By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Also, there’s no draft. One of the more brilliant strategies of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz was to march an all-volunteer Army into combat. Young men of draft age, and their parents, may still oppose U.S. policies, but they will do so with far less urgency than they would if teenagers were being plucked from the streets against their will to go fight in the desert.
Another thing — it’s still early. Anti-war activists say the biggest protests against the Vietnam War did not begin until a year after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964, and even then it took more than five years for anti-war protests to become anything close to mainstream.
On top of those differences comes the fact that we are in the midst of a presidential election year.
“Those people that still believe there’s a significant difference between Democrats and Republicans abandon the streets to get McGovern elected, or Kennedy, or McCarthy,” said Lafferty. “Marchers become part of MoveOn.org.”
In other words, there is a firm belief that ANSWER’s strategy of staying out of the political system is dead wrong, at least for the majority of the peace movement. Like the women at the ANSWER-L.A. meeting, they believe Bush is the problem, and that Kerry either isn’t being straightforward when he talks about keeping U.S. troops in Iraq — because, after all, he needs to be elected — or else he means what he says but can be trusted to do a better job of managing the war as well as the peace.
That gives business-suited Democrats and radical anarchists common cause in New York, and they are expected in such large numbers that the leadership provided by United for Peace and Justice and ANSWER may be beside the point. As United for Peace and Justice rallies on the West Side Highway, because Michael Bloomberg said he wanted to preserve the grass in Central Park, thousands of marchers are expected to leave the organizers and take their vocal dissent, without permits, to the park.
“I do fall in the ‘Anybody but Bush’ category,” said Susan Philips a week before her planned trip to New York and the protests. “This is the most dangerous administration I’ve lived through, and I can’t imagine Kerry ever being as bad as Bush.”
Philips is one of several organizers of Neighbors for Peace and Justice, a group of Silver Lake and Echo Park residents that holds weekly peace vigils and spreads the gospel of the movement the old-fashioned way — by talking to people, on the street, in the park, at the mall. The group has inspired similar efforts in other neighborhoods, but there is no umbrella organization, no formal tie — just a common name and a common commitment to talk about peace.
“You feel you have to do something,” explained Adele Wallace. “You can’t just sit and do nothing. We’ve decided now, our main goal is to get rid of Bush. In the meantime I’m thrilled that someone has organized these huge demonstrations. I don’t even know how they did it, and I don’t even know who they are. They do seem to throw in every issue into these rallies. But nobody else has stepped in to do it.”
The group’s Kit Kollenberg recalled a Vietnam rally at the Coliseum at which, to everyone’s surprise, organizers asked protesters to group themselves by ZIP code. The move meant many people who were neighbors, who didn’t know each other, met and began organizing peace networks.
“That’s what ANSWER should have done,” chimed in Art Goldberg, a self-described old lefty who helped lead the Free Speech and anti-war movements at Berkeley. “We had these demonstrations and they were a wasted opportunity. There were two fatal flaws. They were a sectarian group, and that’s a problem. And there was no way for them to know, intuitively, how to reach out and contact people, and to build. They should have done like Kit said. That’s so important in L.A.”
The Neighbors for Peace and Justice group may well have agreed with my friend from the 2002 march that worrying over my protest wardrobe was pathetic, as was, perhaps, my disengagement until now. But they didn’t let on, and in fact seemed happy to welcome me on board.
“There was a whole generation that was asleep,” Goldberg said.
Besides, Philips said, wardrobe is a concern in one sense. “We have friends who want us to wear armor,” she said.
Goldberg, Kollenberg, Philips, Wallace and thousands of others like them who conduct peace vigils and living-room anti-war talks all over the country will be marching over the next few days in New York, oblivious to any calls to get the U.S. out of Korea or to free Mumia. They will be there to call for an end to the Bush administration, and to the war, even if they follow a banner unfurled by members of the Workers World Party. They may be the answer, even if ANSWER is not.
“I find I talk to everybody now,” Kollenberg explained. “Whether it’s the termite man or the person I’m sitting next to on the plane. People are against the war, and we have to do what we can to get the message out.”
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