Anti-war protesters defy police-state tactics

Issue 

BY EVA CHENG
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The protests against Bush's war on Afghanistan are growing in many parts of the world despite initial signs that some countries, especially the US, are seeking to respond to any civil disobedience with heavy-handed repression.

In the United States, a 200-strong protest against war and racism on October 25 in Hartford, Connecticut, was attacked by police with pepper spray and batons after it blocked peak-hour traffic downtown. Eighteen protesters were arrested, charged with felonies, with bail set as high as US$50,000.

Waving an upside-down American flag and flags with the peace symbol, the mostly university-age marchers spilled onto the streets from the footpath to get wider attention on their way to their destination, Senator Joe Lieberman's office.

Julia, a protester, recounted that the police cars screeched around every corner, running their sirens and yelling for about three blocks that they had to get back onto the footpath. before splitting them up on seperate sides of the street.
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"Then they wouldn't let us go any further. We went on the sidewalk when they told us to .... there was no-one pushing, instigating, throwing anything or even threatening the cops", Julia said.

Then, Julia recounts, a Green Party organiser Vic, who had been playing a percussion instrument a moment earlier, "came flying" to the ground, with four cops kicking him and beating him with their batons.

"He screamed, 'Wait, my glasses. I need my glasses!' before others moved toward Vic and the cops pepper-strayed the crowd. As Vic was taken to the police car, he was bleeding from the side of his head."

Fourteen more arrests quickly fellowed.

The remaining protesters then had a quick meeting and decided to call off the march, but a convener was immediately arrested anyway. When challenged as to why, a cop said, "Conspiracy to incite a riot".

The bails imposed initially were between US$15,000-25,000, but many of them were raised sharply by a Superior Court judge the next day. An urgent fund appeal is underway to defend them, visit <http://www.madhattersimc.org> for updates.

In Dublin, Ireland, an anti-war protest of about 300 people on October 14 was attacked, the third similar incident there in two weeks.

Speakers condemned the racist nature of Bush's war, denounced the racist attacks on Dublin streets against the Muslim community and warned of the growing attempts to criminalise protest actions as "terrorist" before heading off for a march.

Then police paddy wagons drove dangerously into the crowd and officers arrested one of the speakers.

When an organiser reminded protesters of their legal right to march and protest, he was choked and manhandled by cops.

Refusing to be intimidated, the remaining protesters pressed on with their march, with police helicopters hovering overhead and new police reinforcements outflanking them. A picket was quickly formed outside the police station where the two arrested were held. They were soon released but charged for breaching the Public Order Act.

Also on October 14, an anti-war protest of 1500 in Istanbul, Turkey, was brutally attacked by police when protesters defied a ban. Protesters were baton-charged and attacked by police dogs, and 44 people were taken into custody.

Despite also being banned, similar protests occurred in Adana the same day and in Izmir and Ankara a day earlier without major incident.

In Egypt, an anti-war gathering of 15,000 at the University of Cairo, including trade unionists and socialists, was tear-gassed and baton-charged as the crowd was readying to march out of the campus. Twelve were arrested, with only eight released after 36 hours.

A statewide anti-war campaign was held from October 19-26 in Bihar, India, with marches held in 13 towns on October 26. The participants of the Bhojpur march came from more than 100 nearby villages. At Ramnagar, police arrested 200 participants when they burned an effigy of US President George Bush. The participants in Jahanabad were also baton-charged and arrested while burning Bush's effigy.

On a more peaceful note, a demonstration of 600,000 against Bush's war took place on October 12 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, following a similar action of one million people in Havana, Cuba, a little earlier.

Ten thousands gathered for the same purpose on October 19 in Jakarta, Indonesia, the country's largest anti-war protest so far.

About 2500 joined a protest in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 22, the second major anti-war mobilisation so far in that city.

An anti-war demonstration went ahead in London, Britain, the next day despite atrocious weather, attracting 500. Despite a mass police presence, a civil disobedience sit-down took place successfully and resisted police attempts to break it up.

In Israel, 50 anti-war activists demonstrated outside the defense ministry in Tel Aviv on October 24 with participation from the Communist Party, the Peace Block, the Israeli Communist Forum and the Socialist Workers League. But the Israeli Zionist "left" refused to participate. Similar actions also took place in Jerusalem and Haifa in the same week.

On October 25, thousands of high school students from all over Italy took to the streets to protest against Bush's war, increased military spending and cuts to educational funding.

On October 26 in Detriot, the United States, 300 people, mostly youth, joined the action called by the Detriot Anti-War Network which has organised a range of anti-war activities over the last weeks and is planning more. Answering the call of International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), anti-war protests took place in 75 US cities on October 27, disregarding the passage of an anti-terrorist act the previous day.

They were synchronised with similar actions on the same day in 40 cities in 20 other countries which included Japan, the Philippines, Greece, Denmark, Scotland, England and New Zealand.

The demonstration that day in New York City attracted 1000 despite bitter cold, and was accompanied by as many police and a convoy of fire engines. The firefighters sounded their sirens to drown out the anti-war speakers and used a public address system to urge the demonstrators to go home. Protesters refused and held a minute's silence for those who died on September 11 and in Palestine, and those who have been killed as a result of US foreign policy.

From Green Left Weekly, November 7, 2001.

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