Anti-war movement seeks allies

Protesters shut down San Francisco on March 20, 2003.
Bill Hackwell

By Jobert Poblete

This Saturday (March 20) will mark the seventh anniversary of the Iraq war and local groups are mobilizing for another round of protests to oppose the occupation of Iraq and the expansion of the war into Afghanistan. But this year's program will also highlight local struggles as well, with speakers delving into the fight for more public education funding and the march passing by two hotels where union workers are in strained negotiations for a new contract.

The protest is being organized by ANSWER – Act Now to Stop War and End Racism – a coalition notorious for its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to protest. Besides its plugs for Iraq, Afghanistan, public education, and local labor struggles, flyers promoting Saturday's protest include demands around jobs, Palestine, Latin America, and Haiti. ANSWER organizer Chris Banks told us that these seemingly disparate issues are connected.

“There is a finite amount of resources in our society,” Banks said. “And if those resources are used on wars and to bail out banks, then we can't use them for schools, health care, and public transit. The wall between foreign policy and domestic policy is a fictitious wall.”

This year's protest will focus on the economic crisis and on “bailing out people instead of banks.” Students who helped organize the recent March 4 Day of Action are part of the coalition mobilizing for the Saturday protest and students and teachers will be among the speakers at the rally at Civic Center. Protest endorsers include the United Educators of San Francisco, a union that represents more than 6,000 public school employees. Dennis Kelly, president of UESF, told us that the protest “ties directly in with our concerns about the California state budget, that the priorities being set are the wrong priorities.”

The rally will be followed by a march that will pass by the Hilton and the Four Seasons, two hotels where members of Unite Here Local 2 are without a contract because of a negotiating impasse with management. The biggest point of contention between the hotels and union is over health care. (Union members currently pay $10 a month for family coverage but the hotels want to increase that to $200 a month.)

Israel Alvaran, a community organizer at Local 2, said that the health care issue provides a connective thread between the anti-war movement and his union's struggles. “We believe in stopping the wars in the Middle East,” Alvaran said. “They're driving the war economy that's preventing people at home from getting affordable health care, public education, programs for creating jobs and building the economy.”

Alvaran hopes the March 20 protest will help raise the visibility of hotel workers and show the hotel corporations that the union has broad community support. He also said that including workers' struggles in the protest is important because it exposes young activists joining the anti-war movement to labor and union issues.

Banks echoed this desire to raise public consciousness about local issues. “As much as possible, we want people to make the connection between local struggles and imperialist wars,” Banks said. “People go into political motion for different reasons. We want them to come out on March 20 and they'll have opportunities to hear speakers representing different movements.”

Saturday's protest will begin with a rally at Civic Center Plaza at 11 a.m. At noon, protesters will march through downtown San Francisco before returning to Civic Center. 


Besides its plugs for Iraq, Afghanistan, public education, and local labor struggles, flyers promoting Saturday's protest include demands around jobs, Palestine, Latin America, and Haiti.


Why isn't Pakistan in there?

ANSWER should add Pakistan to their list since Bush3 (Obama) has been droning Pakistan repeatedly since he took office, which is a war crime. He talked about attacking Pakistan during the campaign, but most of Mr Change's believers chose not to hear that. They chose to hear "hope" and "change we can believe in" only. Then shortly after Mr Change's coronation, he started droning Pakistan. This man couldn't wait to kill innocent people, just like Bush/Cheney. Mr Change's believers tried to make excuses and apologies for him by saying, "this must be left over from Bush." Uh no, sucker, this was not left over from Bush and if you had been paying close attention to what your Obama said during the campaign you would know that "it's not left over from Bush."

It would be best to have a demonstration/protest for EACH of these problems/topics, but We The People only have 365 days in a year. And if ANSWER didn't organize these protests, who would?

As for the topic of health care, I have lost all respect for Dennis Kucinich. He has done a "flip"---after being adamantly opposed to it---to go along with The Chairman of Change (Obama) on this mangled health "care" bailout to the insurance/pharma industries that he (Kucinich) admits is a sham, but yet he's going to vote for it now. Well screw you, Kucinich.

Posted by Sam on Mar. 18, 2010 @ 7:21 pm


Posted by GuestScott on Mar. 19, 2010 @ 6:33 am

go ahead...sleep. it's your future

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2010 @ 9:57 am

If you don't like the demonstrations/protests organized by ANSWER, you could organize your own. Although I suspect not too many people would show up unless you have the financial resources of ANSWER, although you wouldn't have their name recognition.

I suspect the turnout for the ANSWER demonstration will be lower for several reasons. Demonstrations have gotten smaller in size over the years. These wars/occupations are now considered "old" by many people. Many of the Obama believers haven't even been paying close attention to what he's been doing to continue the neocon Bush agenda. Of those who have been paying attention, some of them are making excuses for him because he's from their political "team." And of course they are hypocrites because they rightly screamed when Bush was doing the same they are silent or of the mind that they can't be critical of their "messiah." And I've been using that term---long before the rabid regressives adopted it---after observing the behavior of the Obama believers. Many, if not most, of the Obama believers gave (and still give) unconditional, blind devotion to this man after allowing themselves to be duped by his simplistic marketing slogans of "hope" and "change we can believe in." When actually what he meant was more of the same. Period.

That's one advantage of being nonpartisan or an independent (which is what I am). I don't need or want a political "team" to cheer lead for or defend or make excuses for, the way the D and R team believers do. But most people were indoctrinated/brainwashed with that "my team is better than your team" mentality. In reality, both D and R "teams" are corporate scum and both "teams" are full of war criminals, including the one sitting in the White House.

Posted by Sam on Mar. 19, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

The organizers should be adding the Obama Administration's plans to deploy a missile shield in Romania and to extend NATO to the Ukraine and Georgia to the list of things to protest. Their opposition to the wars would be a lot more effective if they brought public attention to why the Administration and Congress are now quietly considering reducing Medicare spending as well as raising the retirement age for Social Security (by way of a bipartisan commission) rather than reducing military spending. In a fight between the grey panthers and the military-industrial complex, my bets would be on the panthers.

Posted by Colin V. Gallagher on Mar. 19, 2010 @ 9:45 am

Demonstrations don't seem to accomplish anything anymore. For one thing, the big ones are the weekend family-friendly ones, which have no chance of having any effect whatsoever. If people are not willing to take off work or school for even one day in order to disrupt business as usual, they will not accomplish anything. The demonstrations that have had significant effects have brought large numbers into the streets who stayed there until they got what they demanded. The politicians who support or go along with wars don't feel threatened by weekend demos. You have to show you're serious for them to take notice.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Mar. 19, 2010 @ 10:03 pm

I don't know about the previous sleepy comment, but for me stopping the war and worker justice are still as compelling, but the demos organized by both Answer and Local 2 are sleepers. Both groups seem to have tightly orchestrated, boring rallies where the same things happen all the time. Both need to interject more creativity into their struggles.

The demos that made connections to aramament shipments in Oakland or Chevron's profits were more likely to capture the public imagination.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 24, 2010 @ 9:50 pm