March 19: NYC anti-war march to start in Harlem

By LeiLani Dowell

On the weekend of March 19-20, the U.S. government will once again be facing worldwide protests against the illegal and brutal occupation of Iraq. In New York City, activists from various communities and struggles have formed a vibrant coalition to stop the war at home and abroad.

The Troops Out Now Coalition will be marching on March 19 from Harlem to Central Park and then on to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's residence. Its literature explains: "We call this movement 'OUT NOW' because these two simple words convey the absolute zero tolerance for the occupation of Iraq that must drive our organizing henceforth. We need everyone to know that the mass movement is reopening a full-scale campaign to stop the war and end the occupation and that the movement means business."

The coalition chose Jan. 15, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, to first announce its plans because "trying to emulate his courage in the struggle against racism and against the war in Vietnam is more important than ever. We believe the best way to honor his memory is to continue the struggle against war and racism."

On March 9, the coalition will hold a press conference at City Hall to announce the introduction of a resolution in the City Council calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, as well as to spend the money appropriated for the war to fund cities.

Starts at Marcus Garvey Park

The march route on the 19th holds special significance. The day will begin at 10:00 a.m. in the African-American community of Harlem with a rally at Marcus Garvey Park, located at 5th Avenue between 120th and 124th streets.

According to east-harlem.com, "Marcus Garvey Park is one of the oldest public squares in Manhattan. Central to the life of Harlem for more than 150 years, it has served as a meeting place for neighbors, a front yard and play area for schoolchildren, and a holy place for members of local churches." Surrounding the park are the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library, North General Hospital, and a number of schools and places of worship, including the Handmaids of Mary Convent, one of the few Black convents in the United States.

The park, originally known as Mount Morris Park, was renamed in honor of Marcus Garvey in 1973. Garvey started the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the first modern Black nationalist organization, in 1914. The UNIA attracted thousands of supporters at its peak and boasted more than 800 chapters.

Following a cultural rally at the park, the protesters will march to a military recruiting station on 125th Street and Malcolm X Avenue (Lenox Avenue). One of the busiest stations in the U.S., it is a perfect location to protest the economic draft that snares so many poor youth, particularly youth of color in Harlem.

Noon rally in Central Park

The march will continue on to the East Meadow in Central Park (97th Street and 5th Avenue) for a major rally at noon.

In 2004, protesters were denied the right to march on Central Park during the Republican National Convention. Once again, Mayor Bloomberg's office is attempting to stifle the antiwar movement by denying a permit to march--but this time after the Central Park rally, when protesters have applied to march down Fifth Avenue.

Fifth Avenue is home to many of the wealthiest in the city, and the Bloomberg administration is clearly attempting to shield them from the anger of the working class, who will be out in force to demand money for social services, not war, racism and domestic repression.

While police claim there is a moratorium on new marches on Fifth Avenue, permits have been issued recently for other new marches. The coalition remains in negotiations with the police about this matter.

At 3:00 p.m., the march will continue to the mayor's mansion on 79th Street to demand "Fund cities, not war!"

Speakers and performers at the Central Park rally will include a recorded message from Mumia Abu-Jamal in prison, singer/poet Patti Smith, New York City Councilperson Charles Barron, attorney Lynne Stewart, International Action Center founder Ramsey Clark, Professor Howard Zinn, and others.

Buses, car caravans and peace trains are expected from many parts of the country. Activists in St. Paul, Minn., are organizing a bus. People are flying in from San Diego, Calif., to take part in this significant day of action. New organizing centers are being added daily.

In the New York area, antiwar groups, churches, unions and community organizations are preparing to take to the streets on March 19. Some are organizing feeder marches. People in Connecticut, Long Island, New Jersey, Upstate New York, and Westchester are organizing "Peace Trains" on public transportation lines to get to the event.

Active participants in the Troops Out Now Coalition include representatives of 1199 Service Employees Industrial Union; ACT UP/NY (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power); Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition; AMAT (Association of Mexican American Workers); Arab American Civic Organization; Artists & Activists United for Peace; BAYAN-USA; Bolivarian Circle; Community Board 10, Harlem; District Council 1707, American Federation of State; County and Municipal Employees; Defend Palestine; Fanmi Lavalas; Fight Imperialism, Stand Together; Harlem Tenants Council; International Action Center; International Socialist Organization; Jersey City Peace Movement; Korea Truth Commission; Million Worker March, NY/NJ and Baltimore/DC; Movement in Motion Artists & Activist Collective; Network in Solidarity with the People of the Philippines (NISPOP); New Jersey Solidarity - Activists for the Liberation of Palestine; New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five; No Draft No Way.org; NY 911 Truth.org; NY Coalition to Free Mumia Abu Jamal; NY Committee to Defend Palestine; NY Grassroots Antiwar Network; New York City AIDS Housing Network; New York City Labor Against the War; Parkview Hotel Homeless Shelter; Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico; PeopleJudgeBush.org; People's Organization for Progress; Peoples Video Network; Pride At Work - Northeast Ohio; Queers for Peace and Justice; Support Network for an Armed Forces Union; Stop Bush Now - A New 911 Commission; Transit Workers Union Local 100; Untouchable Records; Venceremos Brigade; Veterans for Peace; and Workers World Party.

There will be other anti-war protests in 30 different states that weekend, the second anniversary of the war on Iraq. Also notable will be the one in Fayetteville, N.C., home of the largest U.S. military base.


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