Reports from Anti-War Activists

April 1, 2003

Anti-War Teach-in

The following report of a recent anti-war teach-in was written by a staff member of the Anti-Imperialist News Service (AINS), who gave one of the main talks at the event.

On March 15, I participated in a Teach-In, organized by a local anti-war coalition, at a college in the Chicago area. Anti-war activists, students and community residents participated.

The teach-in started with a main speech that exposed the U.S. government's war program. The speaker denounced the Bush administration's "international war against terrorism" as nothing but a program for world domination on behalf of the interests of U.S. monopoly corporations. The speaker emphasized that the U.S. war against Iraq is but one link in the program of war; within the last year and a half, the Bush administration has already gone to war against the peoples of Afghanistan, Palestine, the Philippines, and Colombia.

The first speaker also exposed the impact that the Bush program of militarizing the economy will have on the working people. To pay for war, Bush is already cutting social programs which go to benefit the needy.

After the main speech, two panels focused on Iraq and Palestine. The panel on Iraq exposed the real interests of the U.S. monopolies in the Persian Gulf and Iraq and explained the history of U.S. aggression including the sanctions regime that caused the deaths of many Iraqi civilians. The panel also exposed the hypocrisy of the Bush administration's "rationale" for war and pointed out the aggressive nature of the U.S. actions.

The panel on Palestine provided information on the roots and history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. It also exposed the role of U.S. imperialism which sponsors Israeli aggression and uses Israel as its forward base of operations to wage its attacks against the Palestinian and the Arab peoples.

After each panel presentation, the floor was open for people to discuss what they learned and participate by sharing their experience and desire for peace. People overwhelmingly expressed their opposition to the Bush administration's war program. Again and again, activists emphasized that the agenda of the American people is for peace and that the key to building the anti-war movement is to reach out to the masses of people.

In informal discussion afterwards, many people said that the teach-in was especially helpful because it provided space for the people to talk about the burning issues. Unlike some events, this meeting was not dominated by "experts" or discussions on sidelines issues. Rather the main political issues facing the anti-war movement were brought out and actively discussed by the whole meeting.

From Los Angeles

This letter was sent by a public school teacher in Los Angeles.

My family and I completely oppose Bush's war on the people of Iraq.

My wife, three children and my brother-in-law and his three children marched through the streets of Los Angeles alongside at least 50,000 people of all races, ages and economic backgrounds on February 15. There were nurses, doctors, teachers, students, artists, musicians, factory workers, small business owners, lawyers, government workers, grandmothers and grandfathers, pre-schoolers, and many Hollywood celebrities demonstrating against the war in Iraq.

Being part of the anti-war movement has given my wife and me more resolve to speak out against the war, on the streets and in our work places. As teachers I feel we have an obligation to discuss the war on Iraq, especially for me since I teach predominantly working class Latino youth.

Many of my students have relatives and friends in the armed forces. Unfortunately a number of them plan to join some branch of the U.S. military. They have a right to know that their lives might be used as cannon fodder for the sake of big business in the Middle East, the Philippines, Iran, North Korea, Colombia or Mexico.

Not surprisingly most of them are passionately against Bush's war on Iraq. In fact many were ready to paint antiwar signs and walk out of school when I read them an article in a local paper describing the number of high school and college walkouts that had taken place all over the LA area the day before. According to the local TV news, there were 40 local schools that had some form of student walkouts or lunch time anti-war rallies. In one high school, the vice-principal locked the doors to prevent the students from walking out to protest the war. At other schools the police were called in to make sure the lunch time rallies did not "spill out" into the streets.

The anti-protesting actions weren't confined to the high school level. At my wife's affluent middle school, the vice-principal told the teachers, on the first day of the bombing, that they cannot discuss the war in class with their students nor could they watch coverage of the war on the classroom televisions during class. This mandate also applied to the "history" teachers. The teachers felt left out of the process of deciding the school's policy on how to address the war in the classroom.

Shortly thereafter, the teachers discovered that the main circuit which powers the classroom TV's had been disconnected. The school's union representative contacted the union president, who then confronted the principal. The principal denied that the main circuit had been cut: "They must have just gone out," he claimed. The power mysteriously returned 10 minutes after the final bell.

This sort of censorship is expected in a school where the district has passed a "patriotic resolution." This resolution was passed without a teacher, parent or student vote or discussion. These undemocratic measures just go to show how unjust, immoral and bankrupt this war is. The school's administration, like the U.S. government, fears further opposition to this imperialist war.

