March 19 protests mark eight years of Iraq War, protest attack on Libya

From coast to coast, actions demand: 'End all U.S. wars!'

On March 19, thousands of people took to the streets to demand an end to U.S. war and military intervention abroad and funding for people’s needs at home. Mass demonstrations took place in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and many other cities across the United States and the world. Below are some first hand reports.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, March 19
Photo: Travis Wilkerson

Over 4,000 people took to the streets of Los Angeles to demand an end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the funding of peoples needs here at home on March 19, the anniversary of the illegal Iraq invasion eight years ago. Over 150 additional community and progressive organizations endorsed the action.

Led by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, including active-duty soldiers and Marines, the march of well over 4,000 people chanted, “Money for jobs and education, not for wars and occupation!” Visuals included mock coffins draped in Iraqi, Afghan, and Palestinian flags to signify the loss of lives this ongoing war has caused, banners demanding an end to U.S imperialism, and signs urging “Money for jobs, not for war”.

There was an impressive youth and student contingent with students representing both high schools and colleges in Orange County and Los Angeles. Among the schools represented were UC Irvine, UCLA, Pasadena City College, California State University, Long Beach, Cerritos College, Estancia High School, Hamilton High School and Leuzinger High School. A University of California, Santa Cruz student and Long Beach resident, Randy Colon, came out to the march Saturday afternoon to call for the UC regents to prioritize “People over profit”.

Speakers included Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic, who first protested U.S. wars 40 years ago and he has continued to fight against these wars ever since. Despite the continuous need for America to wage war, he said, “The power of the people is unbeatable and we want an end to this foreign policy”.

Members of Students Fight Back began their speeches with the chant “No more war or occupation, we need funds for education.” Other speakers represented Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, UTLA teachers, members of the religious communities, union leaders and anti-war activists.

Holly Brown from Code Pink Women for Peace told Liberation that her organization came to the streets with the ANSWER Coalition because, “We’ve had enough of war. We are not rebuilding Iraq or Afghanistan; we’re doing more harm to women than good.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., March 19
Photo: Ana Maria Ramirez

To mark the 8th anniversary of the war in Iraq, over 1,500 people gathered in Washington, D.C. for a massive veterans-led civil resistance action. As the demonstration was happening, France, the United States and other imperialist countries began bombing Libya.

After a brief march, the demonstration stopped outside the White House amid heavy police presence and 113 people refused to leave the premises and were arrested. Most of those arrested were members of veterans’ organizations such as March Forward! and Veterans for Peace. Hundreds chanted in solidarity as cops loaded the activists onto two commuter buses and two vans.

Participants at the action came for a variety of reasons. Many were outraged at the tremendous suffering inflicted on the people of the Middle East by the so-called “War on Terror”. Rafael Lima, who traveled from Connecticut to be a part of the demonstration, told Liberation that he opposed the wars because “People are suffering. There are innocent people being killed”.

Others saw a clear connection between the economic crisis and the ongoing imperialist wars. Ess Katha, a union supporter who traveled from Michigan, came to the demonstration because she wanted to end the wars and free Bradley Manning, but also because she believed that “workers are entitled to fair pay and equal treatment.”

After more than three years of economic crisis and eight years of the war in Iraq, it was clear to all that the struggle of poor and working people in the United States is closely linked with the struggle of the Iraqi people. Caneisha Mills, youth coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition, demanded “Stop the war on working people at home as well as abroad.” A popular chant was “from Wisconsin to Iraq, stand up, fight back!”

A point of debate amongst people at the demonstration was the situation in Libya. Announcing developments as they happened, members of the ANSWER Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation provided principled, anti-imperialist analysis. Although there was a small group of Libyan exiles present, some of whom were waving French flags, many chanted “Libya is the new Iraq. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

Brian Becker, the national coordinator of ANSWER, said in his speech “The United States, Britain and France are poised to begin a massive bombing of Libya – again, they say, for noble, humanitarian reasons. Libya is the largest producer of oil on the African continent and the imperialists want to re-conquer the country and its resources. The Libyan people, and they alone, must be the masters of their own destiny.”

The message was well received by many in the crowd. Demonstrator Amanda Somers told Liberation that she was concerned about the imposition of a no-fly zone because “it opens the door for expanded military intervention.” Randy Johnson, a Vietnam veteran who traveled from Florida, said that it seemed that western intervention in Libya was “more about interests in oil under the guise of humanitarian intervention.”

