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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Students Walkout Against War

Students Walkout Against War

War against Iraq broke out on a Wednesday evening, prompting many student walkouts across the nation the following day. At UMass Boston, that day fell in the midst of spring break, preventing a walkout the day after the war started, but the campus still spoke out last Monday, March 24 with a student walkout at noon, followed by a rally sponsored by the Socialist Alternative and the UMB Socialist Club.

The rally filled the open space in front of the Wheatley building with approximately 250-300 students, faculty, and staff. Here, the UMass community expressed their views about war by carrying signs, such as “Bring Our Troops Home” and “Stop the War,” and listening to speakers, including American Studies Professor Paul Atwood from the Joiner Center, Ayesha Kazmi from the Muslim Student Association, and Nicole Motte, an undergrad student here at UMB.

Speakers at the rally hoped to force students into a critical evaluation of the United States government and their reasons for waging war. According to Professor Paul Atwood, “Absent from our government’s propaganda are the facts that when Saddam invaded Iran in 1980 and committed war crimes…then Presidents Carter and Reagan, and Vice President Bush supported him in doing so, and armed him to do it.” Consequently, says Atwood, “What these missing historical facts show is that the current administration cannot be serious about its claims to rid the world of a criminal because when this criminal’s crimes suited them they blessed him and assisted him to carry them out.”

Opinions that are infrequently heard in mainstream media include those voiced by the Muslim and Arab communities in the U.S. and Iraq. Ayesha Kazmi spoke out on Monday representing the Muslim Student Association, saying, “Do you have an Iraqi friend that you can call and listen to tonight? Perhaps you should. You will know the devastation that lives in our hearts as our eyes are glued to the live broadcasts of the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign wondering if our friends and families have survived the night.”

In addition, Kazmi said, “On March 19, 2003, the United States goes to war with Iraq calling the ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ with the stated intent to ‘liberate the peoples of Iraq’ after we savagely dehumanized the same people for 11 years under our economic sanctions.”

However, not everyone is supportive of such opinions. Tension before the actual walkout and rally was reflected through the actions of an anonymous individual, who reported to the Public Safety office that, “Nicole Motte was writing in chalk what she believed was believed was graffiti on the Wheatley Building wall,” according to Patrolman Mikal Holloway. The anonymous party asked Motte, who was writing an advertisement for the walkout, to “stop writing on the wall” and allegedly followed organizers around campus tearing down event flyers as fast as they were being put up.

Motte added her insight at the rally by saying, “It is sad we live in a world where people sit around and watch the war on television for entertainment, we should be supporting our troops and bringing them home.” Patrick Ayers, member of the UMass Boston Socialist Club, built on this point by stating, “The mainstream media is trying to corner the anti-war movement on the issue of supporting the troops. We are not against the troops, we are against the policy of war.”

The student walkout was considered a success. Said Kazmi, “While our president, George W. Bush, may hold a powerful chair as Commander-in-Chief of the United States [Army], we hold an even more powerful chair as citizens. The intent of the American government in to serve our needs and our demands, not their own. We pay for these schools, these streets, and these police officers who are so drunk on their power that they have forgotten the constitutional freedoms that they are hired to protect. Those are the very same freedoms that our soldiers were supposedly sent over to Iraq to protect.”