Just because Bush feels that it is time for a "regime change" in Baghdad does not give him the right to use state sanctioned terrorism on the men, women and children of Iraq so that our government can impose a pro-American imperialist government on the Iraqi people -- a regime that will guarantee American oil companies the right to dominate and profit from Iraqi oil.

It is up to the people of Iraq to determine their own affairs and not up to any foreign power to decide what kind of government Iraq should have. We as Americans should continue to demand that our government respect the national sovereignty of Iraq and end the war immediately. We should also continue to stand up against the attacks on our democratic right to dissent and speak out against this pre-emptive imperialist intervention.

The federal government has billions of dollars for its rain of terror on the people of Iraq, but there is a fiscal deficit in Washington when it comes to funding education and other social services in this country. District after district across California and the nation are eliminating teaching positions because of the state and local budget deficits. In my district, Chino Valley Unified, they are planning to cut 144 positions. Eighty-four (84) are classroom teachers. The rest are a combination of school nurses, reading specialists, librarians, and counselors. I am one of those 84 teachers who received a "reduction in force" notice two weeks ago. So much for leaving no child behind.

The teachers and our union are not letting this matter go uncontested. We are doing what we can to challenge these "reductions in force." A couple of students have even initiated a petition drive to keep the teachers in their current positions. The working class has to be proactive against the governments anti-social agenda and against its imperialist wars.

The Story of My Arrest

The following item is excerpted from a detailed letter written by Stefanie Shanebrook describing her arrest for participation in an anti-war demonstration of some 15,000 people in Chicago on March 20.

"It is with great urgency I write to you to share my experience of being taken as a political prisoner in my own country. Along with hundreds of other peaceful protesters in Chicago (approximately 900), I was taken into custody and held by the police for over 12 hours. My closest friend was also taken into custody.

On Thursday March 20, the peaceful anti-war protest began, as planned, at 5pm in Federal Plaza, where a huge group of people assembled, and listened to speakers who announced repeatedly that we would soon begin to march. The Chicago Tribune reports that they never announced we would be marching -- this is utterly false....

Leaving Daley Plaza, we marched down Jackson, headed north on Michigan Ave., and east on Monroe.... We had police escorts on horseback trotting at our side as we proceeded across Columbus drive and onto Lakeshore Drive (a major 6 lane artery along Chicago's lakefront.) I will say now, and will continue to reiterate, that at no point was I or anyone around me asked by the police to disperse.... I would like to emphasize how overwhelmingly positive and peaceful the march was -- I witnessed NO acts of violence or aggression by any protester."

After further describing the route of the march and the increasingly restrictive actions of the police, the author writes: "eventually we realized that there was a phalanx of riot police blocking us in on either end and, it seemed to me, from the north as well. These two lines of police officers moved closer and closer towards us. There is simply no other word to describe these actions by the police, and those leading up to them, except corralling. As the police lines moved closer to us we chanted "Let us go" and "Let us go home peacefully."...

We were never read our rights nor told what we were being charged with. Many girls complained that their restraints were painfully tight. Eventually the officers removed some, but many suffered with blue fingers for the entire ride. I was able to slip out of mine, but one girl was not so lucky, screaming in pain as they finally removed them at the precinct. Her wrist was cut, her hand was swollen, and she said that she was sure it was broken....

Throughout our experience it became painfully clear that all actions taken against us were a concerted effort to intimidate us and prevent us from feeling free to speak out or assemble in public....

At one point, we were lined up in the hallway, sworn at and humiliated by female police officers who called us "f-ing idiots" and were told "welcome to the grown-up world," although some of the protesters in custody were over age 60....

We were moved to a fourth cell, where a total of 14 of us ended up, most of us sprawled on the floor. We had to create a barricade each time we needed to use the toilet, as a male officer frequently passed by the open barred cell. My friend witnessed two girls bound together in shackles in the hallway. One was diabetic, and the other epileptic, and had been taken to the hospital so that they could take their medications. They were shackled upon their return....

I have no regrets about my experience, as I never committed a crime.... I want everyone to know exactly what happened to me, so that they may imagine the scope of what goes on in our law enforcement and penal system everyday. We all need to rely on real information, not the mass media, to learn about the real situation in our country. In this sense it's good so many of us were arrested -- this means we will each tell everyone we know about our experiences and the people of Chicago will know what really happened that day. We are truly living in a police state where people are being held as political prisoners. It is clear that the police are actively suppressing the overwhelming anti-war sentiment among U.S. citizens.