Give Peace a Hand

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<b>Anti-war sentiment takes centre stage as thousands protest the annual fall meetings the IMF and World Bank</b>

Thousands converged in Washington, D.C. this past weekend to protest the annual fall meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, but the impending war on Iraq dominated the demonstrations.

Anti-Capitalist Convergence

For the first time since September 11 last year, activists in the United States engaged in mass direct actions.

The Anti-Capitalist Convergence (ACC) organized the People’s Strike on Friday, a series of un-permitted actions to “shut the city down.” Cyclists clogged downtown D.C. streets in a “Bike Against Big Oil” ride. A “Put the Squeeze on Corporate Greed” march snaked its way through morning traffic. Percussion protests beat the anti-war drums against attacking Iraq. And affinity groups — small activist clusters — engaged in autonomous actions.

Police arrested 649 peaceful protesters on Friday, a pre-emptive strike meant to dissuade others from attending the remainder of the weekend’s actions. Despite the arrests organizers felt the People’s Strike was a success.

Rami Elamine, an ACC organizer: “People have been very timid up to this point. On Friday we broke through that barrier for a significant number of activists and that will help us in the future.”

Elamine’s affinity group surrounded Dupont Circle with anti-war banners, leafleting pedestrians and motorists. Drivers honked in support and workers rushing to their jobs thanked them for standing up against the war.

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Mobilization for Global Justice

Despite Friday’s arrests, seven thousand rallied at the base of the Washington Monument on Saturday then marched to the fenced off IMF and World Bank headquarters.

Nora Cortinas from the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina expressed the growing recognition of the link between war and globalization.

“We say no to the external debt, no to the FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas], no to the militarization of our country and no to war. We say no to war because war brings death to people and spending on arms instead of feeding hungry children. We say we need to cancel the external debt. We’ve paid it twenty-five times over in interest — we’re done with it. It’s an illegitimate debt and it’s being used by the World Bank and the IMF to further exploit our country,” she said.

“And we say no to the FTAA because it’s the recolonization of all of the Americas. Not just of Latin America but it also touches Canada, Mexico and the United States,” she concluded.

Ralph Nader, the Green Party presidential candidate in the 2000 elections, questioned the impact war would have at home in the United States.

“Our government is spending $380 billion this year preparing for war. They’re not spending that money to wage peace. Imagine what this could contribute towards the necessities in our fifty states where poverty is increasing, where unemployment is increasing, where affordable housing is more difficult to get, where children are living in dire poverty, where two bread winners can’t make ends meet, where environments are being devastated by contamination to the air, water and soil, where corporations are running amok, obstructing solar energy from replacing fossil fuels,” he said.

Vanessa Dixon from the Washington, D.C. Health Care Coalition echoed Nader’s sentiments: “War is the wrong priority.” A member of the Service Employees International Union, Dixon has been fighting the closure of the city’s only public hospital, D.C. General.

“The World Bank policies devastate people around the world. Everyone is very clear about the devastation that happens in the so-called Third World countries. What sometimes is not so clear is the level of devastation that occurs in the U.S. and right here in the nation’s capital,” she said.

The World Bank and IMF do not pay taxes on their combined $800 million in property nor do they pay corporate taxes on their combined value of $8 billion, explained Dixon. “At the same time as the citizens of Washington, D.C. are being denied access to those precious dollars; services that would help the poor are being cut because we have a $300-million deficit,” said Dixon.

Brock Towler, a student from North Carolina, carried a sign that read, “IMF and War — and you thought four letter words were dirty.”

“This is not benefiting us; it’s benefiting a tiny minority at the top. More and more people are beginning to see that it doesn’t trickle down and it never will. It only ends up hurting people just like us in other countries and one day it’s going to come back to haunt us. That’s why we have to stand up and oppose the IMF and World Bank and any U.S. military actions,” he said.

Becky Johnson, a Radical Cheerleader in the Syracus System Shakers Squad performed anti-war and anti-globalization cheers.

“I don’t feel a lot of support for this war on Iraq,” she said, “and I hear a lot of people, even those who have supported Bush in his other campaigns, saying ‘I don’t know about this one.’”

Kay Mofmatt and Mike Perry are in that category. Mofmatt, a member of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) from Charleston West Virginia was marching against the IMF and World Bank polices but was also reluctant to support war on Iraq.

“I think we should do everything we can before we go to war. I’ve got a son in the military that I worry about and I’d rather not go to war if we don’t have to.”

Perry, President of CWA local 2001 and a veteran of the Vietnam War, was also reluctant to support a war for oil. “Do I believe we’d be attacking Iraq if it wasn’t an oil rich country? No. No way in hell we’d be attacking them. We wouldn’t care. We absolutely wouldn’t care,” he said.

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Don’t Attack Iraq

Over 3,000 marched against the war in Iraq on Sunday from Dupont Circle to U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney’s residence.

Ryan Amundson, a member of the September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows spoke against the threatened war. Amundson lost his older brother in the attacks on the World Trade Center last year.

“We don’t want any war anywhere. We don’t want anyone anywhere to go through the same thing that we’ve already suffered,” said the twenty-four-year-old from Parkville, Missouri. “Iraq has nothing to do with September 11. There has been no credible evidence. It’s very upsetting to see the September 11 events used to justify this war on Iraq.

“We know that many, many innocent people will die. We know that many soldiers will die. When it comes down to it, war in Iraq is not going to solve the problem. We feel it will bring much more insecurity, rather than peace,” he said.

Many at Sunday’s peace demonstration had been there before — protesting war and urging Washington to give peace a chance. It doesn’t have to be discouraging to think of how long the fight have been for peace, says Radical cheerleader Becky Johnson. She takes inspiration from the success of the anti-Vietnam war movement, but notes: “Let’s stop it before it starts this time.”

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