Socialist Alternative Anti-War Activities

Seattle, WA

Anti-War Protesters Gathered at Westlake Park

The more than 1,000 anti-war protesters gathered at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle this afternoon has caused the closure of some streets, and generated an alert from Metro that routes were being altered because of the rally.

By about 4:30 p.m., the Westlake Center crowd was quickly dwindling, according to Seattle police.

About 300 protesters walked separately to the Federal Building for a 5 p.m. protest. The group did not have permission to walk en masse in the street from Westlake to the federal building, said police spokesman Duane Fish.

One northbound lane of Fourth Avenue was closed temporarily because there were too many people to fit on the sidewalk.

Police said they were generally pleased with the protesters’ behavior, and no arrests have been made.

Two groups of protesters, one from the University of Washington and the other from Seattle Central Community College, marched to Westlake Center beginning about 1 p.m.

Just after 4 p.m. as the majority of the protesters were at Westlake Park, Metro alerted riders that the rallies and marches were disrupting bus service because streets were blocked.

Metro also said the disruptions could last into the evening.

As the rallies began earlier in the day, about 200 students chanting “Hell no, we won’t go, we won’t fight for Texaco,” walked out of Garfield High School and joined more students from other area schools.

“I just think it’s a bad idea to go to war in the Middle East. I think we’re just creating hatred,” said Brian Spencer, a 14-year-old freshman at Garfield.

Garfield organizer Craig Judelman said he felt compelled to let President Bush and other leaders know his dissatisfaction that the Iraq war had begun.

About 300 students from North End high schools, community colleges and the University of Washington marched down Eastlake Avenue where they had planned to meet up with more than 1,000 other students at Eastlake and East Lynn Street about 2 p.m.

Some 200 Seattle police were guarding the nearby Interstate-5 ramps, to prevent the marchers from shutting down traffic.

Both groups of demonstrators were marching with parade permits.

Several hundred students gathered at UW’s Red Square. Students listened to speeches by fellow students, professors and local activists.

“It’s still important to protest now that the war has started to show there are ordinary Americans who don’t agree with what the U.S. Government is doing,” said Ramy Khalil, 26, an event organizer and former UW student. “A lot of people say we’re not supporting our troops by protesting but we say the best way to support them is to bring them home.”

Interstate 5 was shut down for 20 minutes at 2.15 p.m. in Bellingham after about 500 protesters from Western Washington University marched onto the freeway between the Lakeway and Iowa St. exits.

The protesters earlier met on campus before marching to the freeway. About seven Washington State Patrol cars were joined by the Bellingham Police Department at the scene.

“We got there in the lick of time to get traffic stopped and shut down the freeway before anything happened,” said Trooper Lance Ramsay. “We went in there and talked to the individuals involved and told them they had 15 minutes to leave the freeway.”

The protesters left voluntarily and marched the half-mile or so back to campus. There were no arrests.

By Robert Marshall Wells, J.J. Jensen, Ian Ith — Seattle Times staff reporters

Margolis, Jason.  “Passions Escalate in Seattle Protests.”  The Seattle Times: Mar 21, 2003

Twin Cities, MN

At least 3000 – 4000 students at least 41 area schools walkout out of classes yesterday to protest war. 1500 mostly high school students rallied at the University of Minnesota, while some schools organized their own local marches, rallies, and teach-ins.

The U of MN, where the main rally was held, was on Spring Break so only a small number U students attended the event. On Monday we’ll have another walkout for U of MN students and other schools on Spring Break this week.

In Minneapolis Public Schools alone, administrative officials estimate 1800, or 17 percent, of high school students walked out. This number appears low because at just two schools we can confirm 1400 (at Washburn 600 of 1300 walked out; at South High 800 of 2200 left).

The 1500 rally at the U of MN marched to Wiley auditorium and filled to overcapacity the 1100 seat room for a lively indoor rally. Speakers explaining the reality behind US imperialism, the history of US foreign policy in the Mid-East, and the importance of taking the anti-war movement forward received standing ovations. Representatives from each participating school had a chance to speak, retelling their stories and reasons for opposing war.

Finally about 600 marched 2 miles from the U of MN downtown to the Federal Building, taking over two major roads as we went. By 5:30 the downtown community rally had swelled to around 5000. We marched for two hours, winding through all of downtown until after nightfall. The student contingent was definitely the most lively.

