In response to the proposed escalation of U.S. military actions in the Middle East and the further institutionalization of lawlessness by the American government, Chicago activists came together for a rally in Chicago Saturday afternoon called “Now More Than Ever, No More Wars for Empire.” The event, held in Federal Plaza right in front of Obama’s transition office, was part of plans for two days of action; tomorrow the activists plan to be in Obama’s neighborhood calling for an end to U.S. wars of aggression.
Those present at the rally strongly demanded that Barack Obama end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by immediately and completely withdrawing U.S. forces from the Middle East and by bringing the “war on terror” to an end. The protest specifically called for antiwar activists to step up their efforts to call attention to important issues and declared, “Now is the time to speak out and demand real change and justice.”
The action was held on the same day as the United for Peace and Justice National Assembly. That and the weather, which consisted of cold 20 to 30 mph gusting winds, all had an effect on the number of people who came out to participate.
As one activist named Neal (who is with Jews for Justice) said, “This is the first speak out of this sort [that I know of] since Obama has been elected [which pointed] out how the president-elect is going to continue all the policies to achieve what he said would be another American century. This means war and injustice for U.S. Empire. It’s very important [that] we’re out here.”
It didn’t matter that the activists’ numbers looked small---that they looked like what Bush would call a “focus group.” What mattered was that the activists were there speaking out and calling for an end to wars for empire.
The “No More Wars for Empire” action, whose primary organizers were from the Chicago chapter of World Can’t Wait, was endorsed and supported by a range of citizen groups: UIC Campus Antiwar Network, Chicago Peace Vigil - Art Institute, Lone Lantern for 9/11 Truth, Chicago Labor Against the War, Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, Campus Antiwar Network, Chicago Peace Vigil - Art Institute, Lone Lantern for 9/11 Truth, Chicago Labor Against the War, Gay Liberation Network, Neighbors for Peace, West Side Greens, North Side Greens, Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5, 8th Day Center for Justice (and others).
Neal with Jews for Justice explained that this was not only the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. It was the 60th Anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 194.
“[Resolution 194] recognizes the right of return to anyone dispossessed by an occupation. Specifically, it recognizes the right of return to the Palestinians who were chased out of their homes in the 1940s by the Zionists and then again in 1967,” said Neal.
Neal went on to explain that the “U.S. government has done nothing to ensure the rights of the Palestinians” and that “Obama is for the exclusion of the democratically elected government of Hamas from the Palestinian political process.”
“This is part of U.S. policy in labeling anybody that opposes U.S. domination as terrorists,” said Neal.
Two notable speakers, Bob Schwartz, who is with the Gay Liberation Network that organized the successful Prop 8 protests in Chicago and Father Bob Bossie, who is with 8th Day Center for Justice, shared their wisdom those who came out to rally for real change.
“We can warm things up a little bit by reminding ourselves and others---particularly the man who’s so called transition office is in this building in front of me and behind you, the president-elect---we know that change doesn’t come from on high,” said Schwartz. “It comes from below. When people get organized, then change can occur. Not just talk about change, but real change can occur from the bottom up.”
Schwartz shared his perception of what happened with Prop 8: