cold to say not in our name!"

Many people said they believed that Bush stole the election and that an illegitimate administration in power was ready to rain down death and destruction around the world in their name.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, author of "Angels In America" and "Homebody/Kabul", read a poem about Adolf Hitler by German poet Bertolt Brecht, called "The Great Grumbler." Then Kushner told the crowd: "Months ago at another Not In Our Name rally, we said that we knew that a mass movement would rise up in opposition to this great historical crime Bush and his buddies are planning. But when we said that back then, we didn't know that we'd be proven right.... Most people, when they hear this frat boy, plutocrat blood grizzled schmuck of a rancher from Texas say war, war, war, have a better idea and answer--and now, all over the world people are making sure that Bush, even Bush, hears their idea. And their idea, our idea, our answer to his war, war, war is peace, peace, peace."

Jeremy Glick, coeditor of the book Another World Is Possible spoke of his father's death in the World Trade Center: "It's about two years and a few months since my father died and his name is not safe. The Republican ruling class wants to use his memory and the memory of thousands of others who were sacrificed on 9/11 to justify everything from the escalation of aggression and U.S. imperialism against the Iraqi people to continued war crimes committed against the Palestinians, the rolling back of civil rights and civil liberties for Arab and South Asian people in the U.S. and the propping up of heroes who have the blood of people like Amadou Diallo, Anthony Baez, the torture of Abner Louima under their name."

Maya of Not In Our Name and the Blue Triangle Network called on people to create a climate of resistance so that immigrants would feel the strength not to comply with government registration of Arab and Muslim people, "because their neighbors will have their backs" and there are "emergency networks of youth and students who are ready to defend them."

People said they were there because they wanted to send a message that, no matter what, this war is unjust. Robina Niaz, from NION and Justice for Detainees, said, "The Bush administration and his cronies are not speaking for everyone in the U.S. The message we are hearing today loud and clear is that many thousands in the U.S. are opposed to this simply because it is so wrong. I think that, as people of conscience, we have to stand up, we have to voice our opposition in the strongest possible manner and we have to build a resistance ten times greater than what we have now."

There was a spirit of determination that we are going to stop this government from their plans for war in Iraq and war on the world. One 25-year-old woman from the crowd said, "People around the world are fighting the U.S. government with their lives and are putting their bodies on the line, and for me to do any less is unacceptable."

There was also a sense of hope that this is possible, as speaker after speaker referred to the fact that the anti-war movement has grown and spread so wide that the media can no longer ignore it. The rap artist Common, who was in the crowd to hear what people had to say, told the RW , "I'm not down for war over oil. I don't really believe we need to be fighting people for these ignorant purposes. People in this country are caught up in the media and the promotion that the government says about other countries. But we gotta tell the people the truth and we gotta spread it as much as possible."

During the rally, a number of speakers noted the advances already made in building an anti-war movement that has told the world that millions here don't support what the government is doing. To build on this, Not In Our Name Project announced it is calling on all organizations and individuals to develop emergency response networks to take immediate massive action before they begin their war.

People joined actor/author Malachy McCourt when he passionately sang "Johnny We Hardly Knew You," an Irish anti-war song about the Irish being used to fight in British wars: They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo/They're rolling out the guns again/But they never will take our sons again...

And King Downing, from Campaign Against Racial Profiling, drew links between the present situation and the Vietnam War. "Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it," he said, as he led the crowd in a call-and-response to the tune of the song "War," recorded by Edwin Starr in 1970.

Other speakers included Attorney Lynne Stewart, who faces charges for defending Muslim clients accused of terrorism, and Michael Letwin from New York City Labor Against the War/U.S. Labor Against the War. There was great enthusiasm for the news that British railway workers refused to load and move trains carrying war materials headed for Iraq.

*****

At the end of the day, it was clear the media could not ignore the day's resistance. International newspapers and television shows from Canada to Australia covered the events, bringing the events to the people of the world.

Later that night, Miles Solay of Refuse & Resist! and the Not In Our Name Project went head to head with the infamous talk show host O'Reilly on FOX News. The topic of the show was the Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience. And O'Reilly was hopping mad that anyone would dare to focus on the injustices committed by the U.S. government around the world.

O'REILLY: ...You're comparing 9/11 --all right?--the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, to Baghdad and Panama City. That's obscene. That is so, so offensive to clear-thinking Americans. Don't you have any clue how offensive that is? SOLAY: In fact we are people who live in this country. And you know as well as I know that, quiet as it's kept, there are millions of people in this country, millions in this country, who are joining those internationally, who do not want to see an unjust, immoral and illegitimate war .

Two days later, Miles took on a senior defense analyst from the right wing Heritage Foundation and host Joe Scarborough on the MSNBC "Nachman" show. And a flood of e-mails hit the NION offices--from threats to congratulations.

One of the fans, stirred up by O'Reilly, threatened: "For the sake of our nation and the future of our children, one can only hope that if your protests succeed in suppressing this country's action in Iraq, all members of your organization are in the same city that gets nuked by the terrorists Iraq decided to supply his weaponry to."

And on the positive tip one viewer wrote: "Just wanted to drop a note to say that I'm glad to have seen Miles Solay on MSNBC today so that I am now aware of, and can support, NION. Ironically, the host of the program showed exactly how irresponsible our media is... How do you invite someone to speak out, and then condemn them for doing so?"

As the launching of this war looms before us, the more the people of the world need to see resistance right here in the belly of the beast. And the more we resist, the more people will see us and be inspired by our actions to get involved. Much more seems possible to many more people than before. As the Pledge of Resistance says, "Another world is possible and we pledge to make it real!"


This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
rwor.org
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497

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