State of the movement - Page 2

Antiwar activists struggle to maintain pressure for peace

"Obama said he's going to change it eventually, but we're worried about right now," he said.

Courage to Resist organizer Sarah Lazare agrees with Solnit that peace activists should oppose U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. Lazare says it's important to communicate that "Afghanistan is not a good war" and that "terrorism is a tactic" that cannot be destroyed militarily.

"Measuring the number of people at a demonstration is not the only way to measure what's going on," she said. Among her examples of ongoing, dynamic organizing is the work of Courage to Resist and Iraq Vets Against the War.

IVAW is directly organizing active-duty members of the military to engage in dissent. SF Bay Area chapter member Peter Schlange told us that their ranks are growing as the Iraq war continues.

IVAW is also challenging the Afghanistan buildup. In a recently passed resolution, the antiwar veterans group "calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces in Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people, and supports all troops and veterans working towards those ends."

Paul Kawika Martin, organizing and policy director for Peace Action, says his group wants all troops out of Iraq by 2010, with no "residual forces" or contractors left behind. Martin also says it's important for activists to march and to lobby Congress. He stressed that both Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi lobbied for reform, and U.S. peace activists also need to do so.

Martin feels the peace movement will have an important impact on the new administration. "I don't think he fears being too liberal," Marin told me. "But he wants to get things done, and like any politician he will be more pragmatic than we want him to be."

Martin said the troop escalation in Afghanistan was a concern for Peace Action. Martin is working with a group of 70 activists, think tanks, and aid workers who make up the Afghanistan Policy Working Group. He points to Reps. Raul Grijalva (now the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus), Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, and Maxine Waters as key allies of antiwar activists in Congress. "We need to support them," he told me.

The antiwar movement itself also needs support, given that many of its top activists have been arrested repeatedly in the last six years.

Organizer Stephanie Tang with the World Can't Wait dismisses hope for Democrats as a trap. She pointed to Nancy Pelosi's early knowledge of torture and Obama's recent announcement that the administration would block release of torture photos in the courts. In March 2008, Tang was arrested for allegedly obstructing police at a Berkeley demonstration opposing a military recruiting center.

Walter Riley, Tang's lawyer, told the Guardian: "It's my contention they identified Stephanie as a leader and are vioutf8g her constitutional rights to protest an illegal war."

Berkeley police referred inquiries to the Alameda County District Attorney's office, which had not returned our call at press time. Riley said a Berkeley policeman "blind-sided her," and, holding his club horizontally, slammed Tang off her feet.

Police later attempted to get a statement from Tang while she was receiving medical treatment for injuries sustained during the incident. Berkeley police only later charged her with obstructing police at the march. Tang faces one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Also from this author

  • Shaking the city

    Chris Carlsson's new book takes on the legacy of 1960s SF

  • Call of the grisly

    Paco Ignacio Taibo II constructs a guide to corruption in Mexico City Noir

  • Time travel

    The Dashiell Hammett Tour leads the curious through San Francisco's alluring underbelly