A Day of Protests, Against Iraq War and A.I.G.
March 19, 2009
By Jennifer Mascia and Jason Grant
On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq,
hundreds of protesters in New York City made it clear on Thursday that while
they welcomed the change in American political leadership, they would not relent
in urging President Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of combat forces from
The protests were perhaps more muted than the massive demonstrations of years
past, but no less fervent.
In Union Square, where about 120 people huddled together under the awning of
a subway station, staying out of the rain, some protesters said that Mr. Obama,
the new president, who as an Illinois state senator had opposed the war, had
continued some of the Bush administration’s most controversial policies.
Debra Sweet, 57, one of the protest organizers, said the Obama administration
had continued the policy of secret renditions of terrorism suspects, and she
called for “righteous anger at this occupation.” Many in the crowd
were high-school students.
“We’re not putting everything on Obama, whether it be hope or condemnation,”
she said of the new president. She said of the high-school students around her:
“They understand they have no voice. They’re too young to vote but
they will be the ones to foot the bill for this war and they know it.”
Another protester, Sonsara Taylor, said she was also angered by American policies
on Gaza and Pakistan and called for the investigation, and possible prosecution,
of members of the Bush administration who argued for the Iraq war.
Matthis Chiroux, a 25-year-old Army veteran from Alabama who said he has served
in Germany, Japan and Afghanistan, but faced disciplinary proceedings because
he refused to serve in Iraq, expressed impatience with the new president.
“Obama’s policies just confirmed to me that the president may have
changed, but the war is the same,” Mr. Chiroux said. “Just because
we have a black president now, doesn’t mean that we don’t have a
Elsewhere in the crowd, a group of men rapped together into a microphone, “Show
me what democracy looks like.” An elderly woman looked up at the heavens
and implored, “Why must it rain on our parade.”
Meanwhile, in Times Square in the late afternoon, about 25 antiwar protesters
stood in front of the Armed Forces Career Center, some of them carrying signs
that read, “Stop Occupation and Torture for Empire! The World Can’t
Wait!” Others wore black garb and white, ghostly-looking masks, solemnly
held up signs listing the number of citizens killed in both war-torn countries.
Photo Credit: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency
“We haven’t closed our eyes to what’s going on,” said Heather LaMastro, 33,
a protester. “Change of administration doesn’t mean anything to us, really,
because we’re seeing the same policies carried over.” For instance, she said,
President Obama has continued enforcement of the Patriot Act, and has altered
the time frame he’d promised for for removing troops from Iraq.
The antiwar demonstrations were not the only protests of the day. Around 4:30
p.m., 100 to 150 people gathered in Lower Manhattan around 70 Pine Street, the
headquarters of the American International Group, to protest the bonuses the
troubled insurance giant, which is mostly owned by the government, has given
The protesters, who also chanted slogans outside the Goldman Sachs building,
stood in front of the A.I.G. tower for 20 minutes, while organizers from the
Service Employees International Union gave a speech. People shouted: “A.I.G.!
Shame on you!”
John Adler, who studies private equity firms for the union, said in an interview:
“We’re here to say to A.I.G. and Goldman Sachs and other bailout
banks, “You can’t take bailout money and hand it to executives.’”
Kwame Patterson, 28, a spokesman for the union, added: “We’re not aiming it
at everybody in the building. We’re aiming it at the institution. This is aimed
at the executives who were irresponsible in the first place.”
More about Mathis Chiroux, at WeAreNotYourSolders.org
1,000 in Chicago March Against Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan
March 18, 2009
On Saturday, March 14th, approximately 1,000 people gathered in the predominately
Mexican immigrant neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village in Chicago to protest
the continuation of the war in Iraq, the escalation of the war in Afghanistan,
the bombing of Pakistan and the massacre in Gaza. The demonstration also demanded
an end to the government’s war on immigrants. Called to mark the 6th anniversary
of the invasion of Iraq, many who came also planned to attend next Saturday’s
march on the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
Organizers have found a fair amount of confusion about the Obama administration’s
foreign (and domestic) policy, so it was important that people came into the
streets this year to voice our clear demands for a complete end to all the occupations.
There was also vigorous debate among activists over whether we can really challenge
people to understand what’s at stake, or whether the best we can do is to “pressure
Obama to live up to his promises.” Even people who understand that Obama
only promised more of the same US empire have questioned whether we can actually
Veterans, students, immigrants and LGBT folks marched through the neighborhood
calling on bystanders to join the march. A new chant was created on the spot:
“No more aggression towards Iran! Stop the war in Afghanistan!” as
protesters struggled with each other and the people watching from the sidewalks,
street corners and front porches to understand that what’s needed isn’t a “shift
in focus back to the good war- Afghanistan,” but rather a complete end
to the whole so-called “global war on terror.”
