Revolutionary Worker #1191, March 16, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org
"On March 5 the youth and students made history. I don't think ever before in the history of this country has this kind of resistance been mounted before a war starts by people this young. The youth have nothing to lose and everything to gain. They dream of a better world and dare to bring that better world into being."
Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade member in S.F. Bay Area
On March 5, tens of thousands of students walked out at hundreds of high school and college campuses around the country to say "NO!" to the U.S. war on Iraq.
This day of protest and resistance was beautiful, powerful, and truly historic.
Some media reports described the day as the largest school protests since the Vietnam War.
March 5 was the day of the National Moratorium to Stop the War on Iraq, called by a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to the war, and the "Books Not Bombs" National Student Strike called by the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition. The two calls converged into an incredible day of action against the U.S. war.
From New York City to the West Coast cities to countless places in between, people took action in diverse ways--quiet, loud, disruptive, and creative. Religious people acted on their conviction to voice their opposition to Bush and the war machine. People found different ways to express their anti-war stand at their workplaces.
But it was the youth, especially high school students, who really seized the day. Over 70 high schools, middle schools, and colleges in the Los Angeles area alone saw walkouts and other anti-war actions. In New York City, more than 3,000 high school students walked out of classes.
Some walkouts involved hundreds of students--in some cases a handful of students bravely stepped forward. At some high schools, administrators, teachers, and parents supported the kids who protested. At others, students walked out in the face of threats and punishment from authorities.
At a time when the U.S. government is sending hundreds of thousands of young men and women to the Persian Gulf to fight and die in an unjust and illegitimate war--youth across the country demanded a different future,and took a stand with the people of the world. And they were acting together with students around the globe. There were reports of protests by students and others throughout Australia, Canada, and England; in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain; Paris, France; Damascus, Syria; Dakar, Senegal; and elsewhere.
At a time when the power structure is whipping up hatred against immigrants and people of other countries, the sense of diversity and unity on March 5 was truly inspiring. A Black college student in Philadelphia said, "Everywhere in the media and society they preach separation. But I look around and see all of us, of different nationalities and different backgrounds, all here together. This is beautiful."
And at a time when Bush and Company seem deaf to the expressed will of millions around the U.S. and the world--the youth made clear their sense of urgency and determination to stop the war.
In their own call for the March 5 Moratorium, two high school students in Los Angeles wrote:
As we stand facing the greatest terror this planet has ever seen, we must rise as citizens of the world, united with one voice to say, `Not In Our Name.' Over the past two months students have taken to the streets, walking out of class, building a movement strong enough to affect the course of history. We have been threatened with expulsions, suspensions, and detentions. But even in the face of these consequences, we the youth refuse to sit by and watch America deal its card of death to the world. There comes a time in everyone's life to throw a wrench into the workings of injustice. This is our time."
The following was reported by our correspondent Osage.
Many of the high school and college students who took part in the day converged at noon at Union Square. Students came from Manhattan, Long Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx, New Jersey--from about 30 different schools, both public and private, and from fifth grade to college level. Some came with parents and some with their teachers. The majority were middle and high school students, and most of them had never been to a protest before.
To get there, they faced cynical teachers, lecturing principals, and threats of lowered grades, suspension, and even expulsion. The principal at a Brooklyn school announced over the loudspeaker the day before that walking out was forbidden. When one student's mother called in to say that she gave her daughter permission to walk out, the school threatened to report her to the Board of Ed.
A girl from a Catholic school in Westchester County skipped out on her Morals and Ethics final because she just had to be at the rally. She said: "Students need to get their priorities straight."
The crowd was bursting with excitement--loud cheers and absolute joy that we had pulled this off. Students came in groups, doubling the attendance over and over until we filled the square. Homemade signs were everywhere. One great sign said "Friends Don't Let Friends Enlist."
Some 400 NYU students marched over from their rally to join us at Union Square. The youth flooded the stage to speak out.
People expressed a variety of reasons for opposing the war: no blood for oil; innocent Iraqi people would suffer; money being cut from schools to pay for war; kids sent to kill and be killed for an unjust war. You could hear kids discussing what kind of resistance is needed and how to get many more people join us.
One of the most powerful speakers was a student of Uruguayan origin who dropped some knowledge about what the U.S. is really about. He said many of his father's friends had been "disappeared" in Uruguay in the 1970s for opposing a U.S.-installed dictator: "I say `fuck off' to anyone who tells me they're fighting [this war] for my freedom because if it was up to the U.S. government, my dad would be dead."
Other speakers included Joe Urgo, with the Not In Our Name project, and Carl Dix, National Spokesperson for the RCP--both Vietnam veterans. The ACLU's Donna Lieberman, Youth Bloc, Ati from the RCYB, and several poets also took the stage.
