The report below was originally published by the ANSWER Coalition.
As demonstrations took place across the country to mark the eighth anniversary of the "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq, bombs and missiles began raining down on the people of Libya. The ANSWER Coalition immediately put out a call for protests to take place across the country to demand "Stop the bombing of Libya."
Demonstrations took place in cities and towns nationwide, including Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; New Haven, Connecticut; Naples, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Albuquerque, New Mexico; New York City, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Greenville and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; Austin, Texas; Seattle, Washington; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; as well as internationally, including in El Salvador and Canada.
Please see below for reports and photographs from several cities.
Washington, D.C., March 26
Photo: Matt Murray
On March 26, protesters gathered directly in front of the White House to show their opposition to the bombing campaign being carried out by the U.S. government and other imperialist countries. For hours, they chanted slogans such as “War in Libya—We say NO! U.S. intervention has got to go!” as others stood just feet away chantinga in support of intervention while holding Libyan, U.S., French, British and Canadian flags.
Brian Becker, the National Coordinator of Act Now to Stop War & End Racism, explained to the many media outlets, tourists and those demonstrating on other issues why the group had gathered:
“In order to understand the war in Libya, it is important to understand the historic role of those governments that are now bombing Libya—Africa’s largest producer of oil. Britain and France cruelly colonized Africa to exploit its resources and to profit off the labor of African people. The United States grew rich off of the enslavement of millions of African people. It is inconceivable that these same powers could be intervening in Libya because of their tender concern for democracy or freedom.
“They are at war against Libya because they hope that the outcome will be the creation of a client regime in Tripoli or a partition of the oil-rich eastern part of the country with a new governing authority that would be beholden to the Western governments who are bombing today. We are here to stand in opposition to the illegal, criminal bombing of Libya, and to assert that the Libyan people—and they alone—should determine the destiny of their country.”
Throughout the event, many groups of families and students visiting the White House showed their support by holding signs and signing a petition against the war.
The demonstration was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition and was attended by activists from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and by other progressive organizations, including the FMLN-DC (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front).
New York City
New York City, March 23
Photo: Karina Garcia
Despite below-freezing temperatures and a “wintry mix” of hail, snow and rain that preceded and followed the event, protesters stood their ground in front of the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square to say no to the imperialist attack on Libya. The New York City demonstration was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition and took place on March 23. It was the first of many coordinated events that took place across the United States March 23-26.
Even with NYPD cars parked on the small island that houses the Recruiting Station and cops standing nearby to prevent the use of mechanized sound, everyone held their ground and made their voices heard, chanting “Libya for Libyans—Not for Wall Street dividends” and “Money for jobs and education—Not for war and occupation.”
Participants included activists with the ANSWER Coalition and World Can’t Wait, high school and college students, teachers, and other workers who had taken the day off or left work early so they could participate. Several passers-by, including New Yorkers and tourists, joined in the picket line to express their opposition to the bombing campaign that had begun just four days earlier.
Austin, Texas, March 23
Photo: Patrick Moore
A spirited group of demonstrators gathered at the corner of 6th and Lamar in Austin on March 23 to demand an immediate end to the bombing of Libya.
Austinites from all walks of life showed their support; pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike expressed their disapproval of the war. Some picked up signs and joined the protest. Others signed a petition.
The overwhelming support and enthusiasm that the people of Austin showed the demonstrators points to the fact that the vast majority of workers in the United States are fed up with war and want to see that money used instead to meet human needs.
San Francisco, March 23
Photo: Bill Hackwell
Outside the New Federal Building anti-war and community activists gathered for an emergency demonstration on March 23 in San Francisco to condemn the United States and NATO bombing campaign in Libya.
Around 5 p.m., people gathered and began picketing with signs reading “Stop U.S./French/British War on Libya,” “War in Libya: $100+Million Per Day” and “U.S. Imperialism OUT of the Middle East!”
