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Protest escalation of Iraq War, Wednesday, April 7, 6 PM in DC

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jsmacdonald Donating Member (190 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 09:43 AM
Original message
Protest escalation of Iraq War, Wednesday, April 7, 6 PM in DC
WHAT: Protest the U.S.'s occupation and war in Iraq, specifically its
escalation in recent days in Fallujah and in Shiite parts of the country, which has so far left more than 100 Iraqis and approximately 2 dozen Coalition soldiers dead.

WHEN: 6 PM, Wednesday, April 7

WHERE: H and 16th Streets NW (at Lafayette Park), Washington, DC

This flash protest has been endorsed by the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) in coordination with Code Pink. Contact Jim Macdonald at
jsmacdonald@hotmail.com

The United States had no business beginning the war in Iraq, had no business occupying the country, and has no business continuing the cycle of death and destruction today. We continue to be saddened and sickened by the needless loss of life in Iraq. More than 10,000 Iraqis have died; more than 620 U.S. soldiers have died as well. Countless more have been wounded, including more than 3,500 American soldiers. A UPI reporter recently estimated almost 12,000 U.S. casualties (wounded, dead, sick).

Instead of seeing how disastrous this war has been, Bush has ratcheted up the violence to new levels. In the past few days, under what's being called Operation Vigilant Resolve, the city of Fallujah has been turned into a killing field. Simultaneously, Coalition forces have managed to upset a significant number of armed Shiites. The longer that the United States occupies Iraq, the more needless death there is, and the less the chance that Iraqis will peacefully rule themselves.

We call on people to express their outrage and sorrow out in the streets in front of the White House on Wednesday, to support an immediate end to the war in Iraq, a withdrawal of U.S. troops, and for everyone who can to put pressure on the Administration to change its course. The killing must stop, and we must be out in the streets to remind the public and its officials that we find this violence unacceptable.

Please join us for a non-permit, impromptu protest.

Please forward and spend a warm evening out on the street,

Jim
http://www.dawndc.net
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jsmacdonald Donating Member (190 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 10:53 AM
Response to Original message
1. DAWN/Code Pink Iraq Flash Protest a Success
DAWN/Code Pink Iraq Flash Protest a Success
by Jim Macdonald

At 4:00 PM on Tuesday, April 6, Pat Elder called me up. He asked me whether he could give Gael Murphy from Code Pink my cell phone number. According to Pat, Gael was out of town but was requesting that the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) lead a flash action protesting the escalating war in Iraq. Since Pat was not going to be at our meeting that evening and since I was co-facilitating, he wanted to refer Gael to me. Of course, I let Pat give Gael my number; 26 hours later a few dozen of us were out protesting on H Street. I want to share the story of the protest and how it happened. I think the longer story is remarkable because it emphasizes the energy thats just waiting to be tapped. For a little bit of planning and energy, people were itching to converge on the street. Imagine what we could do with a lot more planning and energy.

Minutes after talking to Pat, Gael called me. She was very upset about the events on the ground in Fallujah. At that moment, there was little news. The area was sealed off. There were reports of people dying, being physically mistreated, but we didnt know much. All we knew was that the dying had increased and that the escalation had increased to new levels. It is a little embarrassing that we had grown used to the dying that hadnt ceased since the war began just over a year ago. That is, it is a little embarrassing that we needed an escalation to consider an emergency action. Anyhow, Gael had been on the phone with United for Peace and Justice, and they were putting out a call. She asked if DAWN would lead an action, hoping that that action would be at the John Kerry fundraiser on Wednesday evening. I asked her when that fundraiser was. She stated that she didnt know. Thats when I truly realized that nothing had really been worked out and that people were still brainstorming. I suggested that it might be hard to affect a fundraiser but that Kerry was supposed to be giving a major economic address at Georgetown earlier in the day. However, we believed that doing the action at the Kerry fundraiser might be best. I agreed to bring this proposal up at the DAWN meeting and would spend the short time I had left to research the details of Kerrys $1,000 a plate fundraiser.

A few hours later, I brought the proposal up at the DAWN meeting, that DAWN take an action at the Kerry fundraiser to lobby Kerry and other influential Democrats to take a vociferous stand against the killing in Iraq. However, as I presented it, I realized I was in a delicate place. Were we supposed to be protesting against Kerry? If so, then how is that a direct result of the attacks on Fallujah and the battles against Shiites in Baghdad and southern Iraq. If we werent protesting, is this more of a lobbying effort? If so, how were we going to lobby Democrats at a fundraiser where we could only get close but not inside. While I believed that the way the Kerry campaign has chosen to ignore the left on the war required us to shake him up, it was hard to present this action in a way that was going to reach a consensus. Some in our group are angry at Kerry and only would support a vociferous protest against Kerry and his role in putting us here. Others in our group preferred the lobbying approach. Still others thought that either way it was a waste of time since Kerry isnt running the military. A group like me thought that whatever people brought to the protest would be okay but that it was important that we take this advantage to let Kerry know what we feel.

