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UFPJ Responds

by peacenik Thursday, Mar. 17, 2005 at 11:57 PM

UFPJ Responds

United for Peace and Justice Responds to Open Letter Current rating: 15

by Members of the Coordinating Committee of United for Peace and Justice – NYC coalition

Email: info (nospam) unitedforpeace.org (verified) 16 Mar 2005

Coordinating Committee members of UFPJ's NYC Coalition respond to an open letter. The initial letter was addressed by persons identifying themselves as "activists from communities of color and from within the anti-war movement." (For the initial letter, click on the following link: http://nyc.indymedia.org/newswire/display/143486/index.php)

March 14, 2005

Dear signers of the Open Letter to the Leadership of UFPJ,

Thank you for your letter and your concerns over building the antiwar movement. We appreciate your asking United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) to reconsider its decision not to put substantial energy into building the March 19th antiwar march in NYC.

We represent NY member organizations in the local UFPJ - NYC coalition, the group that made this decision, and we would like to respond to your concerns.

We agree that people of color and working class youth are bearing the brunt of the war drive both at home and abroad. We also believe there is much work to be done to build a genuinely multiracial antiwar movement. At our national assembly, UFPJ organized several sessions on these questions, elected a Steering Committee that is 54% people of color, decided to increase resources to our work to counter recruitment of working class and youth of color into the military, and made building alliances between our member groups and those fighting budget cuts, often people of color, a priority.

Based on that same commitment, United for Peace and Justice has helped build antiwar activities organized by several signers of this letter in the past. During the Republican National Convention, for instance, UFPJ supported the September 2nd Harlem march and rally organized by Artists and Activists Against the War by promoting it in our materials distributed to the half million people that attended our August 29th march, providing some financial support, and speaking at the event.

As you might know, on January 26th representatives of UFPJ – NYC and the Troops Out Now Coalition, which included representatives of the International Action Center (IAC), met and discussed plans for the March 18-20 weekend in NYC. After getting a report back on that meeting, the UFPJ – NYC coalition decided not to co-sponsor or put our energies into mobilizing for the Troops Out Now Coalition demonstration, although we agreed to leave open the possibility of working together in the future. We have also signed the letter to Mayor Bloomberg about the permit issue.

People in the NYC UFPJ coordinating committee had three different reasons for reaching this conclusion:

(1) Major concerns that in some of the early materials for this protest there was language about supporting the Iraqi resistance, which is not a position that the NYC coalition (or the national UFPJ, for that matter) has taken, and is a position strongly opposed by some groups in our coalition.

(2) Concerns about the involvement of the International Action Center in the action. In an attempt to strengthen the antiwar movement United for Peace and Justice has spent much of the past three years attempting to work with the International Action Center (IAC) and ANSWER, two (at times) overlapping groups. Our experience with these groups has been extremely negative, even though we recognize that they have made contributions to the antiwar movement.

While professing to desire unity, ANSWER and the IAC have repeatedly misrepresented the positions of, attacked, and attempted to isolate and split UFPJ and other antiwar groups, even when we were supposedly in alliances.

In addition, many people in UFPJ have disagreements with the style and approach that the IAC and ANSWER take, an approach that sometimes makes it harder to reach the broadest constituencies possible and therefore limits the potential power of the antiwar movement.

(3) Capacity issues. In January the local UFPJ – NYC coalition committed to build several actions the weekend of March 18-20 (a send off rally for buses to Fayetteville, NC; nonviolent civil disobedience at military recruitment centers; a US Labor Against the War action (since cancelled); and an interfaith gathering in Riverside Church). In December UFPJ’s National Steering Committee decided to allocate staff time to building March 18-20 activities nationally and to support the major regional demonstration being organized in Fayetteville, NC by UFPJ member groups. They gave clear instructions to staff that they could only put a limited amount of time and resources into building any activity in New York. On top of that, through late February staff time was focused on organizing our national assembly in St. Louis. Given all this, many people felt the UFPJ – NYC coalition didn't have the capacity to spend many hours in negotiations over language and other issues with members of the Troops Out Now Coalition.

To clarify two things: The coordinating committee of the UFPJ - NYC coalition made this decision, not the national Steering Committee of UFPJ. And at no time did we make a public announcement that we would not support or participate in this event, nor have we discouraged others from attending. The event has been listed on our website’s events calendar for weeks.

We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the situation. At this late date, and given the constraints laid out above, we still feel we cannot co-sponsor, put substantial energy into mobilizing for, or speak at the event. However, we will publicize the activity in an upcoming email action alert received by thousands of people, though we will have to make clear that we have not taken a position on support for the Iraqi resistance.

We appreciate the importance of the issues raised in your letter and take your initiative very seriously. We agree that it would be useful to find ways to discuss these issues after the weekend of March 18th- 20th. The war and occupation of Iraq and the increased war dangers challenge our movement to find as many ways possible to expand the base of the movement for peace.

In solidarity,

Members of the Coordinating Committee of United for Peace and Justice – NYC coalition*

* Organizations listed for identification purposes only.

Rusti Eisenberg, Charlotte Phillips and Tara Currie, Brooklyn Parents for Peace

Veterans For Peace-NYC, Chapter 034

Parents' Coalition to End High Stakes Testing

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Carol Wald, Peace Tax Fund

Shirley H. Young, Military Families Speak Out

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq

Kate Brennan, New York Fellowship of Reconciliation

Hany Khalil, UFPJ Organizing Coordinator

Thomas M. Good, NYC War Resisters League

Dave Dubnau, North Manhattan Neighbors for Peace and Justice

Saru Jayaraman, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York

Leslie Kielson, UFPJ-NYC representative to national UFPJ Steering Committee

Judith Le Blanc, Communist Party USA

Ted Auerbach, Lower East Side Committee Against The War

Julie Zuckerman, New Yorkers Say No to War

Monica Tarazi, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee – NY

Leslie Cagan, UFPJ National Coordinator

Jason Schulman, Democratic Socialists of America

Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester

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