"This is What Democracy Looks Like"
by Carol Baum
On August 5, Cindy Sheehan addressed the Veteran's for Peace Convention in Dallas. She said, "I was
hoping to come to the banquet tomorrow night, but unless George comes out and
talks to me, I'll be camping at Crawford." With that she went to Crawford,
Texas and camped out for weeks, drawing veterans, families and activists to
her (including Syracusan Kathleen Rumpf).
Camp Casey, named in honor of her son killed in Iraq, ratcheted up grassroots efforts to get the US out of Iraq. The energy that Camp Casey generated led to the "Bring Them Home Now Tour" - three busloads of military and gold star families, Iraq veterans, and Veterans for Peace. Each bus traveled a different route from Crawford to Washington, DC to take part in the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) Mobilization on September 24-26. SPC organized a Syracuse tour stop.
In late August, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and exposed the racism in US society. It also exposed the economic trade-offs forced by so many resources being diverted to making war. Public support for the war went into steeper decline.
On September 13 Voices for Creative Nonviolence (with Syracusan Ed Kinane) began a two-week fast outside the International Monetary Fund Building in Washington, DC. Among other things, Voices called for the cancellation of the tens of billions of dollars in debt incurred by Saddam Hussein, but still supposedly owed by the Iraqi people.
Locally, Unitarian-Universalist minister David Blanchard began a 28-day fast for peace on September 15. At least 60 others joined him in some way.
On September 19 the St. Patrick's Four began their weeklong federal trial in Binghamton. On March 17, 2003, just before the "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq, the four had committed nonviolent civil disobedience in a military recruiting center. Their state trial resulted in a hung jury. The federal government decided to reprosecute them, adding the serious charge of conspiracy. They were found not guilty of conspiracy, guilty only of minor charges - a victory.
September 24 saw two busloads of Syracuse-area anti-war activists heading to Washington, DC to join the UFPJ mobilization. Hundreds of thousands demanded an end to the Iraq war and the return home of our troops. Tens of thousands stayed for the Operation Ceasefire concert and a two-day Peace and Justice Festival. Many in Syracuse and elsewhere who could not go to DC joined in local marches and demonstrations.
The UFPJ Mobilization went beyond marching. On Monday, 800 people from more than 40 states visited over 300 Congressional offices in the largest ever pro-peace lobby day. That afternoon hundreds more marched to the White House to demand a meeting with George Bush. Over 370, including four Syracusans, were arrested (see page 3). One of the bus drivers transporting us to detention promised us he would tell his political science major daughter, "This is what democracy looks like."
It is up to all of us to build on what has been done and get the US out of Iraq.