Our discussion dragged on far over the allotted time, and I knew about midway through the discussion that I was going to lose the vote. As I thought of all the people dying, I thought it outrageous that DAWN could not support an action that allowed people to vent their outrage and sorrow in a public way. So, I said that if my proposal failed on Kerry, that I wanted to support a flash action at the White House instead.

The vote on Kerry failed, and so we turned to the new White House proposal. Several expressed concern that a small action would take too much of our energy that could be better used working on big actions. I and others strongly objected to that line of reasoning. I figured it was my energy and Gaels energy that was going to be put into this, that we had it, and that it was much better than the alternative of sitting around doing nothing on a Wednesday evening. Perhaps, the action would be so small that no one would notice, but then who would care? However, it might just be a spark toward something else, helping people build connections, letting tourists from around the country know that there was something, and letting local commuters know that there was an anti-war group in town willing to stand behind them.

In the end, DAWN passed the proposal unanimously calling for a protest at the White House. I hope that the participants in DAWN are glad they did because the event went very well.

At 9:20 PM on Tuesday, I left a voice mail for Gael letting her know, and half an hour later she called me back. While it wasnt exactly as we envisioned it, she was very happy that DAWN was supporting a flash action. We decided that H Street was the best location because of its proximity to commuters, to tourists, and to the symbolism of the White House. Since there is a 25 person limit for non-permitted protest in Lafayette Park, we even realized that there might even be the potential for civil disobedience if it came to that. She said, Then, its a date.

At 11:30 PM, I was home writing the call to action, using DAWNs email to put out that call, and posting that call to Indymedia. This took me approximately 1 hour to complete and get out. Do you realize how little effort that is? I write a call, press a few buttons, and there you have it. Yahoo listserves have been terribly slow, and people with Yahoo and Hotmail accounts in some cases didnt receive that call until afternoon on Wednesday, but the call was out there.

I went to work the next morning, and besides monitoring Indymedia and answering a few emails, I did nothing more. However, late in the afternoon, apparently there was some buzz. At about 3 PM on Wednesday, I got a call from Manny Fernandez of the Post. He wanted to know about the event, whether we planned civil disobedience, etc. In the end, there was no story that I have seen, but considering how little we actually did to get the word out, I was very surprised to get that kind of interest. Later than that, I got an email from Shahid of the Guerrilla Poets. He asked if he could bring his portable mike and lead some chants. I wrote and told him that of course he could since it was a very informal protest.

At 4:45 PM, I left work, met my wonderful girlfriend Genevieve, and headed out to Lafayette Park. Along the way, thanks to a suggestion and some money from Karen OKeefe, we stopped by a CVS and got some signs for posters and bought some markers. This is an important detail because as you will see those posters and markers came in handy. Genevieve and I went to the park and talked to Connie at Prop 1. We told her we were about to have a protest, and she complained that no one ever comes out to protest. Truly, we arent out there enough.

By 5:40, Genevieve and I unfurled the Arrest Bush for War Crimes banner and stood out there with a man from the Re-Defeat Bush campaign and another man I had never met before. Soon, the Park Police were out there asking their usual sets of questions. Who is in charge? How long do you plan to be here? How many? Then, a police officer asked someone else if we were with DAWN. The police said someone had called in the protest saying 100 people would be there. I dont know who made that phone call, but it wasnt me. The answers to the police were vague because in truth we had no leader, we didnt know how many would be there or how long we would stay. Furthermore, it was none of their business.

Soon, tourists took interest in us. The heavy rush hour traffic honked approval, especially cab and bus drivers. Three tourists in particular made the most profound impact on me. A woman and her two children from Tacoma, WA, stopped by. She explained that her brother was in Iraq and didnt want to be there. He was even ready to retire from the military but couldnt until he was allowed to return home. She grimaced when I told her that Rumsfeld had just said that he hoped to slow down the troop rotation and keep the soldiers there longer. Genevieve and she talked a long time. After awhile, I tactlessly asked Genevieve whether she had shared seeing helicopters and buses taking wounded to Walter Reed Medical Center, which is not far at all from where she lives. Genevieve said, I didnt want to tell her about that. In truth, the womans face became more downcast at the thought. She said, I have confidence my brother will come home, okay. Then, she hesitated and said, At least I think he willI hope. The children decided to make signs and join the protest. Taking the signs and markers we had just purchased, the 10-year-old girl made a sign that said:

"Bring my uncle home soon! I miss him thanks to gordge Bush."

At first she was shy about showing it, but soon she was humbly standing there showing the sign to bus after bus of tourists, to car passengers who slowed to read her sign. Soon, she was interviewed by Luke and WSQT. That brought a smile to my face.