I saw a young man dressed in an ROTC uniform, standing at the back apart from the crowd. He wasn't there to make a pro-war statement. He said he was 18 and was not sure why he had joined the ROTC. He thinks many of the ROTC members in his school do not want to go to war.
An 8th grader--a 13-year-old woman from an Upper East Side middle school--told an RW reporter, "I lost an uncle on 9/11 and I know he wouldn't have wanted his death to cause others' deaths."
Two very lonely pro-war girls from a Westchester County high school said they felt they had to come because most of their school walked out against the war, and they felt someone had to support Bush. A woman from Argentina argued with them, speaking bitterness about what the U.S. has done to Latin America.
As the rally ended, several hundred youth started a march to Hunter College. Chanting, "We dance together for peace," they began snaking their way uptown. Many also took the "peace train" (subway cars filled with students speaking out) up to Hunter College, where the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition had organized a rally. Others went to Brooklyn, where a Rally and Represent concert was happening in association with Not In Our Name, with performers such as Anti-Balas and DJ Rekha.
As it grew dark, we joined a 40-block candlelight march filled with beautiful drumming and chanting organized by United for Peace and Justice. The march and the night culminated with a rally at Washington Square, where youth read poetry and rhymes and comedian Reno performed. Speakers included Leslie Cagan of UFPJ, NY City Council member Bill Perkins, Mary Lou Greenberg speaking for NION, Sister Arlene Flaherty (who just returned from a visit to Iraq with Code Pink), and Rev. Vernon Williams.
The next night we sat and watched as Bush said on TV that war could start soon. So much is at stake for them--global domination and military/economic superiority. And so much is at stake for us--a world free from all this horror. We must be bold. We must be creative and we must be determined. Because the future of the world really does depend on it.
An amazing uprising of students was the cutting edge of protests that erupted in every corner of the SF Bay Area. Students walked out of schools, took over the streets, blocked traffic, shut down army recruiters, got busted - and made it onto the front page of the local papers.
In Oakland, office workers shouted "we're proud of you" as hundreds of students, mostly Black youth, took over downtown streets. In San Francisco, a bus driver shut down his bus, turned on his "out of service" sign, and got out to support youth who occupied a downtown intersection for over an hour.
Students from over a dozen East Bay schools broke out, and, in many cases, walked miles to converge at Oakland's central plaza. At Oakland High School, administrators locked gates in violation of fire safety rules and students had to climb over fences to join the protest. Students at private Arrowsmith Academy in Berkeley defied threats of suspension. Proletarian youth from Oakland's "continuation" school (for students expelled from other schools) marched next to youth from private and Catholic schools. Alternative youth with dyed hair from Laney College hooked up with inner city youth from the Oakland Social Justice Academy.
Hundreds of youth took over the streets and marched the length of downtown Oakland to the docks at Jack London Square. The Oakland police drove motorcycles into the crowd and arrested a Not In Our Name protest organizer and two reporters for the Bay View newspaper (a voice of the Black community in San Francisco's Hunter's Point district). The students made it through police roadblocks to march back to downtown.
At the rally, a young woman grabbed a bullhorn and called out each school present to wild cheers from the crowd. Challenging other youth to step up and speak out, she said, "We're walking out today to represent against the war, cuz we don't want it! Basically we don't want Bush at all... Keep up the dream, make the war go away! Iraq don't want it, and we don't want it!"
A young Black man from Laney College said, "How can Bush talk about terrorism in another country when we still got it over here. They got the KKK. We ain't got no jobs out here. Nothin'! We don't have nothing. Then we gotta go try to handle other people's problems when we can't handle our own? We need a voice coming from our people."
At least 18 high schools, middle schools, colleges and universities walked out and convened all over San Francisco. A NION organizer described the scene as youth took over the streets in downtown: "Students from Lowell High and the School Of The Arts (SOTA) led an incredible charge of up to 1,500 youth through the streets. Some hooked up at the Civic Center, some at Embarcadero, some at Powell and Market." Over 1,000 students blockaded the doors of City Hall for an hour and held a speak-out. Then 400-500 headed up to the Federal Building for another rally. Students sat down in major intersections and shut down traffic; 20 youth and two adults were arrested downtown, including a NION organizer.
Several Bay Area universities had walkouts and teach-ins. Students at SF State occupied an intersection for half an hour. Hundreds of students rallied at UC Berkeley. At Stanford, up to 1,000 students and dozens of professors held outdoor teach-ins and discussions of the war. Students walked out at City College of San Francisco and Laney College in Oakland. A teach-in with music and theater was held at Mills College, a private women's college in Oakland.
Students from high schools and colleges in Sonoma County joined up with antiwar activists to shut down the military recruiting station in Santa Rosa for two hours--12 people were arrested. At Cal State Sacramento, 60 to 80 people marched on campus. In Arcata, in Humboldt County, more than 100 high school students walked out of school. In Santa Cruz, activists from the Santa Cruz Peacemakers of the Resource Center for Nonviolence blocked entrances to the military recruiting station and forced them to close down.
The 80,000-member San Francisco Central Labor Council endorsed the March 5 Moratorium to Stop the War in Iraq. Banners were hung across many freeway bridges at morning and afternoon rush hours. Several organizations took responsibility to create "No War Zones," where people could pick up signs and materials. Bay Area United Against the War passed out signs and leaflets all day. The People's Non-violent Response Committee organized a Candlelight Vigil in Oakland, and marched to the Islamic Cultural Center for a gathering where the Pledge of Resistance was read. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship in Berkeley opened their center all day for people to use their fax and phones to call Bush or other politicians to express opposition to the war. At St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco the Archbishop quoted Pope John Paul's message against the war and mentioned the student walkouts. Two nuns read the NION Pledge of Resistance at the end of the service. The Japanese-American religious federation Soko Bukai held a press conference against the war and the round-ups of immigrants.
There were walkouts and other antiwar actions at over 70 L.A.-area high schools, middle schools, colleges and universities. The actions were wild and beautiful, cool, determined and defiant. They were carried out in the face of days of threats and attempted intimidation from school authorities and up against brutal cops.
Near Fairfax High in west L.A., the LAPD stopped anybody that looked young, to try and stop kids from leaving school. At noon, several hundred students of all nationalities walked out and marched down Fairfax Ave. Five blocks later they met up with 50 students from Marlborough School. They were joined at a convergence point by students from LACES, the L.A. Center for Enriched Studies, and 100 out of the 120 students at the L.A. Leadership Academy. Over 500 strong, they marched around the inter-section for hours. Some teachers and administrators joined them, including a teacher who took his class there as a field trip. The protest moved up to Wilshire Blvd., a main street; a large contingent stayed all afternoon and marched six miles across town to a 4:00 convergence near UCLA.
Hundreds rallied at Venice High, Hamilton in West L.A. and Garfield in East L.A. There were convergence points set up all over the city, so students from different schools could come together. Sixty students walked out of Belmont in the Central American barrio of Pico-Union and marched to Parker Center, the LAPD headquarters where they found 150 students from Lincoln High and another 200 from Bravo Magnet School. They all went to the old-town plaza known as La Placita and rallied together, with entertainment provided by a group of Aztec dancers.
In the San Fernando Valley area, at Taft over 100 students gathered on campus as security guards took their photos, threatening to suspend them.
At San Fernando High, the school was surrounded by LAPD and school police cars. Administrators chained all the exits and blocked them with their bodies. Two dozen protesters started marching around the school. At every gated entrance as many as 100 students waited for the protesters. When those outside called on others to walk out, many did.
Youth inside ran through authorities to get stickers and fliers. A few climbed the fence and joined the march. Everyone inside was debating the walkout, the war, what they should do. Students headed to a convergence point where they were joined by students from Sylmar, supposedly their arch-rivals, and they protested together.
There were walkouts and campus protests at Canoga Park, El Camino, Grant, Van Nuys, Burroughs and Burbank High Schools. There were walkouts in outlying areas of South Pasadena, Alhambra, and Rialto.
From 1,500 to 2,000 people showed up at a rally at the UCLA campus. They were joined by 100 students who walked out of Peninsula High School. Professors contributed money and joined the crowd. Speakers included the Muslim Students Association, MEChA, African Students Union and Kabataang maka-Bayan (KmB --Pro-People Youth). A crowd of 600 marched through campus, ending up at the administration building for another rally. Dozens of students from Marymount High School marched up to a wild reception. That night, there was a free concert featuring Medusa and Burning Star.
Over 200 started to march around Westwood Village, a restaurant and shopping area next to the UCLA campus. Protesters chanted, "Rise up!--with the people of the world" and did die-ins at four intersections. At the Westwood Federal Building, there were LAPD cars and a line of Highway Patrol cops on motorcycles. After another die-in, the cops started ripping signs out of people's hands. The crowd did another die-in before marching off into the night.
Five colleges in Orange County had protests. In L.A. County, 1,000 students rallied at Glendale Community College. In eastern L.A. County there were day-long protests at the Claremont Colleges, which was also a convergence point for area high schools. Other protests occurred at the California Institute of the Arts, Mt. San Antonio College, and the University of Southern California.