The rally began with a moment of silence for Leonard Weinglass—civil rights lawyer and strong supporter of the sovereign rights of countries in their struggle with U.S. imperialism—who had passed away earlier that day of cancer.
Following the respectful silence, Dr. Henry Clark of the West County Toxics Coalition came to the microphone and pointed out the connections between the U.S. thirst for oil profits and its intervention in Libya, which has the largest oil reserve in Africa.
Several speakers, including an Iraq war veteran, a representative of Code Pink and Richard Becker, West Coast Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, all spoke on the hypocrisy of U.S. imperialism bombing any country for “humanitarian” reasons.
Saul Kanowitz with the Party for Socialism and Liberation highlighted the ridiculous claim to be “protecting civilians” on the part of the imperialist members of the U.N. Security Council. For instance, he pointed out that France had massacred millions of Algerians in their colonization of North Africa, and Britain had carved up the Middle East and North Africa with the Sykes-Picot treaty for their own colonial profits.
Leila Al-Lahham and Frank Lara of the ANSWER Coalition held down the microphone throughout the rally as MCs, unifying the picketers in the rain with chants like “Humanitarian aid, it’s a lie, bombs fall and people die!”
It was a successful demonstration at the time when it is most important to speak out against and defend the sovereignty of Libya as it is being attacked by U.S. imperialism and its allies.
Baltimore, March 24
Photo: Aurora Bonucci
Despite chilling winds and a frigid temperature, a spirited rally in Baltimore demanded an end to the war on Libya. On March 24, Baltimore community members and activists gathered at McKeldin Square near the Inner Harbor for a rally condemning the U.S., French and British war on Libya. The rally was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition of Baltimore as part of a national call for demonstrations against the war on Libya.
The diverse, multinational crowd carried signs that read “Money for jobs and schools, not war against Libya!” This message resonates with a city where poverty and unemployment rates are on the rise while schools are severely underfunded. But the crowd was not only concerned with domestic issues that are continuously neglected by the U.S. government, but also showed solidarity with all victims of imperialist plunder, chanting “From Baghdad to Tripoli, stop the U.S. war machine.”
Participants drew connections between wars in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, and pointed out that the bombing of Libya began exactly eight years after the invasion of Iraq.
Chicago, March 24
Photo: Ana Santoyo
On March 24 in Chicago people came out on a below-freezing night to join a militant picket outside the downtown federal building to demand an end to the bombing of Libya. The emergency protest was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition.
Protesters unfurled a large banner that read “Stop the War on Libya Now!” Dozens of placards demanded “Money for Jobs and School, Not for War on Libya!” and “U.S. Out of the Middle East!”
The protest was joined by members of many Chicago-area anti-war groups and by members of the American Muslim Alliance. Hundreds of ANSWER Coalition statements, titled “This is not a war for democracy,” were passed out to people walking by the downtown action.
Speaking at the protest, ANSWER Chicago coordinator John Beacham said, “This new war on Libya is not about democracy or humanitarian intervention. The bombs raining down on Libya are not saving lives, they are killing civilians and destroying whole sections of urban infrastructure … all so Washington and Wall Street, the occupiers of Iraq and Afghanistan, can attempt to enforce their will on the largest producer of oil in Africa.
“The Pentagon is bombing Libya and backing the brutal crackdowns in Yemen and Bahrain in order to halt and reverse the revolutions happening in Tunisia and Egypt, and throughout the region. We oppose the U.S., French and British war against Libya because it is a savage attempt of the former colonizers of Libya and Africa to strike a blow against the new freedom struggle in the Arab world. We must stand up to Washington and say, ‘Hands off the People of the Middle East and Africa!’”
As it rained bombs in Libya, protesters assembled in Los Angeles at the Westwood Federal Building on March 24 to demand an end to this new U.S./NATO war.
Students and workers carried signs that read “No U.S./U.N. War on Libya” to show their opposition to the authorization of a no-fly zone over Libya and the beginning of bombing.