Monday U of MN Walkout Plans

On Monday we will stage another walkout for UMN students on break this week, which will end in a march on Senator Norm Coleman’s office to demand he vote against Bush’s anticipated $70-90 billion war funds request. We have over 70 “pickets/peace marshals” lined up for the day about 50 of whom have been through a 2 hour “Peace Marshal” training we put together.

In the morning we will have pickets at every major entrance and bus stop on campus, urging people to walkout and join us for the noon rally. Then an afternoon of teach-ins and a March on Norm Colemans office, where we will be joined by Macalester students also walking out that day, and community activists also mobilizing for the convergence.

Ty Moore

Press Coverage

Time Magazine article on US anti-war protests since the start of the war quotes Socialist Alternative activist Ty Moore talking about University of Minneapolis student protests:

On March 19 there was a hastily prepared press conference about the walkout, and it was a tremendous success. A representative of Socialist Alternative was one of four speakers. 3 of the 4 main TV news stations showed up, the main Minneapolis newspaper, Minnesota Public Radio, and others.

The Star Tribune, the main Minneapolis daily newspaper printed this article in its March 20 issue.  Also, on the Star Tribune website, they put up a “slide show” with streaming voice over profiling our walkout organizing efforts.

An article from the main St. Paul daily paper, The Pioneer Press, on the walkout.

An article on the walkout in the main alternative weekly in the Twin Cities publication The Pulse

Oberlin, OH

The Oberlin branch of Socialist Alternative started an anti-war coalition at the beginning of this school year. Through this coalition we organized a walkout for Day X at both Oberlin College, and at the Oberlin high school. The walkout today was an overwhelming success. About 1000 people attended a protest in the central square of Oberlin. (Oberlin College only has 2800 students, and the high school only has 300 students). At this protest we had two official speakers from Socialist Alternative.

The vast majority of the people who walked out were college students. Some high school students attended by having their parents come and take them out of school early, but the rest of the students were unable to walkout because of the repression of the high school administration. The high school declared a lock down, and brought in state police with police dogs to prevent the students from leaving. The police were authorized to use force to keep the students in school. Then the entire school was moved into the auditorium in the center of the building and locked there for three hours. From the auditorium they couldn’t hear our protest outside.

From the rally in the center square of Oberlin we marched to the high school and started a very militant demonstration chanting “walk-out,” and “unlock the doors.”

Ted Virdone
Oberlin, Ohio, March 22, 2003

Boston, MA

Hundreds of high school students and thousands of college students walked out of class today around mid-day in Boston. Students rallied at various campuses and then joined up in a march to downtown Boston for a 5pm rally.? The largest high school contingent was Cambridge Ridge Latin School, where more than 100 students walked out? About 60 walked out of Belmont high school, and 20 to 30 walked out of Somerville high school.? We do not have figures for other walkouts.? (UMass Boston is currently on Spring Break, but activists are still planning to hold a walkout Monday.)

At one point hundreds of marchers sat down on Harvard Bridge which crosses the Charles River.

The media estimated the downtown rally at 3,500. Then, there was a second march to another location in one of the more upscale shopping districts in Boston, Copley Plaza.? The later rally was bigger and older. Many students who had participated in the walkouts earlier had gone home by then.

The rally at Copley then marched back to Harvard University.? The marches left Harvard at 2:30pm and rallied in Boston and then marched back over the Charles River to Cambridge.

Over the course of the whole day, 10,000 youth, students and workers participated in the various activities around the Boston area on Day X.

Patrick Ayers
Boston, March 22, 2003


March 29 New England Anti-War Protest

40-50,000 marched against Bush’s war in Boston today, making it the largest demonstration in New England since November 3, when 15-20,000 rallied in Boston against the war, and the biggest in Boston since the Vietnam War. As far as we know, it was a entirely peaceful march. There were no serious conflicts with police or pro-war demonstrators. There were contingents from coalitions all over New England, including a large contingent from Vermont. There was a very-small labor contingent, dominated by teachers.