At Santa Monica College 300 students blocked Pico Boulevard with a die-in and 1,000 people attended a teach-in. Later the students did another die-in, up against cops in riot gear, and then 150 marched for several miles.
At California State University Northridge, 15 students went to the school with bullhorns, signs and banners. One of them told the RW , "We were walking down halls, knocking on classroom doors, screaming, `Walk out!' Professors were just going, `forget it, I'm canceling classes, leave,' and kids were just walking out with us." The protest grew to about 300 students.
In Santa Barbara County, there were rallies and die-ins at UC Santa Barbara and a walkout at San Marcos High School. In Ventura County, 150 students walked out of classes at Ventura High and were joined by 100 others at lunchtime. In the afternoon, 200 rallied at a park. In Ojai, 20 students walked out of Nordhoff High, despite threats from the administration. At St. Bonaventure, in Ventura, 200 walked out and held a silent vigil. Several teachers dismissed classes, urging their students to attend the protest.
2,000 people converged for a rally called by NION and the Muslim Student Association Northwest. Students representing 42 Seattle-area schools left class or "called in sick" to take part. Across the state other campuses held walkouts and teach-ins. Workers called in sick or walked out. One Seattle law firm shut down--their voicemail that day said they were closed to join the day of protest. In Spokane, 10 protesters were arrested when they blocked the front gate of the Fairchild Air Force Base. Antiwar vigils and actions were held in many Seattle neighborhoods as well as Yakima, Washington and other cities.
Youth from all grades took anti-war actions--from elementary schools to graduate programs. Important alliances developed between educators and youth to oppose the war. In one middle school, 200 out of the school's 360 students (with the principal's help) walked out. Parents showed support by writing permission slips; some came to help. Some students faced suspension, but walked out anyway. A woman from Cornish School of Arts said, "We were out at 9 a.m. this morning, and we came together with the understanding, the belief, the truth, that individuals who have convictions that unite together for the cause of peace cannot fail. We will win!"
Shoreline Community College in north Seattle has a large international student population and growing antiwar sentiment. Students Against the War and The Muslim Students Association held a teach-in featuring speakouts, hip-hop performances, poetry readings and forums.
All over the city students walked out or didn't show up for class. One group of students hooked up with a crew at another high school, then went on to a third high school to get more kids. 50 in total walked over to the Seattle Central Community College (SCCC) campus, where hundreds of people gathered before going downtown.
Downtown, about 100 youth staged a die-out. The rally started with the tape of Saul Williams reading the NION Pledge of Resistance--to a wild reception. Students represented their schools by coming on stage and giving a shout-out. One high school student said, "We're here to say that yes we DO care and just 'cause we're not 18 it doesn't mean we don't. We've got a voice and we're gonna use it!" All day there were speakers and music. Labor unions, war veterans, revolutionary communists, Palestinian rights organizations, antiwar neighborhood groups, Muslim students and others spoke out against the war and repression.
Students from the islands that dot Puget Sound took ferries to be at the demo. From the stage, a young woman from a rural middle school on Vashon Island said, "Though I'm just a little girl, from a little school, in a little community, I want to let Bush know that I care about my future and the world I grow into. This is his war, not ours!"
Students at over 30 high schools and colleges in the Chicago area held teach-ins, staged die-ins and mock funerals, and walked out of school. A thousand students--a third of the total school enrollment--marched around Evanston Township High School and stopped traffic on the streets. At Oak Park-River Forest high school, 450 students--a sixth of the total student body--walked out. One thousand people took part in a teach-in at the University of Chicago.
At the end of the day, more than 1,500 rallied in downtown Chicago. Hundreds of youth stood together with veteran activists and others. That mix was reflected on the stage--with speakers ranging from student representatives to Rev. Jesse Jackson. Then people took to the streets in a rush-hour march though downtown.
Throughout the day there were many different kinds of activities. About 40 students walked out of Avon Lake high school, in a Cleveland suburb, and demonstrated at an Army recruitment station, chanting "ROTC, you won't recruit me, I won't kill innocent Iraqis!"
At 3 p.m., over 200 students converged on Public Square in downtown Cleveland. Students from at least six high schools walked out and came downtown. There were also students from CATALYST (an organization for social justice at Case Western Reserve University), Cleveland State University, and Cleveland Institute of Art. High school and college students spoke out. There were other speakers from CATALYST, Burning River Revolutionary Anarchist Collective, and the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade.
After a collective reading of the Not In Our Name Pledge of Resistance, the youth poured into the streets, disrupting traffic during rush hour.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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