The demonstration was an example both of solidarity with oppressed people targeted by U.S. imperialism as well as determination to resist mounting attacks on the working class at home. Ryan Endicott, speaking for March Forward!, pointed to the White House and said, “The enemies of the people of this country are a few yards away!”

The thousands of people who took to the streets throughout the country on March 19 proved that the U.S. government cannot carry out criminal wars and occupations without meeting the resistance of its people.

San Francisco

San Francisco, March 19
Photo: Helen Jaccard

Despite cold, steady rain, 1,800 people marched and hundreds more rallied in San Francisco demanding an end to the wars and occupations around the world and the war on working people here. Speakers at the opening rally condemned the launching of a new war against Libya, which had begun just hours before.

A strong contingent from UNITE HERE Local 2, the SF hotel workers union, helped lead the march, which ended with a massive picket line in front of the boycotted Westin St. Francis hotel at Union Square. The demonstration was organized by the March 19 Coalition, which was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition.


Chicago, March 19
Photo: Ana Santoyo

On March 19 in Chicago, ABC News reported that 1,500 people marched on Michigan Ave. to demand an immediate end to the wars and occupations in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan. The demonstration marked the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of and occupation of Iraq. The protest also exhibited a tremendous solidarity with the peoples’ movements in Egypt and across the Middle East and in Wisconsin and across the Midwest.

Rallies at the beginning and end of the march were chaired by Heather Benno of the ANSWER Coalition and members of the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism. The speakers included John Beacham, ANSWER Chicago coordinator, and union organizer and Party for Socialism and Liberation member Austin Thompson.

After an opening rally, protesters marched from the corner of Michigan Ave and the Congress Pkwy. and followed Chicago’s Magnificent Mile to Water Tower Place. Protesters carried signs that read "No War on Libya!" and "Stand Against War and Racism: Money for Jobs and Education, Not War!" A very popular chant was "End, End the War! Tax, Tax the Rich!"

"We cannot continue to spend billions of dollars on war," commented protester Julie Harley.

“We need jobs. We don't need war," protester Anthony Thompson told the local press.

"The United States spends as much on its military as the rest of the world combined, so is it any wonder why here in Chicago we're facing budget cutbacks," said local activist Andy Thayer.

The march also came at a time of victory for Chicago progressives and activists. Just days before, a federal judge had ruled that the arrest of 900 demonstrators by Chicago Police in 2003 at the beginning of the occupation of Iraq was done “without justification.”

The march was endorsed by more that 70 local activist organizations. The many contingents in the march included Palestine solidarity groups, Free Bradley Manning activists, a contingent to Stop FBI Repression, youth and student contingents, many neighborhood peace groups and the ANSWER Chicago contingent, which carried Egyptian and Wisconsin flags, and a banner that read: "From Egypt to Wisconsin to Chicago...Time to Fight Back!"

Albuquerque, N.M.

Albuquerque, NM, March 19
Photo: Robin DesJardins

Hundreds of workers, activists and union members marched through the streets of Albuquerque, under a simmering sun, and rallied at the city’s Civic Center in a powerful spring offensive against the U.S. bloody imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, Libya.

The March 19 demonstration was organized and led by a broad coalition headed in part by the ANSWER Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Albuquerque. The event was highlighted by a powerful speech by Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the Committee to Free the Cuban Five, union activist, and West Coast organizer for the ANSWER Coalition.

La Riva, who is also a leading member of the PSL, told the cheering and enthusiastic crowd at the civic center rally—peppered with dozens of colorful anti-war banners, flags and posters—that the legacy of predatory capitalism is a state of constant wars. She called for the movement to expand recruitment of high school students in the struggle against war.

After urging the continuing struggle to free the Cuban Five—the Cuban anti-terrorists Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and René González, still unjustly languishing in federal prisons, La Riva called for a firm stand against all injustice and war.

“We need jobs at home, not wars abroad,” she told the cheering crowd, “And let’s remember Leonard Peltier after 34 years of injustice. Let’s remember Mumia Abu Jamal who is still in danger of execution. Free all political prisoners, tear down the prison walls. We need jobs, so that people don’t end up in jail. Money for jobs and education, not for war, occupation or incarceration.”

With those words, the crowd erupted in roaring cheers and chants, under the watchful eyes of local police, some dressed for riot control.

