By John Catalinotto/Workers World
The first meeting in New York City of the United National Antiwar Committee put on the map plans for a major regional anti-war action on April 9. More than 300 people packed the main space at the Church of St. Marks on the Bowery on Nov. 6 to hear the coalition’s plans and decided to commit to a spring protest.
Hanadi Doleh of Al-Awda,
The Palestine Right to
WW photo: John Catalinotto
UNAC co-chairperson Joe Lombardo explained that the meeting was continuing work begun last July when 800 people met at a national conference in Albany, N.Y., and voted to hold major anti-war actions next April in San Francisco and New York.
The Albany conference was notable for opposing any U.S. or Israeli military actions against Iran as well as all U.S. support for Israel. These positions were arrived at after a struggle within the coalition.
UNAC succeeded in attracting support from significant Muslim organizations such as the Muslim Peace Coalition USA. Not only were Muslims and South Asians strong on the podium, they were present throughout the meeting. Hanadi Doleh spoke from Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition and Shoshi Chowdhury spoke from Desis Rising Up & Moving, an organization of South Asians in the New York area. Both speakers are young women active in the struggle. A dramatic moment occurred when Malik Mujahid, founder of the MPC, called on all Muslims present to stand — and it looked like 50 people stood up.
WESPAC Executive Director Nada Khader, World Can’t Wait, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Raging Grannies, Thomas Merton Center and Connecticut United for Peace were also on the program, plus a delegation of anti-war activists the FBI targeted this fall.
The organizers packed a hefty agenda into four intense hours. At the same time, to demonstrate the growing breadth of support for the relatively new coalition in the New York area, they invited speakers from more than 25 organizations to give short talks or one-minute callouts of solidarity. Unlike the Albany conference, where points were debated and voted on, this meeting aimed at energizing support for the spring mobilization.
Discussion took place in three panels:
1. Building an anti-war movement that integrates Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
2. Defending our movement: Fighting the attacks on Muslim Americans and immigrants, including greetings from targets of FBI raids and government repression.
3. Bringing the war dollars home: Impact of the wars on Black and working-class communities.
The panels illustrated UNAC’s aims of including opposition to U.S. intervention in all areas, whatever the character of the resistance movements or the pretexts for U.S. military attacks. They also addressed the war on the workers at home, including defending the Muslim community and extending support to all immigrants.
Ralph Poynter brought before the meeting the struggle around political prisoner and attorney Lynne Stewart. Suzanne Ross urged support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is in danger of having the death penalty reimposed.
Shaheena Parveen of DRUM, the mother of an imprisoned South Asian youth, gave a keynote talk on his case and the repression of Muslims in the U.S. In the second panel, Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee against War and Injustice brought up the case of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, an African-American Muslim leader killed in an FBI attack a year ago and the struggle it awoke in the Detroit area.
To strong applause, Teresa Gutierrez of the May 1 Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights made an appeal that the “anti-war movement join the demonstration of the immigrants on May 1 and that the immigrant rights movement join the anti-war struggle on April 9.”
Marvin Holland, who works as community liaison for the Transport Workers Union, offered to work with UNAC organizers to try to bring more young Black workers to participate in the next activities. Larry Holmes of the Bail Out the People Movement noted the importance of the anti-war movement paying attention to the fight against New York state’s budget cuts, which may be coming to a crisis point next spring.
After the panels, a group of high-school youth, who had just come from a protest in Union Square, took turns speaking to the meeting about their concerns.
As the meeting was drawing to a close, Lombardo and Sara Flounders of the International Action Center introduced campaigns building for April 9.
The coalition has already set one campaign to “Bring our war $$ home,” which addresses the question of federal, state and local budgets, along with campaigns to organize teach-ins, do environmental outreach, fight anti-Muslim bigotry, do solidarity with Iran and end torture. The steps to build for an action next spring are underway.
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