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October 6: Tens of thousands pledge: "Not in Our Name"

Tens of thousands said it together on October 6--in dozens of rallies and gatherings across the U.S., on banners and T-shirts, signs and songs, in chants, speeches and a solemn common pledge of resistance. Everywhere, on banners, flyers, signs and shirts was that photo of our beautiful planet floating in space--as a symbol of unity across borders and dreams of a better world.

A Day of Resistance

October 6: Tens of thousands pledge: "Not in Our Name"

Revolutionary Worker #1171, October 20, 2002, posted at rwor.org

"Not In Our Name!"

Tens of thousands said it together on October 6--in dozens of rallies and gatherings across the U.S., on banners and T-shirts, signs and songs, in chants, speeches and a solemn common pledge of resistance. Everywhere, on banners, flyers, signs and shirts was that photo of our beautiful planet floating in space--as a symbol of unity across borders and dreams of a better world.

The best available estimate is that on October 6 at least 25,000 people came to Central Park's East Meadow, joined by 10,000 people in San Francisco, 10,000 in Los Angeles, 10,000 in Seattle, 7,000 in Portland, over 2,500 in Chicago, and many thousands more in actions held in at least 40 other places around the U.S.--from Anchorage, Alaska to Austin, Texas.

And the message was heard. The media couldn't hide or ignore that a resistance is forming up, here in the U.S.--reaching out in solidarity with people all over the world. But beyond even the numbers, there was a sense on this day of something fresh, defiant, and growing.

Ground Zero

"Here we are in this city, where the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center went down, in a city whose grief was contorted and perverted by the rulers into a cry for war. And we are coming out in our thousands to say no, this is not us. Those planes, tanks and bombs, commandos and assassins, secret government agents and immigration police are not in our name--and we reject any allegation that this monstrosity of perpetual war is being waged on our behalf or for our benefit."

Miles Solay of Refuse & Resist!
and co-MC of the East Meadow rally

"I'm grateful to New Yorkers for being here today. You're gutsy people and you are in the citadel of resistance. And I applaud you. I can't remember a time in my country, in my life, when there has been such an overall stifling of public debate on such a critical issue."

Martin Sheen, backstage at East Meadow

"I just have to say: The demonstration in Central Park, New York City on Sunday, October 6 was glorious, wonderful. Walking up from the subway on Lexington and 96th, later in the day, coming toward me was a tide of people--the young, vibrant; seniors steady in their sandals or sneakers; students with homemade signs--`Will war make you feel safe?', young women with their heads covered, dancers, drummers, singers; the tables full of serious revolutionaries, the field full of people, from whose throat rose great gladness at each speech, song, poem. I felt as if, after crawling through the great desert, dry, and without a sign on the horizon, I had come to a flowing river, full of shining and color and freshness. And while the mood and the knowledge of what this country's government is trying to do, to continue to do, in our name--is serious, is haunting and dangerous, and almost overwhelming--so was the crowd and the spirit."

A participant on October 6

Inevitably, all eyes have returned to New York City, "ground zero" of September 11. It is hard to say when exactly, but at some point it became clear that something truly powerful was taking shape on October 6.

One participant came to Manhattan on a jam-packed subway car, and suddenly realized that everyone was getting off for the East Meadow. An organizer described how a young man came to the NION offices from the financial district, said he had lost a loved one in the World Trade Center and donated hundreds of dollars for the cause. One woman from out-of-town described how she had been working hard that day at a logistics table on East Meadow, and suddenly looked up to realize the size of the crowd and its energy.

One of the rally MCs later said he watched thousands of people close to the stage, listening intently for hours. Many had come looking for a deeper understanding of complex events, looking for the analyses to beat back the flood of lies and cowboy Bush-isms. And they heard, from the podium and from others in the crowd, diverse and nuanced views. But at the same time, there was, running through this day, a real and deepening unity around the need to take a stand, to oppose the actions of the U.S. government, to mobilize the people, to risk and sacrifice to roll back the massive machinery of injustice--this juggernaut of war and repression.

Many said they had to come because of the intensity of this moment. They came furious that government representatives were so obviously not listening to their concerns and that Congress seemed determined to rubberstamp plans for aggression. Many knew they were running straight up against the White House mantra: "With us or against us." And many here had never protested before or taken a stand against the government.

All this gave October 6 a feeling of tapping into deep new currents within the people.

Coming Together

"We student organizers at Kent State University know what it is to have our dissent silenced. And we, as the youth of the world, know what it is to have our dissent silenced. We know what it is to be told that our lives come down to commercialism, how much stuff we can buy in a lifetime. And that in the same breath in which we have been told we are the future of the world, our dreams make the future of the world, they make a nightmare of our world. It is time that we say we will not lie down at night with your nightmare, but with our dreams! This is our world to reclaim!"

Student from Kent State, at the microphone, East Meadow

"Our stand must be if you want to come at the people of the world you're gonna have to come through us--and that ain't gonna be possible!"

Jana, Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, speaking at October 6, NYC

"I found the place for my dissent."

Participant from local college at post-October 6 meeting

Susan Sarandon spoke for many people when she said: "I have been feeling so isolated, so lonely, so convinced by the mainstream media that I'm out of my mind to be worried about this path that we are taking towards this war." She asked, "Do we the people really want to be a new Rome that imposes its rule by the use of overwhelming force whenever its interests are threatened? Even perceived potential threats? We do not want endless warfare."

As a river of people poured into the East Meadow, many people suddenly felt part of something new and potentially powerful. People remarked over and over about the power of the day's diversity--all the many nationalities and communities of New York City were there--including, with special importance, members of Muslim and Arab communities who are being so harshly persecuted by government agents.

The '60s generation was there, many saying that they felt re-awakened and compelled by the current U.S. actions. The generation of the 1991 Gulf War came out, often wearing "No Blood for Oil" buttons with a chilling timeliness. And everywhere there were the new generation, eager to take their place in the front ranks and carve out a future worth living. The East Meadow was dotted with banners and contingents from colleges and New York's high schools: Kent State, Antioch, Hampshire, Swarthmore, Temple University, Bryn Mawr, Oberlin, and many more.

The crowed cheered the performers and artists who came out to stand with the people on this day, including Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Martin Sheen, Gabriel Byrne, Reno, Oscar Brown Jr., and David Byrne. Saul Williams captivated the audience with a powerful new poem.

Meg Bartlett, an emergency worker from "Ground Zero," spoke. Veteran activists Leslie Cagan and Ron Daniels of the Center for Constitutional Rights spoke and led the chant "Not In Our Name!" Rabbi Michael Feingold called on all other clergy to support U.S. soldiers who refuse to attack Iraq--and to lend their churches, mosques and synagogues as safe havens for resisters. Signatories of the Statement of Conscience rose to read their manifesto, which has given a framework and a language of resistance to the whole juggernaut to people across the country.

Many people reacted with delight each time the illegitimacy of American power was called out-- when speakers mentioned how the last presidential election was stolen by fundamentalists, oilmen, and a rightwing Supreme Court--and when they exposed the sordid motives behind this government's grab for world power and oil.

The injustice of this so-called "War on Terrorism" sank in again when Masuda Sultan stood at the microphone and described how she had lost 19 members of her family to U.S. bombs in Afghanistan and what this meant, to her and to her country.

People wiped away tears as Shokriea Yaghi described how her husband, a Jordanian pizza parlor owner who has been a New Yorker for 15 years, was taken during the mass round-ups after 9/11, held for nine terrifying months without charges, and then suddenly deported without warning in July--away from his family, his life and livelihood here. "I have not seen my husband for 15 months," said Yaghi. "Now we are being told that he cannot return to this country for 10 years. I am here to fight for my husband's rights. I am here to fight for my children's rights."

The lawyer Randall Hamud, who is legally representing detainees in court, held up the new law that grants the sweeping police powers for infiltration and declared, "Here's what I think of your USA Patriot Act!" as he threw the papers into the crowd.

At one point, a 10-year-old Muslim boy from Manhattan stepped out of the crowd and was given the mike: "I'm a Muslim, but I'm not a terrorist. No one in my family or community is a terrorist. But some people in my school call me `bin Laden boy.' This is racism and it is wrong.... I want to tell you all, I want you all to know that most of the victims of the U.S. smart bombs will be people just like me, many my age and the age of my 3-year-old brother. We are not terrorists! Killing innocent people is wrong! Every child knows that. Why doesn't every adult?"

A Pledge to the World,for the Future

"We believe that as people livingin the United States it is ourresponsibility to resist the injusticesdone by our government, in our names..."

The opening words of the Not in Our Name Pledge of Resistance

"I'm taking this Pledge because we, the next generation, may wake up tomorrow to find that the things we love have been destroyed because we didn't say anything today!"

Naomi from New York's Stuyvesant High School

The highlight of October 6, in East Meadow and across the country, came as people took the Pledge of Resistance. In New York City, 25 youth filled the stage to lead this joint statement. As the MC announced the moment had come, people rose to their feet, in their many thousands, pulled out their copies of the Pledge and stood ready. Fists rose--and the words came from all those voices--solemn, serious, in unity.

The U.S. government clearly thinks it is on a roll. It seems drunk with the belief that no one in the world can oppose it. The White House and Pentagon are clearly preparing major new crimes. And the thousands who gathered on October 6 showed a sober sense of this. Their pledge was a statement of protest, but it was also--deliberately--a promise made to each other and the people of the world to continue to resist together. And in that sense, this day was a beginning for whatever comes now.

"This was a tremendous day--the birth of a powerful new movement against the whole juggernaut," Mary Lou Greenberg of the RCP New York Branch told the RW . "I think everyone came away with renewed energy and dedication to the huge task in front of us. As an initiator of the Not In Our Name Project, I am really proud to have been part of this--and to have worked with all the people who helped bring this into being. We have to build an unprecedented movement to deal with this situation. October 6 was a beginning indication that this can be done and that the pledge, with its theme of taking responsibility to oppose our own government, can become a powerful force for generating resistance. With the looming war on Iraq, the resistance that came together on October 6 must go deeper and broader. Huge sections of society who are already questioning need to be spoken to and activated. It's a big challenge, but it's up to the people to change the course of history."

One participant spoke to carrying forward the Not In Our Name spirit: "If we can replicate and expand all this, double both in numbers and in content and in fierce joy on October 26 in Washington, DC, we will be on our way to the true tide of humanity, those who love peace, not just their own, but the world's."

Miles Solay said afterwards: "I said over and over, speaking to people before October 6, that this event needs to be a turning point. And now, afterwards, we can honestly say that it was. This is just a beginning, of course, but it has galvanized the sentiments of millions. It has become a major expression of their resistance to all that this government is doing. And people did come away from this day transformed and on a mission. Every person I talk to says `What now?' And that is a challenging place to be."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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