Liberation spoke with rally participants. “I’m really pleasantly surprised at the growing level of support for Pvt. Bradley Manning, and the stiffening resistance to the Barak Obama administration,” said Barbara Grothus.

Special education teacher John Comstock, meanwhile, urged people, “Look at all the money that is being thrown away by the military industrial complex, while funding for education and social programs is being cut.”

Preston Wood, southwest regional coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition, summarized the day’s events. "Today the people of Albuquerque and New Mexico are joining thousands of others all across the country who are in the streets to protest the criminal U.S./U.N. war against Libya. We have heard their phony excuses before about "protecting civilian lives" and "democracy." That is not what the imperialists are concerned about. What they want is yet another new base of operations in the Middle East and open access to Libyan oil, the largest oil reserves in Africa. The U.S. war mongers' bloody history in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region unmasks their true intentions. We are demanding that the U.S. get out of Iraq and Afghanistan now, and stop their bloody war on Libya."

Endorsers and sponsors of the event included: Gray Panthers; Healthcare is a Right Campaign; Albuquerque Chapter Vets for Peace; Albuquerque War Tax Alternative Fund; ANSWER Coalition NM; Calming Four Swing Dance Group; Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel; Las Vegas Committee for Peace and Justice; Military Families Speak Out; National Committee to Free the Cuban Five (NM Chapter); Santa Fe Chapter Veterans for Peace; Southwest Organizing Project; Stop the War Machine; Students Organizing Action for Peace (SOAP); Trinity House Catholic Worker; University of New Mexico (UNM) Peace Studies and Youth in Transition, Inc.

Seattle, Wash.

Seattle, March 19
Photo: Andrew Freeman

As many as 500 demonstrators gathered on March 19 at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle to resist U.S. war and occupation. Protesters came from all over the state, including Tacoma, Everett, areas near Ft. Lewis, Wenatchee, as well as a contingent from Vancouver, B.C. Veterans were well-represented among those present, and lead the march.

Speakers at the rally denounced the U.S. and French bombing of Libya. Jane Cutter, coordinator of the Seattle ANSWER Coalition and rally co-MC said, “You don’t have to agree with the policies of the Gaddafi government, which in recent years have been characterized by an acceptance of neo-liberal capitalist methods and an accommodation with imperialism, in order to recognize that a U.S./NATO intervention into Libya will not liberate the people of Libya any more than the U.S. invasion of Iraq—which killed over a million Iraqis and ruined the country—led to a government more democratic or humane than that of Saddam Hussein.”

The rally highlighted the theme of resistance to U.S. war and occupation by recognizing local heroes of resistance. Father Bill Bichsler of the Disarm Now Plowshares Five encouraged people to actively practice peace by resisting war, as he did when he trespassed at the Bangor, Wa. Trident submarine base.

Rally chair Karen Jones of Sound Non-Violent Opponents of War honored local resident Bert Sacks who is facing massive fines for violating the U.S. sanctions regime during the 90's, when he and others brought millions of dollars worth of medicine to Iraq.

Also honored was Rachel Corrie, the young woman from Olympia, Wa. who was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer as Corrie attempted to non-violently stop the demolition of a Palestinian home.

Other speakers included Emma Kaplan of World Can't Wait, Iraq veteran Josh Simpson of Coffee Strong coffeehouse and G..I. Voice, and Allison Bodine, co-chair of Mobilization Against War and Occupation from Vancouver, B.C. Protesters marched through downtown Seattle to supportive applause and cheers from the many people shopping and hanging out.


March Forward! veteran Ryan Henowitz speaks at recruiting center, New Haven, Conn.
Photo: Chris Garaffa

Over 120 people rallied on the New Haven Green demanding and end to U.S. wars, occupations and bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and beyond. The rally began at noon as speakers from Middle East Crisis Committee, Frontline Soldiers, New Haven Against Police Brutality, New Haven Workers Association, Queer Liberation Front, Party for Socialism and Liberation and many others spoke, demanding money for jobs, housing, healthcare and education, not war and occupation and to stop the war on the working class.

After the rally, people took to the streets and marched to the FBI building to stand in solidarity those imprisoned for speaking out and other political prisoners. PSL member Norman Clement said, "We stand here to say to the FBI, 'Free all Political Prisoners!' A people’s movement will free the Cuban 5, will free Leonard Peltier, will free Simon Trinidad and Mumia!"

