To abhor the events of September 11 — but to oppose U.S. military retaliation — is still to be a patriot. Until recently, that was a whispered sentiment. A recent ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll showed that 93 percent of Americans support military action. When Democratic representative Barbara Lee cast the lone vote against granting President Bush authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those responsible for the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, she received so many threats that she has been guarded by Capitol police. The House approved the measure, 420 to 1.
In the past two weeks, progressives throughout New York and the nation have been rapidly mobilizing to form a new antiwar movement. Though local gatherings are held daily, the first national event is a series of marches on Washington scheduled for the weekend of September 29. There, protests originally organized against the policies of the IMF and World Bank have been refocused to address the country’s military response, and to express concern about escalating anti-Arab violence and challenges to civil liberties. Participants — who include high school and university students, artists, talk-show hosts, war veterans, Vieques activists, Muslims, Israelis, and WTC victims’ families — are speaking out by attending teach-ins, circulating petitions, and coordinating rallies, all to make sure that Americans who seek a thoughtful response to the horrific events of September 11 have a voice in determining what comes next.
The following is a list of just some of the organizations and Web sites with information about activities being organized throughout the city.
For up-to-date general information: Contact the New York City Antiwar Activist calendar at 212-726-3272.
Brecht Forum: “Epic theatre turns the spectator into an observer, but arouses his capacity for action and forces him to make decisions.” So said Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht. For a city still struggling to describe what happened on the morning of September 11, the Brecht Forum, a longtime source for political education and activism, is action central. Within four days of the WTC and Pentagon attacks, the Brecht Forum had organized a meeting of representatives from almost 100 progressive groups. Many of the organizations listed below are involved in the Forum’s current peace efforts. 212-242-4201.
CHARAS: On September 12, a group of New York activists — including members of Direct Action Network, Al-Awda, and Bushwick’s Make the Road by Walking — met to organize relief and antiwar efforts. That coalition, which took its name from the East Village community center CHARAS/El Bohio, is currently drawing up to 400 people to each of its meetings. Charas does not yet have a Web site.
Third World Within — the Peace Action Coalition: TWW is a citywide coalition of 40 member organizations, of which the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) is one. This month TWW is serving as a support network for peace activities in communities of color throughout New York City. Media coordinator Eric Tang says, “We’re seeing that from Bed-Stuy to Harlem to Chinatown, people are courageously speaking for peace at a time when it might not be the most popular thing to do.” 718-220-7391.
International Action Center: Renegade former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark founded the IAC to address a wide range of human rights issues. Ongoing IAC actions include protesting U.S sanctions against Iraq and the bombing of Vieques. In response to the current military mobilization, the IAC has established International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Along with an online petition, the IAC’s Web site has an action to “Surround the White House” — a nod, perhaps, to “Levitating the Pentagon,” a famous, Vietnam-era peace initiative made more poignant by recent events. The IAC has buses going to the Washington marches. 212-633-6646, iacenter.org
War Resisters League: The granddaddy of nonviolent protest, the WRL was formed in 1923 by activists who believed that war was a crime against humanity. It has been involved in nearly every significant social movement of the past century, including nuclear disarmament and civil rights. Masters of Gandhian techniques of peaceful direct action, WRL is now offering a how-to guide to getting involved in the peace movement on its Web site. Initiatives include calling in to radio talk shows and withholding taxes; military programs cost American taxpayers $334 billion annually, the group claims. The WRL is on the steering committee of the Brecht Forum’s current antiwar coalition. 212-228-0450, www.warresisters.org
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee: Washington, D.C.-based ADC, the largest Arab American grassroots organization in the United States, was founded in 1980 by former senator James Abourezk to combat unfair stereotyping of Arabs in the media. In the past two weeks, the ADC has been very visible in the press, calling on Arab Americans to support relief efforts and non-Arabs to practice tolerance. Its Web site includes information on the U.S. Constitution (“Know Your Rights”), new education resources, and a hate crimes hot line. 202-244-2990, www.adc.org.
Asociacion Tepeyac de New York: Until September 11, most of Tepeyac’s 10,000 members were drawn from the Mexican immigrants of New York City. Now this nonprofit has expanded its social outreach efforts to include all Latin American nationals affected by the WTC attacks. Because many of the missing were undocumented, using official channels to get relief and restitution to their families is particularly difficult. With 29 of its members still listed among the missing, Tepeyac has held vigils for peace and is voicing its support for measured American response. 212-633-7108, www.tepeyac.org
Peaceful Justice: PJ was founded at Wesleyan University, but the coalition is now on campuses nationwide and counts university and high school students from 105 schools in 30 states among its membership. Students from Columbia, Barnard, the New School, NYU, Hunter College, and Hunter College High School are representing New York City. The PJ Web site lists organizing guides and a sample petition for activists seeking to get involved on campus. 608-256-7081.
Prolibertad: Based in the Bronx, ProLibertad organized six years ago to liberate Puerto Rican political prisoners and to end the U.S. bombing of Vieques. On the current peace initiatives, PL spokesman Benjamin Ramos said, “We want to make sure that the left and the progressive movements come together for what may be a new antiwar movement. The war is inherently racist. We have the media saying that there shouldn’t be violence shown against Arab Americans, and yet we’re going to bomb Arab countries. Fanaticism is not revolutionary. We condemn the act, and we condemn the war.” 718-601-4751, www.prolibertad.org
Jews For Racial & Economic Justice: JFREJ was founded in 1990 in direct response to ethnic tensions in New York City and as an effort to revitalize the Jewish tradition of progressive activism. In the past, it has hosted conferences on anti-Arab racism, and it is now calling for all Americans and New Yorkers to speak out against anti-Arab racism and racial profiling. 212-647-8966, jfrej.org
Active Element Foundation: AEF, the national organization that links activists to donors via grant making and hip-hop culture, has launched the Peaceful Action Initiative to support young organizers already working on peace vigils, fundraisers for firefighters and rescue workers, and support efforts for the Arab American and Muslim communities. 212-283-8272.
On the Web:
For vigil and march info: nyc.indymedia.org
For current debate, see the online version of Z Magazine: zcomm.org/zmag
Eve Ensler and other local artists and activists are behind “New Yorkers Say No to War.” Their e-mail petition is an open letter to the U.S. government.
9-11peace.org: This is one of the biggest petition sites on this issue on the Web.