The scene picked up. At the height, we had more than the 25 people allowed, and I estimate about 35 showed up. That may sound very small to some of you, but I honestly thought when I was proposing this action the night before that we were not going to have an event at all, or that we would have 5 or 6 people. There were some press cameras. We reached several thousand tourists and commuters in the process. In fact, we even drew a few counter-protesters. A man stood quietly across the street with an Israeli flag and a sign that said, Bush & Sharon Fighting Terror Together or something to that effect. The great thing was in such a small scene was that people on our side would cross the street to talk. When a young yuppie couple showed up with a sign that said, HippiesGet a job! several Code Pink people crossed the street to talk with them. Genevieves friend Patty made a sign that responded perfectly, Yuppies, Get a Heart!

Shahid came and led us in chants, impressing those who had never seen this one Guerrilla Poet in action. Its amazing how much a microphone does to pick up the energy, to unify the space, to bring us all into one sound spectrum. When I thought we would have a handful, to have sound and chants and relatives of soldiers in Iraq join us was much more than I could have asked.

Everyone knew that this was a great way to spend a Wednesday evening, to let people know that we wanted this war to end right now. It gave ANSWER an opportunity to build for their Saturday afternoon rally at Lafayette Park at Noon. It gave thousands of commuters and tourists a chance to see that we are not going to be silent in the face of this war. By about a 10 to 1 ratio people expressed support over disapproval. The horns of cars made it loud. Those who disapproved energized as well. A man in an SUV saw the Arrest Bush for War Crimes Banner. He got very angry and gave me the middle finger. So, I smiled right back at him and blew him a kiss. He got angrier and through the SUV, I could see him trying to yell at me. However, I could not here him. All I could do was read his lips say Asshole! He then flipped me and others off again. Shahid brought the mike and carried on a conversation with him for about 20 seconds as others in traffic had to wait for him to vent.

Democracy was alive and beautifully noisy yesterday night. What if we had done nothing at all?

As the energy began dying down, Genevieve asked if Id like to join her old friends who used to keep regular vigil on H Street for dinner. Of course, I wanted to do this, and so we decided to walk to Dupont Circle. Some others in DAWN were with us walking the same direction, and Gael Murphy was also with us for a time. As we walked, we decided to start chanting. The chants were very, very loud for 7 to 8 people, and everyone on the street noticed us. It was a great deal of fun, and people applauded us the whole way down. Even as we walked through outdoor restaurants, people were not disturbed but happy. They cheered us. In one case, a man joined us chanting for a very short stretch. This gave us more chance to share the anti-war message and let them know about DAWN. Anyhow, near Dupont Circle, we noticed Park Police on the other side of Connecticut. We thought nothing of it, but when we got to the circle, we noticed several more. Then, as we turned down P Street still chanting, there were 10 to 12 cars that rode in a line down P Street, all of them Park Police a few with lights flashing. It was a very strange sight, so much so that we think that we probably drew them out. I wonder if they would have done that if we yelled out, Enjoy Coca-Cola! or Wear Nike!

So, what can we learn from this? I gave you the full story as I knew it. I put out most of the calls with some help from Gael. I know from that, people forwarded the call out to their friends, to a few members of the press. Before you knew it, we had an event that was building toward the next one. So, I took a phone call from Pat Elder, from Gael Murphy, worked out the details over 25 minutes at a DAWN meeting, spent another fifteen minutes on a telephone, another hour writing and sending out a call, and dozens of people eagerly responded on a week night with very short notice.

I think the lesson then is that there is a lot of energy to be tapped if we will work together and plan together. People are itching for a movement. The vibe is out there, and we need to make it happen.

So, those of us who are activists need to band together to make it happen. This month, help MGJ with the World Bank protests, with womens groups planning for the March for Womens Lives, and with ANSWERs protest at the White House this Saturday. Help me and my working group in DAWN who are planning DCs presence at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Next Thursday, on April 15, from 7 to 9 PM, we are inviting local groups interested in attending one or both conventions to an informal meeting at AFSC (2211 14th Street NW). We want from this meeting to begin the process of building solid working coalitions in this town so that we can tap into the energy that we see in flashes on H Street.

I am working feverishly building relationships in New York, Boston, and around the country to help us have a massive presence in New York to protest the Republican National Convention. This is a BIG event. Yet, I fully believe that big events are built on the backs of small events, from taking the time to be in the streets and talking to people one-on-one. Those are the events that touch people, that help us realize that we need to keep working together, need to keep harnessing that energy for something that will have a lasting change on the cycle of war in our world.

I hope some of you will post video or photos from yesterday, but I am content with sharing the story. I shared the full story from the inside out so you see how little it takes to get people out in the streets. They want to go; they are waiting for the call to go so long as they have a few of their friends. All we need to do is facilitate them. It doesnt take a lot of energy at all to make successful events like last night happen. So, lets keep it up.

See you all Saturday!
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