'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What's Missing Here? 

A couple of days ago, I received this e-mail announcement from United for Peace and Justice. Upon close textual analysis, I realized that there was something missing. See if you can figure it out:

Saturday, April 29
March for Peace, Justice and Democracy

Assemble: 22nd Street and Broadway,
10:30AM onward
March: At noon down Broadway to Foley Square
Grassroots action festival: 1:00-6:00PM,
Foley Square
See below and www.april29.org for more details.

If you've ever doubted that protest marches can make a difference, just look at the stunning example of the massive immigrant rights demonstrations over this past week. Millions of people have taken to the streets across the country with a simple, powerful message: Don't deny the promise of opportunity to those who only seek a better life. And not only did this grassroots outpouring transform the political debate -- but it's also stalled, at least for the moment, the most draconian anti-immigrant measures in Congress.

On April 29, large numbers will again take to the streets, to demand a dramatic change in direction. Too much is too wrong in this country. We will call for an immediate end to the Iraq war and for all the troops to come home now. We will demand an end to illegal spying, government corruption, and the subversion of our democracy. We will stand up for the rights of immigrants and women, and for all our civil liberties. We will call for this country's resources to be used to rebuild the Gulf Coast and other devastated communities rather than for never-ending oil wars and massive corporate subsidies.

We have reached an agreement with the New York Police Department for the April 29 march route and festival location. We will assemble beginning at 10:30AM at 22nd Street and Broadway. Starting at noon, we will march down Broadway through the heart of Manhattan, to Foley Square, site of the Federal Building and Federal Courthouse. Maps, plus information about gathering spots for contingents, will soon be posted at www.april29.org.

Bring signs and banners, bring musical instruments, and above all, bring friends and associates -- let's make this event massive, vibrant, colorful, and inspiring! (Please note: The NYPD prohibits the use of wooden, metal, or fiberglass sticks or poles -- only cardboard tubes may be used to hold up signs and banners.)

The march will culminate in an action-oriented grassroots festival in Foley Square from 1:00-6:00PM, designed to connect those who attend the protest with a wide array of organizations and campaigns, including the nine national groups who initiated the April 29 protest. At the festival, you'll find leaflets, how-to guides, activist toolkits, and other resources; learn more about the disastrous Iraq War and how you can plug into the many efforts underway to bring the troops home; and have an opportunity to talk to knowledgeable organizers involved in everything from counter-recruitment work to faith-based organizing to immigrant rights and civil liberties. You'll also be able to picnic on the grass, spend time with friends, listen to music, and watch performances. There will be a large tabling area for groups wishing to distribute literature or sell merchandise at the festival. Click here to reserve table space.

Spread the word! We have an opportunity to turn what promises to be an important event into an historic mobilization. But we need your help to make sure everyone knows about April 29th. Visit the April 29 website to download leaflets for photocopying and distributing -- or, if you're in the New York City area, come by the United for Peace and Justice office and pick some up. Our office is at 261 West 36th Street, 7th floor, and is open Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 7:30pm and on the weekends (call the office for exact times -- 212-868-5545). We also have stickers, buttons, and posters to promote the April 29 march.

Raise your hands, how many of you got the right answer? OK, what is it? Yes, scott-o, you are correct, the missing piece of the puzzle, the giant elephant in the room that goes unmentioned is . . .


Stanley Heller apparently received the same e-mail, because he has an incisive article on the subject over at COUNTERPUNCH:

In what country will a huge peace coalition hold an anti-war rally have nothing to say about Iran, Israel and Palestine or Afghanistan? Is the answer Israel? Turkey? Micronesia? Sadly it's the USA. On April 29 United for Peace and Justice is holding a big demonstration in New York City called "March for Peace, Justice and Democracy". The only "peace" demand mentioned is bringing troops home from Iraq.

The silence about Iran is staggering. On April 9 the Washington Post reported on US military planning for an attack. In includes this sentence, "Pentagon planners are studying how to penetrate eight-foot-deep targets and are contemplating tactical nuclear devices". Contemplating? We're not talking about mediation here, but dropping "tactical" Hiroshima-size atomic bombs. And UFPJ has nothing to say.

Of course, as always, the bottom line issue is that the demand for justice for the Palestinians must be abandoned, as Heller reveals in his description of what sadly transpired in Connecticut as a protest was being planned for the third anniversary of the launching of the war in Iraq:

We started making plans for this year's March 18 rally last November, and we held two ultra-democratc votes about the demonstration's demands. Anyone who showed up at the meetings could vote. In November we proposed the slogan "End Israeli Occupation and Apartheid". We also had slogans for immigrant rights, opposition to persecution of Muslims and rejection of war with Iran.

At our final meeting in January (with 125 in attendance) a number of people demanded a single issue rally, totally on Iraq, saying by going for the lowest common denominator we'd get labor, the Democrats and anti-war Jews. The majority wouldn't go for it. We weren't going to abandon the immigrants and Muslims and we'd be fools not to mention Iran, but we figured the real sticking point was Palestine. So we offered a compromise. Instead of the slogan "End Israeli Occupation and Apartheid" we offered the vague "Justice for the Palestinian People".

People voted for the compromise by a large majority. Still the very notion that the Palestinians were the victims was too much for some and others were afraid of offending the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party oriented labor leaders. So the Israel-apologists, the Peace Council and some labor leaders went off and did their own thing. They held a rally on March 19, a day after ours and formed a group with the acronym COW, Connecticut Opposes War.

On March 18 we marched 20 blocks from a largely Latino neighborhood and held and rally on the New Haven Green that according to the AP attracted 1,000. We think it was larger. Perhaps 10% were Muslim and Palestinians. We had pro-immigrant speakers in English and Spanish and a section of the Green with Spanish translators. It was a great demo, but we had expected double that number to attend and we blame it largely on the split.

So how well did the splitters do on the 19th in Hartford? Politically the rally sucked. It was two blocks from Senator Lieberman's office and none of the speakers denounced Lieberman. Neither Democrat Ned Lamont who was challenging Lieberman for anti-war reasons nor Ralph Ferrucci who was running as a Green were invited to speak. The only chant was this embarrasing bleat,"We are Americans, This is Our Country". Imagine after three years of the war they still think we have to defend our patriotism? All the speeches denounced one person and one person only, George Bush. As if the Democrats hadn't pushed for the war enthusiastically and as if they weren't still supporting it. Iran was mentioned in one sentence. And, of course, they didn't say a word about Israel's constant pressure for war against Iraq and Iran or the fact that Gaza is now without flour.

But the bottom line is numbers. Did they draw out the "silent majority"? No. Their rally was about the same size as ours (and included many of our people). It was hardly the breakthough that COW was predicting. There were a dozen Democratic state legislators. As for labor, state AFL-CIO President John Olsen spoke and there was a sizeable presence by SEIU-1199, maybe 50 or so union officials and members. That was about it.. Organized Jewish presence was invisible. No one saw a single sign from a Jewish organization and only one person objected to the tons of pro-Palestinian rights literature we gave out. On the other hand whatever was gained from the "middle" was lost from the fact the Muslims were conspicuous by their absence.

The COW strategy is a model for what shouldn't be attempted on April 29th . .

A movement that seeks to change the world without offending the establishment is as alluring as a revolution without dancing. No wonder the occupation of Iraq proceeds without hindrance, as we accelerate out of control towards another war, possibly nuclear, with Iran.

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