The event was dominated by an older layer of pacifists and liberal democrats, but there were a large number of high school-aged youth, university students, and a significant number of radical youth — veterans of the anti-globalization movement. Trade unions were not very visible, though the purple apparel of SEIU made their members stick out. SEIU was not organized as a contingent for the main march.

Howard Dean supporters were handing out flyers for his 2004 Democratic presidential nomination campaign. Once again we were confronted with the “lesser of two evils” argument as some liberal democrats scapegoated the Nader campaign for the current war.

It was a festive atmosphere: there was a dixie marching band, puppets, theatrical performances, costumes, Orwellian actors (that mingled with pro-war counter-demonstrators), Allstonian rock stars, and so on.

New Englanders are surprisingly creative when it comes to making up slogans insulting Bush’s intelligence. As a democratic party stronghold, Boston liberals have a long history of treating the Republicans as “Morons” and the liberal Democrats as philosopher kings.

Besides insulting Bush’s intelligence, demonstrators aggressively took on the question of supporting the troops.  The corporate media has tried to corner the anti-war movement on this issue.  Pro war rallies and benefits around the slogan “support our troops” have been given more than a fair day’s share in the media. There was a lot of red, white and blue in the anti-war crowd. A lot of people carried signs reading “Peace is Patriotic” and of course the Vietnam-era slogan and chant “support our troops – bring them home.”

The march route went from Boston Common, through the fancy upscale neighborhoods of Back Bay and back around to Boston Common.

The rally was organized by United for Justice With Peace (not to be confused with United for Peace and Justice). Boston city council member and black civil rights activist, Chuck Turner, was a featured speaker.

Patrick Ayers

Boston Students Walk Out Against Bush

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) was on spring break for Day X, but we decided to go ahead with the walkout on Monday March 24. Four activists met over the weekend to organize the walkout, 10 people showed up to help advertise for the walkout in the morning, and 250-300 walked out. It was a very spontaneous action, many showed up today thinking the walkout was not going to happen.

A handful of lively pro-war supporters, the Office of Student Life, and the Campus Police started ripping down all the flyers as soon as they went up. We were also threatened with disciplinary action for not following the correct bureaucratic steps to reserve public space and get various permits from various departments. We negotiated with police and administration to prevent anything including arrests from happening. We also got many members of the faculty and staff to call the administration and public safety to voice their support for the students who were walking out. NBC, ABC, the Boston Herald and Globe attended our rally – we have not seen the content of coverage yet.

This is a very important event at UMass – probably the biggest demonstration in two years. The last demonstration near this size was in reaction to the university’s Administration proposal to double-parking fees.

After our protest, many students expressed their desire to get involved. The next event for UMass is a ‘Community Meeting’, which is being organised by the trade unions against the Governor’s proposed budget cuts and restructuring of the UMass system. The meeting takes place this coming Wednesday, 26 March. The trade unions have yet to receive much active student support for the issue, since a rally at the state house last year, but the presence of trade unionists at the walkout today should boost support.

Patrick Ayers

New York, NY

During the entire Day X, New York City was drenched in rain. Still, there were major protests throughout the city. Socialist Alternative members intervened at three rallies.

There was a rally in Union Square at noon for all high school students who walked out. There were only about 300 people at the rally, but the crowd was enthusiastic despite the rain. There were students there from Hunter HS, at which a contact of ours organized the walkout with our help. The low level of students that walked out in New York reflects the fact that the main high school anti-war group (Youth Bloc) opposed the tactic of walkouts.

At Borough of Manhattan Community College, we organized an anti-war rally at 4pm in order to mobilize students to the 5pm rally in Times Square. We made speeches and held Socialist Alternative placards right outside the school while we were being drenched in rain. We had planned for this event by emailing and calling 70 anti-war students at BMCC. Some students joined our rally at BMCC, but, unfortunately, we were kicked off campus and threatened with arrest by BMCC security more than once. Still, we were able to mobilize about 15 students to leave BMCC with us to go to the Times Square rally. We were interviewed in the pouring rain by the BMCC newspaper, “The Voice of the Voiceless.” They also took a picture of us with fifteen students, some of us holding Socialist Alternative placards. Without the rain and police harassment, the BMCC mobilization would have been more sizable.

The rally in Times Square was huge, despite the rain. I think estimates are around 20,000, but I could be wrong. Many people were arrested, and the mood was very combative.

