BY ANDREW HALL
CANBERRA — Despite the long weekend, 250 people turned up to Garema Place on September 30 to oppose the military build-up around Afghanistan. This follows a 500-strong rally on September 20 calling for peace. A meeting called at that rally attended by 50 people set up ACT Network Opposing War (ACTNOW). ACTNOW is demanding no war, no retaliation, no racist scapegoating and no attacks on civil liberties.
Chairing the September 30 rally, Socialist Alliance candidate for the federal seat of Fraser, James Vassilopoulos, told the crowd: "Nothing can justify the slaughter of civilians — not even a so-called war on terrorism. We will oppose this with everything we have."
Echoing these sentiments, Tosorwald Lorenzen from the ACT Council of Churches repeated the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "It is only light which overcomes darkness, not more darkness."
The rally was also addressed by Sue Wareham from Medical Practitioners Against War, Rick Kuhn from the National Tertiary Education Union and Shakira Hussein, recently returned from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, who described the dire plight of the Afghan people.
Despite the Australian Democrats parliamentary support for the war effort, Democrats spokesperson Dominic Mico addressed the rally, arguing that most of the world's terror comes from multinational companies' exploitation of the Third World.
Steph Koorey from the Australian Greens, and Ben Halliday from the Socialist Alliance also addressed the rally. Halliday told the crowd that alliance members were going to "wholeheartedly throw themselves in the campaign to stop the war, in order to build a mass movement to stop it."
The protest finished with a march into the city centre chanting, "1, 2, 3, 4, we don't want Howard's war! 5, 6, 7, 8 stop the racism, stop the hate!".
ACTNOW is meeting every Monday night and planning regular Friday night leafleting and speakouts outside the Defence Force Recruitment Centre, a mass rally on October 19, and a 5pm protest at the US embassy on the day bombing begins. To get involved phone James on 6247 2424.