Oakland longshore union honors antiwar picket, shuts down port
International Longshore and Warehouse Union locals stopped work at the Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) gates at the Port of Oakland on May 19. Union workers honored a community picket line demanding an end to military shipments to occupied Iraq. Three ships sat at the SSA docks, and cargo did not move. Pickets continued throughout the day.
Picket line organizer Jonathan Nack explained to indybay.org, “Itís very important to understand that the union members knew they were risking losing their pay. Yet member after member told me that there is no way they that they would cross the picket line. These workers took a stand to end the war, and demand the Port give more money to fund local schools and social services.”
The picket was called by the Port Action Committee, an ad hoc grouping of anti-war, labor, and community organizations. The protest was endorsed by Mayor Ron Dellums. Port Action organized a rally on April 7th in front of the Port office building which commemorated the four year anniversary of the day Oakland police attacked non-violent anti-war protesters at the Port.
Similar protests took place earlier in the year in Aberdeen, Olympia and Tacoma, Washington.
Voices of Iraqi Workers Solidarity Tour June 2007
Two labor leaders from Iraq are visiting their US counterparts in 12-city tour in June, sponsored by US Labor Against the War. The tour seeks to build ties between US and Iraqi workers, while bringing the antiwar, anti-occupation message closer to home for organized labor.
Faleh Abood Umara is General Secretary of the Southern Oil Company Union, Iraqi Federation of Oil Workersí Unions. He leads an independent, secular union representing 23,000 oil workers in Basra, Amara, and Nassirriyah. In 1998, he was detained by the Hussein regime for his union activities. Umara has served on the unionís negotiating team with both the Oil Ministry and British occupation authorities to defend the rights and interests of oil industry workers in the post-Saddam era.
Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein is President of the Electrical Utility Workers Union- General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW). The first woman to head a national union in Iraq, she is head of the Women Workers’ Bureau and is a leader in the Iraqi Women’s Association. In June 2006, the union organized large demonstrations to protest government decisions to hire private contractors to do reconstruction work, replacing the industryís own employees. The GFIW now claims 200,000 members from Iraqís diverse ethnic and religious population, representing Iraqís core industries.
To share information on the Iraqi labor movement, go to www.uslaboragainstwar.org.
Operation First Casualty Occupies New York
Truth is the first casualty of war. We’re bringing the truth of the war home.”—Demond Mullins, 25, of Brooklyn, who served in Iraq as an infantryman with the Army National Guard in 2004 and 2005.
“By reenacting what we’ve been through in Iraq we hope to inspire more of our fellow Americans to act to end the war now,” said IVAW member Adam Kokesh, 25, of Washington, DC, who served in Fallujah with the Marine Corps in 2004.
On May 27 the streets of NYC were patrolled by a squad of Iraq war combat veterans. The soldiers, in full uniform and pointing imaginary assault rifles, encountered a group of civilians along the way. They threw the civilians to the ground, cuffed them and searched them. The soldiers shouted orders and put bags on the heads of their captives. They lined subsequent groups of civilians (suspected enemy combatants) up against the wall, singling one person out for interrogation. These scenes unfolded against the backdrop of Times Square, Central Park, Union Square and Grand Army Plaza. On-lookers stopped dead in their tracks, staring. Supporters quickly passed out flyers explaining the action:
This is Operation First Casualty.
The first casualty in war is truth.
Right now somewhere in Iraq a scene like this is playing itself out, often with deadly results. Right now our troops are caught in the middle of violent occupation where they are unwanted by the majority of Iraqi people. …The truth is the occupation must end now and you can help us.
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) orchestrated this street theater action, with support from the WRL and others. IVAW is made up of servicemembers who have been in the armed services since 9/11. They are young, dynamic, and either fresh out of the military or still in it. IVAW’s New York chapter set up shop in WRL’s national office this spring. Our work on Operation First Casualty OFC was an important next step in our collaboration. WRL worked closely in a support role with IVAW during the planning stages of the action. IVAW guided the overall direction with WRL playing clearly defined support roles. Largely, WRL helped recruit and prepare the civilian volunteers and assisted in coordinating media.
