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Emergency Action Against Racism and War (Oakland)
One summary of tonight's rally in oakland
Oakland, CA (September 13) - Hundreds of people gathered at Snow Park in Oakland tonight to mourn, provide support for each other, and speak out against violent United States policies at home and abroad, which they say are the underlying reasons for unprecedented terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC. Organizing against a growing climate of racism, nationalism and anti-Arab bigotry was a focus of the rally.
Organized by youth and people of color in Oakland and San Francisco, solidarity speakers included supporters of Palestine, people returning from the WCAR in South Africa, police brutality activists, anarchists and socialists, anti-gentrification activists and other people representing dozens of cultures and ethnicities. International solidarity was the theme as community and activist groups stood together against the threat of more US violence. Michael Franti of Spearhead also spoke, saying that "we need to be in a war against war."
In addition to an open mic, people at the rally talked with friends and strangers, cried, and began coming to terms with the events of the last three days. Many people who attended have family members still missing on the east coast. And many others have been the target of increased racism and discrimination during times of crisis in the United States, like the Oklahoma City bombing or Gulf War.
A recurring theme of the speakers was the brutal violence committed by or supported by the United States government on a daily basis. "The bombs the government drops in Iraq are the bombs that blew up in New York City," said Van Jones, director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, who also warned against forthcoming violence by the Bush Administration. "The US cannot bomb its way out of this one. Safety at home requires justice abroad."
In a diverse international community shocked by recent world events, deep feelings about the United States government were expressed. A young Puerto Rican person said that "the belly of the beast had something back to eat." A young Filipino human rights activist said that "when we found out what kind of place got hit, we were kind of glad to see the Pentagon burning. But we also know that thousands of Puerto Ricans, Haitians and other workers were in those buildings." An African-American man who works on gentrification issues in West Oakland said that "we're always seeing Americans drop bombs on people. We watch the Vietnamese get bombed, Iraqis get bombed, Palestinians get bombed, now it has come home to roost." Japanese-Americans spoke about internment camps and the nuclear holocaust brought on by US militarism.
Violence and repression within the United States was also talked about. A representative of TransAction said, "We know what it's like to experience police violence on a daily basis." Mesha Monge-Irizarry, the mother of Idriss Stelley (who was killed by SFPD in June), also spoke: "We pray for many lives killed by this government, of black people, and of innocent black people in the third world who will be slaughtered with this terrorism retaliation."
United States support, in the form of arms and funding, for apartheid in Israel was also discussed. "You want to know why they hate us?" asked one woman. "Forty Israeli tanks just entered Jericho tonight."
Those present were determined to make their voices heard in an increasingly hostile, war-mongering climate scripted by the government and recited by corporate media. They also vowed to fight within their own communities against racism and hostility towards Arab-Americans. Everyone sensed that this was an important time in history, and that the stuggle against injustice requires international solidarity. "Everyone should be as wise as these inner-city youth here today," Van Jones concluded. "We all have more in common with the working people of the earth than we do with George Bush or Colin Powell."
An African-American man summarized his feelings: "We don't want innocent people dying. But that's the price we pay for the government in this country."