Socialist Worker

‘Surely the British want to see Bush go too?’

Issue No. 1917

FOR MANY natives of the city the opportunity to stroll the car-free streets of New York was a delight.

But this didn’t stop police ridiculously arresting dozens of bikers for jumping red lights on Sixth Avenue.

Yet for all the vibrancy of the anger, wit and defiance this protest was crying out for political clarity and organisational unity.

This was typified by the way the event just fizzled out when protesters returned to Union Square.

This conclusion was enforced by the authorities, who had banned the protest organisers’ preferred venue of Central Park.

But it seemed a frustrating waste of so much potential.

Robert Nesbitt’s “We are all Palestinians” T-shirt was in a minority of signs raising the question of Ariel Sharon’s Israel.

“I’m here to voice my opposition to the Republican Party’s support for Israel’s violent oppression of the Palestinian people,” he said.

But he agreed this was not a high enough issue on the day’s agenda.

For most protesters, anti-Bush equalled pro-Democrat.

Richard, an Episcopalian minister from Pittsburg, told me, “Surely British voters want to see Bush defeated as well as us?”

The bunch of young people who had marched from the Democratic convention in Boston to highlight the similarity of policies on offer from both parties were right, but they were not typical.

I walked the whole three-mile route in four hours and saw just one single pro-Nader placard. I saw no Nader or Green Party stalls.

The only noticeable trade union presence was a huge banner of support draped from the offices of Unite, the sweat-shop and hotel workers’ union.

And as a Mexican-Indian artist pointed out to me in the evening, there were few blacks and ethnic minorities on the protest. New York’s huge African, Chinese, Latino and South Asian communities were under-represented.

But the protests are continuing all week.

And it’s a sign of his weakness that Bush will only fly in to make his speech on Thursday afternoon.

Then he will head off again for the safer confines of the “swing states”.

The attacks on 11 September unwittingly turned Bush from a nobody into a somebody. Sunday’s protest brilliantly undercut his gamble of riding his luck here a second time.

It also demonstrated a huge thirst for change in this wealthiest, yet most class-ridden, of nations.

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