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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Anti-War March Highlights Minority and Working-class Issues

Honoring the legend and values of Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, anti-war demonstrators took to the streets of Boston during the “Stop the Violence, Stop the War at Home and Abroad – Unite Against Poverty, Racism & War!” rally that took place on the three-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Saturday, March 18.

The in march, which was in conjunction with similar marches held in several major U.S. cities and dozens of countries, aimed not only to target the war in Iraq but also to condemn what protest organizers see as the fundamental causes of this continuing violence – the United State’s governments racism and hostility towards working-class people. Several groups helped to organizes the event including the Rosa Parks Human Rights Day Committee (RPHRDC), one of the leading organizations of the Boston march, along with the Troops Out Now Coalition, and the Women’s Fightback Network.

The march in Boston began in Dudley Common in Roxbury, then proceed to Malcolm X Boulevard, and finally headed northeast to Boston Common and Boston City Hall before coming back to Beacon Street to reach right in front of State House.

Organizers argued that the nearly $700 billion that have already been spent on the war deprived minorities and the poor of the quality housing, youth programs, education, and healthcare that they need. They also cited government neglect during hurricane Katrina, while an epidemic of violence against women and legal controls on abortion rights are threatening women’s rights. Participants in the march are encouraged to build a worldwide coalition with people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, South Korea, Puerto Rico, or Iran who undergo colonial occupation, political oppression, economic exploitation or threats of a war due to U.S. government intervention.

“Let’s be clear, we are fighting to stop two wars– the war abroad and the war at home against racism and poverty,” says the Rosa Parks committee on their website.

After an inaugural weekly meeting on Feb. 1, Tony Van Der Meer, a professor in the Africana Studies Department at UMass Boston and a co-chair of the Rosa Parks committee, meet with leaders of local unions, women’s groups, peace-advocating organizations and community activists to work out their diverse political needs.

Their outreach and visibility campaign stepped up in the final two weeks, as activists daily went out into community business centers, terminal stations, churches, colleges, and high schools calling for support for the march through leafleting and door knocking. In communities with many recent immigrants, the organizers kept in mind the need for special attention in these communities, arranging for speakers fluent in Creole and Spanish.

Professor Van Der Meer said that immigrants, as well as African Americans, Latinos, other people of color, working class people and women need to be especially informed of these issues.

“We target them because they are the people who have been most impacted by this war. And they aren’t told about the negative side of the war,” he said.

This was the second anti-war demonstration in downtown Boston in the past four months, following the “Rosa Parks National Day of Absence Against Poverty, Racism and War” march on December 1, the 50th anniversary of Montgomery Bus Boycott. Over 500 people participated, the majority being people of color. The organizers saw the turnout as successful enough to see growing discontent at the U.S. government.

Clemencia Lee of the Rosa Parks Committee said that she received lots of positive reaction from the predominantly black and immigrant Dudley area in Roxbury through door-knocking and direct contacts with the residents. Some were at first suspicious, but as the visitors explained (often in español) and told of anti-war message such as “The war on Iraq has cost Massachusetts over $6.9 Billion so far,” people began to understood and showed their support for the march, Lee said.

Lee emphasized the importance and effectiveness of direct interaction with communities. From the past door-knocking and the march in December, residents remembered the Rosa Parks Committee. “By going directly to their doors, people directly see us. That’s important,” she said.

This fact proves to Van Der Meer and others’ that their strategy is working. Van Der Meer has for years held tribute events for Dr. King and Malcolm X at Roxbury Community College and First Church in Roxbury, decidedly holding marches to get public attention instead of indoor gatherings.

“To march on the street is the only way that we can show our solidarity to the policy makers. At the same time, people directly see their power and think that they can make so many changes in our society,” said Van Der Meer. “Dr. King said ‘silence is consent.’ The government is saying ‘you must agree with us.’ But we have to say ‘No, no. We disagree with you,'”

Steve Kirschbaum, Chief Shop Steward of the 90-percent-Haitian Boston School Bus Drivers Union, said that most of his 590 members in the union have reasons to join the anti-war movement not just because of money used for the benefit the military-industry complex instead of the social programs but because they also have first-hand experience of how colonizers and capitalists have for centuries exploited the people from Caribbean and other regions, both in and out of the U.S.

Kirschbaum mentioned the U.S. governmental support for Haitian anti-communist dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier during the Cold War, and the modern-day U.S. corporative exploitation of local economies and labor in Haiti and the Caribbean in general. “Haitians and other immigrants need to know that it is the same political force which we all are fighting against,” Kirschbaum said.

Dorotea Manuela, a Puerto-Rican-native and community activist, said she saw so much negative impact of the century-long U.S. occupation of the island since 1898.

A strong injection of U.S. investment didn’t bring economic prosperity and democracy that they claimed they would. Puerto Ricans earn only a third of per capita income of the U.S. average and remain suffering from a high unemployment rate of 12 percent in 2002. Politically, islanders aren’t granted the right to vote in the U.S. elections for the president or given representation in congress, but they are given American citizenship allowing them to be inlisted in the military. As of March 8, 22 Puerto Ricans have been killed in Iraq, representing more than per capita casualties in the war in Iraq, according to iCasualties.com. The actual number of Puerto Rican deaths in Iraq is believed to be higher, if it included those who moved and lived in the U.S. mainland at their dispatch.

“So, how much of this ‘democracy,’ which the Bush administration is trying to spread, has benefited us?” Manuela asks. “Once people stood up, they elected socially progressive governments in Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, and Palestine. So, I still believe that we can create a lot of social changes by ourselves.”

Kirschbaum said the future of American youths are also in danger because of the war. His 17-year-old daughter began to receive mail filled with seductive statements such as free education and “fight for freedom” more often than once a week. Kirschbaum and many other critiques of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 points out that the biggest purpose of the 670-page law is a provision which requires public secondary schools to provide military recruiters with names, addresses and phone numbers for every student, or face with a deduction of financial aids.

“Arrogantly, recruiters go into the educational institutions to pick up students in economic necessity to go to the war,” he said.

Prof. Van Der Meer said that the Rosa Parks Committee and his quest for justice will continue as long as the issues of war, military spending, racism, and money for education and healthcare persist.

But advertisement, printing flyers, and stickers and any other miscellaneous things cost so much money that the committee is in debt. Van Der Meer asks for donation for the committee, “Just a quarter out of a dollar gives people power to fight against this violence at home and abroad,” he said.

For further information about the future events and donation, visit www.brphrd.com, email at [email protected] or call 617-524-3507.