The march continued to the military recruiting center where Ryan Henowitz, an Iraq war veteran and member of March Forward! told the crowd how he was lured into the military because it was the only way he could afford to go to college.

The march was highly spirited and marchers shouted, “Exxon, Chevron, Mobil, Shell, take your oil and go to hell”, and “Money for Jobs and Education, not for war and occupation.”

Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio, March 19
Photo: Corey Ansel

Over 100 activists demonstrated at the Ohio Statehouse on March 19 to demand an immediate end to war and occupation everywhere. Marchers carried signs that said “Stand against war and racism!” and “Jobs not war!” Another powerful message at the rally came from the many activists demanding an end to the war on unions. The rally united a diverse community of people against the wars and it brought people to Columbus from cities across the state.

The rally was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition and was endorsed by over a dozen other community organizations. The march around the Statehouse was led by university students who came to the rally from varoius campuses across Columbus. Many at the rally wondered how billions can be spent on war and occupation while states across the U.S. are forced to endure budget cuts and unemployment.

Speakers at the rally discussed the catastrophic effects of war on the environment, the occupation of Palestine and the war against workers’ collective bargaining rights. At the conclusion of the rally, activists discussed the potential for future events and other ways to bring down the war machine. As the anti-war movement in Columbus grows, the community will continue to fight back against war and occupation everywhere.

Boston, Mass.

Boston, Mass., March 19

Anti-war activists, students and veterans in the greater Boston area came together for a rally and march in the city's Roxbury neighborhood. With the theme, "From Boston to Baghdad: End the Occupation", the action was held at the Southwest Corridor Park, directly behind Boston Police headquarters and the Alice Taylor housing projects. The rally was followed by a march through the Roxbury and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods.

ANSWER Boston organizer Jennifer Zaldana chaired the rally and opened by saying, "Just as the U.S. is occupying the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan—our streets are being occupied in our neighborhoods by the police, by the landlords, by the banks and corporations. War is being waged upon us—through police brutality, racial profiling, budget cuts, [and] school closures."

Additional speakers at the rally included Pat Scanlon, coordinator of Veterans for Peace, Smedley Butler Brigade; John Harris, union organizer and member of the Stop the Wars Coalition; Frank Neisser with the International Action Center; and Frances Villar with the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Following the rally, protesters marched to Roxbury Community College, stopping to highlight racist police brutality and the high-profile beating of a 16-year old on campus in October 2010. During this stop, the police attempted to drown out the message by turning on their sirens, but this did not deter demonstrators.

The march continued into the Bromley-Heath housing projects, bringing many outside of their homes, to cheer protesters on and join in chanting. Popular chants included, "Money for Jobs and Education, Not for War and Occupation!" and "No Justice, No Peace: No Racist Police!"

At the next stop at the Hennigan Elementary school, protesters drew attention to the recent decision to close seventeen schools throughout the city and slash its budget. The march concluded at the Veteran's Admistration hospital, raising the issues affecting U.S. veterans such as mass unemployment and lack of adequate health care.

Syracuse, N.Y.

Syracuse, N.Y., March 19
Photo: Risa C'DeBaca

Activists gathered at the downtown Federal Building on March 18 to demand an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to oppose U.S./ NATO intervention in Libya. The protest, organized by the Syracuse Peace Council and the ANSWER Coalition, drew more than 40 people.

Muna Alany, who emigrated to the U.S. from her hometown of Baghdad, Iraq, spoke of the dire conditions of her country. "We have two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, yet we do not have clean water." Alany continued to highlight the low standard of living that persists in Iraq as a testament to the havoc wreaked by eight years of U.S. war and occupation.

Adam C'DeBaca, a student at Syracuse University, told Liberation that he came to the rally not only to protest U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to speak out against U.S./NATO intervention in Libya. In reference to U.S. intervention in Libya, C'DeBaca said, "We don't even know the [U.S.] covert operations going on." Many other speakers slammed the facade of "humanitarian intervention" that was used in Iraq and now Libya as a pretense for imperialist wars of aggression.

Contributing to this report were: Walter Smolarek, Meghan Adams, Jane Cutter, Chris Gonsalves, Deb Malatesta, Frank Levine, Corey Ansel, Ashley Sauers, Sean Pavey and Eman Khaleq.

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