The demonstration was opened by Iraq war veteran Mike Prysner, co-founder of March Forward!, the veterans and service members affiliate of the ANSWER Coalition, who demanded: “The U.S. government must stop bombing Libya immediately. These are the same bombs that were dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Libyan people must decide how to run their country—not the U.S. government.”
Following his statement, the crowd began chanting “Libya for Libyans—not for Wall Street dividends” and “No justice, no peace, U.S. out of the Middle East.” Numerous cars passing the protest honked in solidarity. The number of protesters increased as pedestrians walking nearby joined the demonstration.
As it began to rain, few demonstrators budged. Instead, they began to chant louder, saying “We’ve seen this all before—same story, different war.”
Hector, an electrician holding a sign that read “$ for jobs and schools, not war against Libya,” remarked: “They say they’re going to do one thing and they do another. They say they are going to help Libya but they are bombing Libya. The government cannot help them by dropping bombs.”
Minneapolis, March 26
Photo: Emergency Committee
Over 40 people joined an emergency protest in Minneapolis on Friday, March 25 to show opposition to the U.S. -led bombing of Libya.
Participants gathered at a busy intersection in the city’s West Bank neighborhood with signs and banners. Slogans included “U.S. Hands off Libya” and “Stop the U.S. War Against Libya.”
The protest in Minneapolis was supported by Anti-War Committee, Emergency Committee to Stop U.S. War in Libya, Mayday Bookstore, Students for a Democratic Society (U of M), Twin Cities Peace Campaign and Women Against Military Madness.
A statement issued by organizers said in part, "The U.S. attack on Libya is not a 'humanitarian intervention.' This is a war launched to try and control the oil resources of the region. This new war is costing billions, while schools are closed, working people lose their homes to foreclosure, and millions face unemployment. We needs funds for job, housing, schools and human needs, not a new war."
Boston, March 26
Photo: ANSWER Boston
Local anti-war activists and students gathered at Boston's Park St. Station in the heart of downtown for a speak-out and protest against the U.S.-led war and bombing of Libya. Demonstrators held signs reading "No U.S./U.N. War on Libya" and "Money for jobs and schools, not war on Libya!" Popular chants included "Libya is under attack—What do we do? Stand up, Fight Back!"
ANSWER organizers handed out hundreds of leaflets and collected signatures on a petition calling for an end to the bombing of Libya. Many people passing by stopped to talk to organizers and some picked up a sign and joined the protest in support.
Chris Gonsalves, an organizer with ANSWER Boston who chaired the rally, said: "The same U.S. government and military that is now bombing Libya for so-called ’humanitarian‘ reasons has waged criminal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, continued to bomb villages in Pakistan and is actively supporting the violent repression of peaceful protesters in Bahrain and Yemen. The U.S. war in Iraq has led to one in three Iraqis being killed, wounded or displaced from their homes. The U.S. government is not capable of ‘humanitarian intervention’–this is a war for profit and is being waged in the interests of the super rich.”
High school student organizers Pedro Montanez and Sackona Fitts with El Movimiento drew the important connection between the cost of U.S. wars and the budget cuts in the public school system. Lynn Meza with Chelsea Uniting Against the War (Chelsea Uniéndose En Contra de la Guerra) noted that each of the hundreds of cruise missiles being dropped on Libya costs $1 million each, and yet we are told there is no money for jobs and schools. Other speakers included Sergio Reyes of the Boston May Day Committee, Susan McLucas of the Committee for Peace and Human Rights, and Frank Neisser with the International Action Center.
Several local media outlets were present to cover the action, including the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, New England Cable Network (NECN), local NBC affiliate WHDH Channel 7 and Emerson College.
New Haven, Conn.
New Haven, Conn., March 26
Photo: Norman Clement
Connecticut residents turned out in bitter cold and wind in New Haven on March 26 for an emergency demonstration and street meeting against the U.S.-led bombing of Libya.
