Thursday, August 4, 2011

Anti-War & Black Activists United Against War on Libya

By Deirdre Griswold
New York
Published Aug 3, 2011 8:21 PM

The destructive bombing attacks on Libya by the Pentagon and NATO are highly unpopular in the United States, although you wouldn’t know it from corporate media coverage.

Proof of this could be seen in a 15-city speaking tour, sponsored by the International Action Center, in which former Congressperson Cynthia McKinney is reporting on her June fact-finding trip to Libya with the Dignity delegation. McKinney has attracted large audiences in cities across the country.

New York on July 30 was no exception. McKinney spoke to a standing-room crowd here at historic Riverside Church in a room that seated more than 400.

The meeting was well attended by activists from various anti-war organizations. It also attracted an equal number of community organizers and leaders from nearby Harlem.

When she was in Congress, McKinney represented a largely African-American district in Georgia. She and other speakers characterized the attack on Libya as a “racist war” that is part of an imperialist strategy to recolonize Africa.

In her talk, McKinney put the war against Libya in the context of the continuing brutality in the U.S. against people of color, despite the election of a Black president. She called out the names of half a dozen innocent young Black men who have recently been gunned down by police, from San Francisco to New York.

Sharing the podium with McKinney were prominent fighters for justice in the New York metropolitan area, including Larry Hamm of the People’s Organization for Progress in Newark, N.J. Two days earlier, McKinney had spoken to another standing-room-only meeting in Newark organized by POP. Later, the Newark City Council gave McKinney an award for telling truth to power.

Minister Akbar Muhammed, International Representative of the Nation of Islam, who visited Libya with the Dignity delegation, stressed at the New York meeting the importance of the developing alliance among African-American forces, the anti-imperialist left and Muslims in opposing U.S. aggression in Africa and the Middle East.

The coalition of forces sponsoring the New York meeting and others showed that the active anti-war movement, especially those groups affiliated with the United National Antiwar Coalition and the Answer Coalition, had recognized the imperialist, predatory character of a war that the Obama administration claimed was to “protect civilians.”

Large crowds in Atlanta, other cities

A week earlier, McKinney had spoken before another large crowd in Atlanta in her home state. There, too, turnout was massive from the Black community, whose youth are constantly besieged by recruiters for the armed forces — often seen as the only alternative to nonexistent jobs and education for those in the U.S. who suffer racist oppression.

Ramsey Clark and Sara Flounders, of the International Action Center who spoke at both these meetings, stressed the responsibility of anti-war forces in the United States to stand up against the Pentagon and the corporate-military-industrial complex, especially at a time when the public treasury is being looted to pay for ever more frequent and costly aggression against poor countries.

Khalifa Elderbak, a young Libyan studying in the U.S., told the New York audience he was astounded by the media lies about what was happening in his country. He described how, seeing on the news that his home town had been bombed by the Gadhafi government of Libya, he called dozens of relatives and friends back home, only to be told that the story was totally false.

The New York program also featured speakers who raised issues of unemployment, hunger and homelessness, which are endemic in communities of color. High school student Dinae Anderson spoke eloquently about the hunger already gripping poor areas. She informed about a campaign in New York to restore and expand food stamps under the slogan “Feed the hungry, not the Pentagon.”

Johnnie Stevens, speaking for Workers World Party, got a warm response as he urged participation in an Aug. 13 protest in Harlem against imperialist intervention in Africa. He then recapitulated decades of deadly U.S. imperialist intervention in Africa, from the assassination of Congo’s independence leader, Patrice Lumumba, to today’s build-up of U.S. forces on the continent. He compared the “rebels” in Libya to the “rebels” in the U.S. Civil War who tried to perpetuate the enslavement of African people.

Glen Ford, of the Black Is Back Coalition, analyzed the role of President Barack Obama in carrying out the program of the financiers and warmongers. He reminded the audience that Obama, even while campaigning on the slogan of change, had said two weeks before his election that he would be a compromiser, and he certainly has kept that promise.

Teresa Gutierrez of the May 1 Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights, Rocio Silverio of the IAC and Professor Asha Samad co-chaired the rally, which opened with a welcome from the Rev. Robert B. Coleman of the Riverside Church Prison Ministries.

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