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Wednesday, October 10,2001

Peaceniks parade in protest

by Brian Klocke

9-11 will remain forever ingrained in the consciousness of our country. Some Americans have carried on with a stiff upper lip in spite of the tragedy and rallied behind the man who is our President with a new sense of patriotism. Others have carried candles and participated in vigils to mourn the dead and to pray for peace.

Many in our communities are waking up from their shock to find more expressive ways to voice their feelings on the current crisis and the declared war on terrorism.

This past weekend, several Boulder residents traveled to Washington, D.C., joining more than 10,000 people from across the nation raising their voices in songs of peace and chants of justice, not war. Solidarity marches occurred in many cities, rallying another 10,000 citizens in San Francisco and 1,500 in Denver as well as other cities across the country.

Speakers and crowds at the weekend rallies in Washington were composed of diverse constituencies: family members of victims, members of every major religion, New York rescue workers, teachers and students, labor activists and environmental activists. Babies were marched in strollers, grandparents were escorted by family, some adults were rolling in wheelchairs, and youth of wide political persuasions marched briskly while signs and flags waved and puppets danced. Judith Mohling, of Boulder, expressed the sentiment of many demonstrators: "It's amazing being here walking with brothers and sisters who want peace, who believe that the terrorism that just happened is a crime and needs to be treated as a crime. To be able to tell the rest of the world what we're up to is exhilarating for me."

Most of the local and federal police agencies of metroploitan Washington were out in a massive show of force as well, including a few hundred clad in full black riot gear.

"We're trying to be on guard because some people don't respect peace," replied D.C. Assistant Police Chief Terrance Gainer. Pepper spray was used erratically on several protesters, ironically resulting in Gainer himself being the victim of pepper spray. However, both Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and Gainer spoke of how peaceful the marches were, reporting only 11 arrests and minor disturbances.

Judging by recent Bush popularity polls, much of the country thinks he is doing the right thing. However, David, a peace activist from Maryland who marched in DC with a US flag and a peace button, believes "that Bush and his coalition are wrong. People carrying the flag are not giving support for whatever he wants to do. I think they are just expressing sorrow and empathy and solidarity with the victims of the attack. He (Bush) says it's us against them. The real issue is much more complicated than that."

No one who attended the marches is shy about sharing an opinion.

Sara Bania-Dobyns, a Boulder resident who marched also thinks, "that Bush is not responding appropriately at all. He's taking this opportunity to increase military spending and to respond in a very impulsive, violent manner."

A Boulder resident named Mariah, who is traveling to China to teach English to kindergartners, has a close friend who is on the list of the missing from the World Trade Center. She spoke of wanting to avoid acting out of fear.

"I am for peace and I believe that war will not bring our loved ones back. It will only create more deaths and more martyrs, leaving us more vulnerable to future terrorist attacks."

Even Attorney General Ashcroft recently stated that there is a "substantial risk" that a US attack on Afghanistan could produce future terrorist attacks on the US.

The Bush administration has retracted Secretary of State Powell's statements implying evidence of Bin Laden's connection to the recent attacks would be made public. This bothers people like Sara, a Boulder resident who marched on Washingon.

"I was watching TV on September 11 when they started talking about Osama Bin Laden. They said there was significant evidence [of his responsibility for the attacks]. How could they possibly have it in the same day it happened?

Lou Santucci, a counter-peace protester from Washington, is convinced that bin Laden is responsible. He walked in front of the Washington Peace Center sponsored march on Sunday, carrying a banner that read: "Osama: thanks fellow cowards for your support."

"They're telling Osama that they support him," Santucci said. "Indirectly they are supporting terrorism, even if one person who is a terrorist is able to say to himself that even some people in America are against what the US is doing, then they are for us. Everything is simplistic in this world. Their messages might be complicated, but to some people in the world, it's straightforward-if you're not with the US and what they're doing then you're with us."

Looking at the history of US foreign policy, it has been difficult to keep track of who is on which side. When asked about the CIA's former support of bin Laden, Mr. Santucci did not seem too disturbed. He mentioned that the CIA also supported Castro originally.

"They basically made some judgements that at the time, whatever he [bin Laden] was doing, was in our interests and unfortunately it was a failure, but I don't think it's something you could foresee. I mean we supported Noriega, and then we went into his country and arrested him and he's in a US jail now. You know, mistakes are made-you got to learn from your mistakes, that's what you gotta do,"

This scenario has become so frequent that the CIA has developed its own term, "blowback," to describe it.

Many peace activists are asking deeper questions about terrorism and what "America" means to others in the global community. "There are many things we need to do to deal with the threat of terrorism and the continued threat of biological warfare or whatever terrorists might do to this country," says Rebecca, who lives in Longmont. "I think it's going to be necessary to include, as a part of that, looking at our own foreign policy and looking at the role the United States plays as a superpower, which has not really always been to support democracy and freedom around the world."

Mateo, a recent Boulder high school graduate who attended last year's IMF protests and is now enrolled at the University of Chicago, sees the connections between global justice and peace and security. "Economic violence in my mind is the worst kind of violence going on in the world today. As a direct result of economic policies adopted largely by this country and global financial institutions such as the WTO, IMF and World Bank, many people suffer in a very physical way. And that is terror in its own way. That sort of terror in addition to direct military terror has led to a lot of the anti-American sentiment that in some ways was a cause of the crashes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon. Our reaction to this shows the same kind of attitude we take towards the world in general, whether it be our domineering of world economies or whether it be in this case thinking that we can moralistically go in and bomb whomever we want and be justified in that action."

Judith Mohling adds: "There are 6 billion people in the world and 1 billion have what is necessary for life and 5 billion do not have what is necessary in order to be able to live ordinary lives. The 1 billion are trying to keep the lid on the 5 billion and it won't work. There can't be a rich elite in every single country to try to protect their money and corporations by military might. It can't last, ultimately."

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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