'A RISING tide of student activism. A burgeoning national anti-war movement that is gaining momentum by the day.' That was a recent description of US protests against war on Iraq in the Washington Post.
It shows how opposition to the war is spreading in the US. The article reported, 'In the San Francisco Bay Area anti-war rallies on two consecutive weekends drew 10,000 people each, and hastily called protests draw several hundred. But the Bay Area is not alone.
'Organisations such as the Service Committee, which is run by the Quakers, as well as groups that have sprung up in response to the threat of US invasion, talk about how overwhelmed they are with the sheer number of people who want to join their effort, as well as the multiplying numbers of anti-war activities. They talk of protesting by people who have never protested before.'
The Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington think-tank, compiled a list of more than 250 anti-war events throughout the US up to mid-October. It then discovered it had missed out at least 150 others. 'People are organising at all levels,' said Amy Quinn, the institute's co-director. 'I'm hearing from the older generations that there was nowhere near this level of activism at this stage in the Vietnam War. I'm not surprised that people are coming out against the war. I am surprised at how organised and vocal people are.'
Not In Our Name, a New York based anti-war group, called for national rallies on 6 October. There were more than 40 protests involving 85,000 people. Chicago-based radical magazine In These Times reported, 'Streets are thick with anti-war gatherings. Big cities - thousands, even tens of thousands, in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Boston. And smaller cities - Austin, Hartford, Tulsa, Fresno, Buffalo, Fort Wayne. Protesters are also furious with the utter lack of any meaningful Democratic opposition, the party's failure to muster more than a weak 'me too' in the face of each fresh Bush administration outrage.'
After the US Congress voted to back Bush's war on Iraq on 10 October, there were demonstrations in 200 cities. The next national focus is this Saturday, 26 October, with two mass protests planned on the US's west and east coasts in San Francisco and Washington. The movement has grown significantly since late September as Bush's war drive has stepped up and students have begun organising in colleges.
Shadi Hamid, a student at Georgetown University in Washington, was quoted in the New York Times, saying, 'I think there is a very strong anti-war feeling on campus. 'In the last two weeks there's been this new sense of urgency, and the issue has moved beyond the Muslim students.'
The paper goes on to say that 'students from anti-globalisation and humanitarian groups are now forming anti-war coalitions with peace groups, Muslim student associations and others. On most campuses the threat of war with Iraq has now become the dominant political issue with teach-ins and protests so common that prominent academics cannot meet the demand for their presence.'
One student, Josh Healey, at the University of Wisconsin, has helped organise a teach-in and rally. He explained, 'My group, Stop the War, is working with Amnesty International, the Greens, the Student Labour Action Coalition, the Muslim students, all kinds of groups. When I was handing out leaflets all kinds of people were saying, 'Thanks a lot. We don't want to go to war about Iraq, but we didn't know what to do'.'
Activities have already happened in more than 135 campuses in 35 states. They have attracted numbers from 100 students up to 300. Some 400 people attended a teach-in at Stanford University in San Francisco two weeks ago.
Students at Boston University hung hundreds of paper dolls across the college's Marsh Plaza area two weeks ago, each one representing 500 Iraqis killed because of sanctions and bombing raids since the 1991 Gulf War.
Unions also take stand
THERE ARE also signs that some trade union groups are taking a stand against the war. In August 500 delegates at the Washington State Labour Council, which represents local unions across Washington State, overwhelmingly passed a motion against the war and Bush's crackdown on civil liberties.
The San Francisco Labour Council has adopted a resolution calling for 'no new war against Iraq' and support for the 26 October national protest. It also backs the 10,500 dockers on the US west coast who were locked out in a dispute over working conditions.
Last month delegates to the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Union, with 35,000 members, passed a resolution to 'oppose a US invasion of Iraq'. High profile figures in the US have also come out against the war. The Not In Our Name anti-war organisation took out a whole page advert in the New York Times at the end of September.
The names in the advert included the actors Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and Jane Fonda, authors Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker and Gore Vidal, Martin Luther King III, directors Robert Altman, Oliver Stone and Terry Gilliam, musicians Mos Def, Steve Earle, Pete Seeger and Brian Eno, and academics Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Edward Said and Howard Zinn.