Antiwar organizations across the country have called for Oct. 17 to be a national day of local and regional actions protesting the continuation of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are responding to a Pentagon official who asked the White House to consider escalating the number of American soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. Events are being organized here in Minneapolis, Duluth, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orlando, Kansas City, Boston, Albany, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Seattle, Milwaukee, and many others. Antiwar activists hope that the coordinated demonstrations on Oct. 17 will send a message to politicians that a majority of people in the U.S. oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama has already approved an escalation of soldiers serving in Afghanistan to about 68,000 by the end of 2009. The top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has asked that it be increased to more than 108,000 soldiers. (This estimate does not include armed services that are privately contracted by the United States government.) Other Pentagon officials have admitted that escalating the war in Afghanistan is a major security and political commitment that will last at least a decade and will cost taxpayers trillions of dollars.
Opponents to the war claim concern for friends and family in the military and other armed forces who are currently fighting in the Middle East. They think we should not put American lives at risk by fighting a war that is not necessary. The devastating effects of experiencing battle in war-torn countries are causing many soldiers to return from the Middle East with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression and many are committing suicide.
The Iraq Peace Action Coalition (IPAC) is coordinating a march and rally in Uptown that will bring together local artistic talent and community demand to bring our troops home. They are a Twin Cities antiwar coalition that is dedicated to ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and protesting the expansion of these wars into Iran and Pakistan.
The closing rally will be at Loring Park and is meant to incorporate politics into people’s everyday activities and culture. Dan DiMaggio, a member of IPAC, said they hope to “get people excited about getting involved with the antiwar movement.” Popular culture and issues of justice are a part of conversations we have every day with co-workers, family and friends. Dani Indovino, a member of Socialist Alternative (SA) that is sponsoring the events, said, “People tend to think of politics as being in a box separate from art, music and friends. But it is something we are all involved in every day.” SA is a national organization that “fights in our workplaces, communities and campuses against the exploitation and injustices that people face every day. [It] promotes workers’ rights and democratic unions, speaks out against racism, organizes against sweatshops and war, demands papers for all undocumented workers, and fights against sexism and homophobia.”
The rally will be an exhibition of politics through theater, music and education of antiwar issues. Junkyard Empire, a local hip-hop group, is set to perform at the rally in Loring Park. Coordinating the lineup of local and politically motivated bands for the event is Substance, a nonprofit booking and promotions group. The organization is “devoted to merging music, arts and nonpartisan progressive activism. Substance organizes events in collaboration with other nonprofits and activist organizations, promotes independent art as political in itself, presents music as a catalyst for progressive change, and works to reduce the negative social and environmental impacts of the music industry.” For an updated list of bands for the event, visit www.livewithsubstance.org.
The Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) Peace Troupe will be performing a satirical skit at Loring Park about the current health-care debate, called “Billion-aires for Healthcare: Billions for Warfare! Nothing for Healthcare!” WAMM is a “nonviolent, feminist organization that works in solidarity with others to create a system of social equality, self-determination and justice through education, action and the empowerment of women. The organization’s purpose is to dismantle the system of militarism, economic exploitation, and global oppression.” With the current economic situation, many believe that the trillions of dollars in taxpayer money being used for war and foreign occupations should instead be used to fix domestic problems such as creating jobs, securing home ownership and providing health care.
Josh Lucker of the Workers International League (WIL) will address concerns that an escalation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will expand military action into Iran and Pakistan. Antiwar advocates say the occupations have not liberated Iraq and Afghanistan and that Middle Eastern peoples have the right to run their own countries. WIL, another sponsor, “promotes international socialism, where the world working class has full democratic control over the means of production, distribution, and exchange, in harmony with the environment.”
Other speakers at the event will include Sami Rasouli and his son Tariq, who are Iraqi-Americans; a representative from FMLN Minnesota, Fusi Slisli, who recently returned from Palestine; Wayne Wittman of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, and many more.
Other local organizations sponsoring the Minneapolis events on Oct. 17 include the Anti-War Committee, Bread and Roses Forum of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Burnsville and Eagan Peace Vigil, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Growing Communities for Peace, Hands Off Venezuela, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Lyndale United Church of Christ, Mayday Books, Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, Minnesota Tenants Union, Military Families Speak Out, Minnesota Cuba Committee, Pakistan Trade Union Defense Campaign, St. Joan of Arc Peacemakers, the Peace and Justice Committee of Sacred Heart Church, Socialist Action, Students for a Democratic Society (UMTC), Twin Cities Peace Campaign-Focus on Iraq, Veterans for Peace, Welfare Rights Committee, and the White Bear Unitarian Church Social Action Committee.
The Minneapolis protest will gather in front of Walker Library in Uptown (Hennepin and Lagoon Avenues) at 1 p.m., and at 1:30 p.m. will march to the closing rally at Loring Park.