Operation First Casualty was a tremendous success. Thousands of New Yorkers were able to witness the daily reality of occupation for soldiers and Iraqi civilians. The message that “a growing number of troops say end the war now” was indisputable. And that message was spread beyond just the New Yorkers who saw it firsthand; IVAW’s afternoon press conference was well attended and the media coverage extensive.
Groups like IVAW are playing a vital role in coordinating the growing number of troops who want to express their opposition to the war. During the prep training the day before the action, a man came over and introduced himself, saying that he was just out of the military and frustrated with the war. He had seen everyone wearing IVAW t-shirts and wanted more information. This is a regular occurrence for IVAW members. Wherever they go, vets come up to them and ask how they can get involved.
Antiwar groups like WRL have an important opportunity to support groups like IVAW. We were overjoyed to work with IVAW on this action. Though the WRL played a meaningful and important role in the action, we took direction from IVAW. We all recognized the importance of amplifying the voices of veterans and GI resisters. All the theater, images, materials, spokespeople and press work served this end.
Highlighting vets and supporting veteran-led actions moves the whole antiwar movement closer to winning. Veterans are very effective messengers for the antiwar message. They know the reality of the war on the ground in Iraq. Their stories cannot be refuted. Their accounts are powerful, personal stories of why the war must end.
A strong, visible movement of troops who oppose the war exposes the false dichotomy that we have to choose between supporting the troops and ending the war. This gives the antiwar movement new legitimacy in mainstream America. If the troops who are on the ground immersed in the daily activities of enforcing an occupation don’t support the war, who will? Supporting antiwar veteran-led events and actions also helps swell their numbers, evidenced by the increase in IVAW membership applications following each action they do.
Veteran groups speaking out against the war deserve the full support of the antiwar movement. Here at WRL we are looking forward to working further with IVAW. We are currently writing a manual for civilian volunteers who will be playing support roles in future IVAW actions. We also encourage local WRL chapters to look for ways to develop relationships with veterans and GI resisters in their areas.
IVAW is planning another Operation First Casualty for Chicago later this month. Check them out at www.ivaw.org
- Madeline Gardner
National demo targets US role Israeli occupation
More than 5,000 demonstrators from all over the country hit the Capitol and marched to the White House on June 10 to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The occupation has created a desperate situation of collective punishment and suffering for almost 4 million Palestinians.
The demonstration was sponsored by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and United for Peace and Justice. More than 300 organizations nationwide participated.
A broad diversity of speakers and participants came from almost every state, faith, and ethnic group. In the aftermath, activists met with their Congressional Representatives and Senators to call for a change in US foreign policy in the Middle East.
“This day has global importance,” stated Phyllis Bennis of the US Campaign to End the Israel Occupation. “While we say no to US support for Israeli occupation, our counterparts from all around the world are saying the same message to their own governments.” Reports of June 10 actions came from more than 25 countries.
Florida farmworkers shame fast food giants
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), representing mostly Latino farmworkers who pick the veggies for fast food dishes, has brought Taco Bell and McDonald’s to heel through public pressure. Now theyíre targeting Burger King.
The Coalition negotiated with McDonald’s a small but significant raise in the price of tomatoes, to be added to farmworkers’ wages. The win for CIW came days before the culmination of the workers’ “Truth Tour,” which trekked from Immokalee, Florida to “Mickey D” corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. The April 19 mass gathering in Chicago was intended to launch a boycott of McDonald’s, but became a victory party instead.
CIW executive director Lucas Benitez used the occasion to announce a new campaign against Burger King. Addressing the gathering, he proclaimed, “Today we are sending a message to Miami,” the corporate “Home of the Whopper.” Benitez, the New-Standard reported (4/19/07), invoked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., calling on farmworkers to “walk like he would like to have seen us do, united toward a promised land.”
CIW used similar tactics to win an agreement with Taco Bell in 2005.