Bryan Koulouris
New York, March 22, 2003

Massive Anti-War March in NY City March 22

There was a massive demonstration in New York City on 22 March. Reports vary, but estimates range from 200,000 to 500,000 anti-war participants at the protest.
We were able to march this time; the city had not allowed us to march during the 15 February protests. In fact the city’s grant of a march permit was seen as a victory for the anti-war movement. Still, there were about at least 20 reported arrests.

Socialist Alternative was on the march and rally. We marched with our banner and placards. We sold about 200 papers and sold “No Blood For Oil” T-shirts. Q-tip from “A Tribe Called Quest” was at the rally. We took the opportunity to take a picture of Q-tip with a copy of Justice in his hand.

Bryan Koulouris
New York

Chicago, IL

From 5:00 until about 8:30 this evening, 10,000 protesters blocked main streets from downtown Chicago, over to the Lakeshore Drive expressway and on to ritzy Michigan Avenue as police looked on, powerless to prevent this broad cross-section of working and middle class Chicagoland making loud and clear their opposition to Bush’s war. Unlike the forces of “law and disorder” that the Bush-Cheney regime has launched against Iraq, the protesters were spontaneous, with next to no visible leadership, and 100% peaceful, but they still succeeded in taking over the streets.

Predictably, this was more than the Chicago police could deal with. When the march stopped traffic on Michigan Avenue, that was the final straw. A solid line of police horses prevented the march from going any further than the Drake Hotel, whose nervous managers stood in the entrance, checking for room keys before letting anyone in, and it was at this point that the lack of any clearly organized leadership began to show itself. After about half an hour of this frustrating stand-off, with different strategies coming from the bullhorns carried by leaders from various groups, the crowd began to move away, back toward the lake. At some point this became the movement of the majority, and it appeared that the event was over for the night. But as the marchers straggled eastward the march re-formed, and made another attempt on Michigan Avenue just South of the landmark Water Tower – the famous survivor of the great Chicago fire of 1871.

However, in the process our numbers had dwindled by more than three quarters. With only a couple of thousand marchers left, the police made their move. With horses blocking the way forward, a line of turtle-suited riot police formed up, six deep, in back of the marchers. They began to close in. Bundles of plastic bracelets appeared. A few marchers asked some officer or another what was going on, and each one got the same reply: “You’re all going to be arrested”. When asked on what charge the police answered, “For civil disobedience – you were walking on the highway!” No announcement was ever made, there were no loud-hailer calls on the crowd to disperse, just the unmistakable message of the plastic bracelets. At the Michigan Avenue end, arrests were already being made. One of the arrestees, as we found out later, was our own member Matt, who like virtually everyone else was behaving entirely peacefully. He came within reach and they grabbed him. In the middle of the crowd an organizer, who was in the midst of trying to negotiate our release, was arrested and dragged away by a squad of riot thugs.

People began making calls on cell phones. Religious folk called their pastors, union members called union leaders, union and community leaders called aldermen and the police superintendent. We answered the lie being put out in the media, that everyone had been given the opportunity to leave and that only those who refused to leave, would be arrested. We argued with the police, face to face, and in the presence of a few radio reporters who now made their way into the crowd. We found out that the police objective really was to arrest a couple of thousand demonstrators, as a preemptive strike against the civil disobedience that is planned for tomorrow.

But as the evening wore on, and their buses were slow to arrive, and the crowd remained peaceful and hundreds of calls were made, the goal of mass arrests became untenable for the boys (and girls) in blue. First they let go the most elderly, and the parents who had young children, then more parents and not so young children – at one point they even began approaching any group that looked like a family, offering them a chance to leave. In the end they appeared to let almost everyone leave, although they made sure it was a humiliating process, a half-dozen at a time; posters and banners were stolen by the police and thrown to the ground, anyone who resisted this being arrested on the spot, The bearer of an upside-down Stars and Stripes was arrested and his flag hung out, right side up, on the front of a police squadron. With no organizational unity or any plan to deal with this, we were unable to defend these individuals at the moment of their capture. But in the end the vast majority of us walked away, ready to fight again tomorrow. The fight to get the rest of us out has already begun.

Steve Edwards
Chicago, March 22, 2003