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Black community says no to Iraq war
By Deirdre Griswold
A rally against the Bush administration's planned war on Iraq held at a famous Black church here on Nov. 21 showed convincingly that the leading edge of the African American community is militantly against this war.
The House of the Lord church on Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue is known for the involvement of its congregation and pastor, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, in support of many freedom struggles, at home and abroad. A banner from the 1986 campaign to free Nelson Mandela hangs proudly in the church's basement community room.
On this rainy night, all three levels of the church--the nave, the large balcony and the basement, where the program was viewed on closed-circuit television--were each packed with hundreds of people, a majority from the African American community.
They had come at the call of the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Now Committee and the New York chapter of Act Now to Stop War & End Racism. International ANSWER had organized the massive Oct. 26 rallies in Washington and San Francisco.
From the opening remarks by Larry Holmes of ANSWER to Daughtry's closing oration nearly three hours later, the audience responded to every speaker with standing ovations. They also participated in the program by calling out encouraging comments again and again.
Holmes addressed the question of terrorism, showing how Bush's war and occupation of the Middle East would only increase the risks for the people here. He reviewed the wars and economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. on the region over many bloody decades--from Iran to Iraq to Libya and Afghanistan.
If the oppressed peoples of this exploited region feel that no one in the U.S. cares about what has been done to them, he said, then the possibility of terrorist attacks will grow. "We need to revive international solidarity," said Holmes. "People around the world need to know that there is a movement here that is fighting for justice and against the criminal policies of the government and the oil corporations."
There was also sustained applause for Holmes' announcement that ANSWER had called for anti-war actions in Washington on Jan. 18 to coincide with commemorations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had come out forcefully against the Vietnam War before he was assassinated in 1968.
"I believe we've reached a new level of unity," Rev. Daughtry told the crowd. "People have never come together this way. Our next stop is Washington, D.C. on January 18. Together we can win. We can stop this war." Daughtry also reminisced about his own experience as a young soldier being barred from using a public restroom while in basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey. "I said to myself then, why should I go to some other country to fight when I should be fighting for justice right here?"
Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark described the U.S. as a "plutocracy," and said, "We must stand up and make the government represent the will of the people. And that means no more war."
Viola Plummer of the December 12th Movement drew the crowd's attention to the ominous moves made by the Bush administration against the government of Zimbabwe, which is carrying out land reform.
City Council member Charles Barron also demolished the Bush administration's "war on terrorism." "Want to talk about terrorism?," he said. "Terrorism is the police firing 41 shots at an unarmed African man and hitting him 19 times," referring to the murder of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo in 1999. Barron had just returned from a fact-finding trip to Zimbabwe.
Rev. Paul Mayer of the NYC Forum of Concerned Religious Leaders pointed to the dangerous assaults on civil liberties now allowed under the USA Patriot Act. Himself a refugee from Nazi Germany, he called for unity in the struggle against reaction, and recalled that in the 1930s resistance to the Nazis was led by "communists, trade unionists and others." Mayer also announced that religious organizations would be mobilizing against the war on Dec. 10.
Besides these veterans of many struggles, younger people were prominent in the program, from ANSWER student organizer Jasmin Cruz to the church's youth choir, who rocked the house with their powerful and heartfelt singing.
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Reprinted from the Dec. 5, 2002, issue of Workers World newspaper
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