Students go on hunger strike, sit in against UC nuclear weapons development
Ongoing protests against the University of California’s role in developing nuclear weapons continued in spring, 2007. On May 16, a meeting in San Francisco of the UC Board of Regents was disrupted when scores of protesters intervened, demanding an end to the schools management of weapons-developing Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near Berkeley.
Demonstrators filtered into the meeting room as the Committee on Oversight of the DOE Laboratories prepared to hear a report on the National Nuclear Security Administrationís vision for the Nuclear Weapons Complex of 2030.
Protesters asked the regents to open discussion on the management of the labs as the committee began its meeting until the regents decided to recess. Thirteen protesters, including six hunger striking UC students, sat down, linked arms and announced their intention to stay. They were arrested by UC police.
The federal government recently put management of both labs up for competitive bids. UC, in partnership with Bechtel Corp. and other companies, won both contracts, worth as much as $125 million a year combined. The two laboratories launched a “Reliable Replacement Warhead Program” to produce new, more technologically advanced nuclear warheads.
NYCLU frees NYPD documents on 2004 movement spying
The New York Civil Liberties Union made public 600 pages of NYPD intelligence documents that detail a political surveillance operation of peace movement activity before the Republican National Convention.
The documents, released on May 16, show that police officers infiltrated political meetings and monitored listservs for years before the Republican National Convention, often recording information about activity that was completely peaceful and lawful.
Now that the documents are public they will also be subject to close scrutiny by the attorneys on the long-standing federal case Handschu v. Special Services Division, which has resulted in a series of court orders regulating police surveillance of political demonstrations and activities.
The NYCLU released the documents after New York City abandoned an effort to keep them secret. The city abandoned its secrecy effort in the face of a May 4 ruling, by federal Judge James Francis IV, that the documents should not be kept under wraps.
“These documents paint a picture of a surveillance program that was broad, clumsy, and often unlawful,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “The NYPD failed to differentiate between unlawful behavior and behavior that is not only lawful but should in fact be cherished and protected.” The documents, and Judge Francisís decision, are available online at www.nyclu.org/rncdocs.
Cindy Sheehan’s challenge
Note: Cindy Sheehan issued this statement in May 2007 renouncing her unsought position as the “‘Face’ of the American anti-war movement.” The statement, entitled “Good Riddance, Attention Whore,” speaks for itself, but we at WIN view this as a serious challenge to the peace movement to reflect and discuss our current situation. We ask readers to respond to Cindy's concerns, and we wish her all the best, with deep gratitude for her courage and her contributions to peace.
I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called “Face” of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such “liberal blogs” as the Democratic Underground. Being called an “attention whore” and being told “good riddance” are some of the more milder rebukes.
I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.
The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a ìtoolî of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our “two-party” system?
However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the ìleftî started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of ìright or leftî, but “right and wrong.”
I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we donít find alternatives to this corrupt “two” party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I donít see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that personís heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?
I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an ìattention whoreî then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a “grateful” country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.
The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.
I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.
Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our childrenís children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.
I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.
Camp Casey has served its purpose. Itís for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford, Texas? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, tooÖwhich makes the property even more valuable.
This is my resignation letter as the “face” of the American anti-war movement. This is not my “Checkers” moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.
Good-bye America… you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I canít make you be that country unless you want it.
It’s up to you now.
Rome welcomes Bush: 'Outta Here!'
Thousands of protesters gathered in Rome on June 10 to protest against globalization, as President Bush met with Pope Benedict at the Vatican. The Italian authorities deployed 10,000 police officers to ensure that no violence would erupt as tens of thousands marched through the streets to also protest against wars and the deployment of troops in foreign countries.
Anti-globalization protesters and leftists marched peacefully as helicopters hovered overhead. Peace activists carried rainbow-colored peace flags and banners, which read "No to Wars" and "Bush Out."
There was a moment of tension when the demonstration entered the central Piaaza Venezia and was greeted by police in full riot gear, with helmets on and shields up. In the end, violence erupted as a group of demonstrators put on facemasks in defiance of a police order, and threw bottles and other objects at the police. The police responded with tear gas.