Future Hope column, March 23, 2008
By Ted Glick
March 19th was an historic first for the Iraq peace and justice movement. Over 1,000 activists, intergenerational but with many dedicated and energetic young people, took part in non-permitted, edgy, stepping it up type actions in Washington, D.C. If the Metropolitan D.C. cops had been arresting people, many hundreds would have been arrested for blocking major streets in downtown D.C.
Instead, business as usual was creatively, loudly and joyfully disrupted all day throughout the K Street corporate corridor and elsewhere via marching and sitting-in bodies, huge cardboard windmills, ribbons stretched across streets, a marching band, creative banners and signs, polar bears, students locked down to desks, a rolling bed (“tired of war”) and more.
A message was sent that growing numbers of us are willing to put our bodies on the line to end this war and to shift government resources and priorities to the meeting of human needs and the clean energy and other needs of our threatened ecosystem.
At the same time, upwards of 1,000 local actions took place on or around March 19th all over the country, a number involving nonviolent civil disobedience, and Iraq Vets Against the War held successful and moving three-day Winter Soldier hearings in D.C.
These actions, taken together, make it clear that, despite the disparaging analyses of some in the corporate media, and even some on the left, the national grassroots movement to end the war in Iraq is very much alive and well, despite five long years of struggle.
Now, it’s time for phase two of what has to be an on-going action campaign this spring and beyond.
What is phase two? Here’s what I think:
All indications are that next month George Bush, the most unpopular President since Richard Nixon, will be asking for over $100 billion from the Congress to fund continuation of a war that 2/3 of the country thinks never should have been fought.
The peace movement is the leading edge of widespread public support for ending this war, and we need to keep up our actions with that in mind.
We should follow up on March 19th with a major nonviolent civil disobedience action on Capitol Hill in April. Prior to the vote by Congress, many hundreds, if not more, of us need to be there blocking doors, blocking intersections, sitting in offices of Congressional leaders, demanding that the only money allocated for Iraq this year is money for the safe withdrawal of U.S. troops and war contractors.
For those not able to make it to D.C. for this action, there should be coordinated, local occupations of the offices of Congresspeople and Senators who refuse to commit to following the wishes of the majority of the American people.
Imagine: thousands of people sitting in around the country on the same day demanding the same thing. It will not be easily ignored.
We can’t get caught up in the back and forth between Clinton and Obama and McCain! As much as virtually all of us in the peace/justice movement want to see the Republicans lose the White House and more seats in Congress, we can’t forget this truth about politics: politicians, including Democrats, respond to demands from the grassroots, particularly from organized mass movements.
If we want the war—and the climate crisis, economic/racial injustice, health care and other issues—to be top issues of this election cycle, being in the streets is essential, utilizing appropriate tactics.
March 19th in D.C. showed that there is a critical mass of activists prepared to up the ante, to risk arrest, to be part of bold actions that underline the immediacy of our demands. Most of us who were prepared to get arrested weren’t on that day, with the exception of those at the IRS and on Capitol Hill, because of a tactical decision by the Metropolitan D.C. police, and those above them, to only arrest for what they saw as felonies. Based on the experiences of No War, No Warming last October and people who were arrested up on Capitol Hill at the end of the day on March 19th, the Capitol Police operate differently.
Let’s come back, and more of us this time, to send a loud and clear message to Congress, everybody running for Congressional office and the country that our movement is capable of organizing not just one-shot events but with the appropriate, on-going level of urgency and effectiveness at a key political time. It’s time to disrupt war business as usual on Capitol Hill!
Ted Glick works with several climate groups and is a leader of No War, No Warming (www.nowarnowarming.org). He can be reached at email@example.com.