World Can’t Wait brought a triptych of banners reading: “Get Out of Iraq,”
“Stop Bombing Pakistan,” and “Get Out of Afghanistan.” A
group of students also carried a “We Are Not Your Soldiers” banner.
The Evanston and Chicago Chapters will hold a protest in Evanston on March 19th,
the actual anniversary at the Evanston military recruitment center, located
only a couple blocks away from the only public high school in the town.
This report was written by members of the Chicago chapter of World Can’t Wait.
Source URL: http://worldcantwait.net
Sarkozy warned of class war
March 19, 2009
France faces a “class war” that could undermine President Nicolas Sarkozy s reform efforts and spark a period of damaging labour unrest, one of the country s most prominent business leaders has warned.
In an interview with the Financial Times as France braced for its second national strike in less than two months, Maurice Lévy, head of Publicis, said “people are really angry” over the country s growing economic hardship and costly bank rescues.
Mr Lévy criticised the government for fanning the discontent. The boss of the advertising group said ministers had failed to explain adequately why the state had bailed out banks while refusing to help consumers with new tax breaks or wage rises.
Unions have promised another record turnout for Thursday s general strike, with more protests planned across the country than in January when up to 2.5m people came out on to the streets.
The public mood has worsened, with protests becoming militant amid factory closures and as the government struggles to revive the economy.
“No one understood that the vast majority [of bank support] was in guarantees and in reality the money was not yet spent. People were told the country was bankrupt and suddenly there was €340bn available for these greedy people. On top of that they are distributing bonuses. We have another class war,” said Mr Lévy.
Claude Bébéar, the honorary chairman of insurance group Axa and seen as the elder statesman of French capitalism, warned in a separate FT interview that the country risked becoming engaged in “a struggle, with each side seeking to take advantage of the other to strengthen its position”.
He urged the government, unions and employers “to play a collective game”.
Many business leaders fear that, as militancy grows, the government will make concessions on its reform programme. Mr Sarkozy has already backed down in a long-running dispute with academics and students over university reform. Medef, the employers group, is worried that concessions made after the January strike could impose new constraints on companies.
Mr Lévy said further compromises could encourage more protests. “Each compromise, even if reasonable, is misinterpreted as a grand victory by the strikers and the opposition,” he said.
“We have always known that reform has to be done very, very quickly. If it is not done quickly it ends in conflict,” he said.
French unions claim 3m on street
March 19, 2009
French unions have claimed that up to three million people have taken part in street protests amid a national strike against France s economic policies.
Police gave an estimate of 1.2 million people at rallies nationwide.
Schools have been closed and public transport disrupted, with demonstrations held in about 200 towns.
Unions are demanding more is spent to protect workers in the recession. Unemployment has reached two million and is expected to rise further.
Union members marched towards the Place de la Nation in Paris behind a banner that read: “United against the crisis, defend employment, spending power and public services.”
“They have a profound sense of social injustice,” said Jean-Claude Mailly, head of the large Force Ouvriere union, “and that, I think, is something that neither the government nor the employers have understood.”
London police fear violent protests at G-20 economic meeting
Reuters / International Herald Tribune (the International version of New York Times)
March 19, 2009
LONDON: The British police are preparing to deal with violent protests as anarchists threaten to bring chaos to the Group of 20 summit meeting in London.
All leave for police officers in the capital has been called off and businesses are being advised to cancel unnecessary meetings because protesters have vowed to target the financial district as the world leaders gather to discuss the financial crisis.
Previous world economic summit meetings and conferences have been targeted by anarchists, anti-globalization protesters and other groups. The police say they fear that the gathering April 2 in London, set against anger at the economic downturn, could provoke more violence.
Environmentalists, antiwar campaigners and protesters have already indicated that they would demonstrate April 1 as politicians and officials begin arriving in London.
A movement called “Storm the Banks” is circulating on the Internet indicating that anti-capitalist protesters are planning to focus their attention on the Bank of England during what some protesters have dubbed “Financial Fools Day.”
Auto parts workers occupy closed plant in Windsor, Canada
CAW moves to block broader struggle against layoffs
By Jerry White
19 March 2009
Hundreds of workers rallied yesterday in front of a Windsor, Ontario auto parts plant, which autoworkers have been occupying since Tuesday night. Workers at the Aradco factory seized control of the plant a week after its parent company, Catalina Precision Products, shut it down, throwing 90 workers out of their jobs without severance and vacation pay and other benefits.
The action followed several days of mass picketing by workers to block Chrysler–which accounts for 99 percent of the auto supplier’s business–from removing parts and tooling from this factory and a sister plant known as Aramco. The Detroit-based automaker cancelled its contracts with Catalina after a dispute over payments, and immediately obtained a court order to retrieve parts and tooling equipment from the supplier.