People came from across the state to participate in the demonstration, and local residents showed support for the rally by honking their car horns, and by stopping by to talk about how the attacks on working and poor people are affecting them. A local school teacher connected the struggle for economic justice at home to the struggle against U.S. wars abroad: "They're spending billions of dollars over there, but I don't know if I'm going to have a job tomorrow."
The state's governor recently released a budget proposal that demands $2 billion in concessions from state workers, and would raise the tax burden of state residents by at least $295 per year on top of cutbacks to social services and assistance programs. At the same time, the bombing of Libya alone is costing hundreds of millions of dollars a day.
ANSWER Coalition organizer Chris Garaffa addressed the crowd, calling for a strong movement to fight back against the attacks on the working people of the United States and of the Arab world: "These wars aren't fought for our interests. We don't have anything to gain from them. But Bank of America and General Electric do. Those companies pay nothing in taxes to the state! We have to build a movement that connects these struggles, one that demands an end to the attacks on working people, and an end to the bombing of Libya and all U.S. wars overseas!"
Albuquerque, N.M., March 26
Photo: Preston Wood
Under sunny New Mexico skies, protesters from throughout the Albuquerque area filled the plaza at the gates of University of New Mexico on Central on March 26 in response to the ANSWER Coalition call for emergency actions all across the country to protest the U.S. bombing of Libya.
Saturday shoppers and passers-by stopped by to read the ANSWER statement on the latest U.S. war and to sign the petition demanding an end to the bombing. Passing cars, trucks and motorcyclists honked and waved in agreement.
The spirited protesters chanted and carried signs demanding funding for jobs and schools instead of a war against Libya. ANSWER NM organizer Chris DeBonis called out the U.S. propaganda machine by exposing the complete lies and falsehoods being used to promote the unfolding war and occupation of Libya: "This is not about protecting civilians and it's not about democracy. The U.S. government has been supporting ruthless regimes in the Middle East for decades. Bombs don't bring democracy, they bring death to innocent people. We demand that the bombing stop now and that the U.S. government and its allies, France and Britain, get out of Libya now!”
Seattle, March 26
Photo: Jane Cutter
People came out to protest the U.S./NATO bombing of Libya at on March 26. The demonstrators gathered at Westlake Park in dowtown Seattle.
The protest was organized by ANSWER Seattle. Other organizations that participated included The World Can't Wait, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Freedom Socialist Party, Veterans for Peace #92, and Military Families Speak Out.
Demonstrators gathered on the sidewalk outside the park where many people were passing by. Many stopped and listened to the speakers who explained why the U.S. intervention in Libya was wrong, and took informational flyers.
Jane Cutter, coordinator of ANSWER Seattle, co-chaired the rally. She explained: “The reasons given for the intervention—to protect civilians to promote democracy and human rights—are nothing but propaganda. The U.S. government has installed and propped up many of the most reactionary regimes in the world, and nowhere more than in the Middle East.”
Sensei Gregory Lewis, a long-time community activist and host of the “All Power to the Positive” podcast, addressed the people with a lively speech entitled “Wake up God Dammit!” In it he stated, “The U.S intervention in Libya is ultimately an armed economic venture; a literal 'hostile take-over.' This too is about oil. Take note of how as prices spiked at the outset of the launch of the first cruise missiles at 'multiple anti-aircraft batteries.' Only a complete asshat actually believes that the U.S./NATO/Arab League intervention is a 'humanitarian' effort. Each missile dropped on Libya costs well over a million dollars each. Yet, the budget cuts continue at the federal, state and local level.”
Ibrahim Saudy, a local activist from Egypt, spoke about the irony of U.S. politicians' expressions of concern for people “far away” while they are cutting human services at home. Saudy also pointed out that the Iraq war started with the imposition of a no-fly zone.
Other speakers included Steve Hoffman of FSP and Emma Kaplan of World Can't Wait.
Contributors to this report: Chris Garaffa, Chris
Gonsalves, Andrew Nance, Jane Cutter, Stephanie Fisher, Michelle Schudel,
Nicholas Powell, Patrick Moore, Preston Wood and Sarah Sloan.