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AUDIO FEATURE: USA Out of Iraq Rally and March

Sunday afternoon, September 21, 2003, a gathering of about a thousand strong met at Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland Oregon to demonstrate for Peace and protest the continuing war in Iraq. From there they marched through downtown Portland, joining up with the Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride rally taking place at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
I arrived late, due to attendance at the Immigrant Workers Freedon Ride rally taking place almost simultaneously at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Just as I walked up a small group of people wrapped in American flags burst into the center of the Plaza and ignited a Palestinian flag, seeking, presumably to encite conflict and divert attention from Peace to anger and animosity. Jo Ann Bowman, master of Ceremonies for the rally, more than rose to the occasion by immediately leading a chant, "we're here for peace," which rose from the crowd and lasted long after the provocateurs were led by the police from the Plaza. Thank you, Jo Ann Bowman.
Then Jo Ann introduced Zaher Wahab, a professor at Lewis and Clark College and Afghan native, recently returned from a ten month visit to his homeland, who spoke for about 7 minutes. Zaher states that the U.S. has spent approximately 1 billion dollars a month for two years, while spending less than 50 million on economic development. "Many people initially welcomed the Americans, but now they are perceived and treated as an occupying force."
He finished by enumerating a number of things that the U.S. should do in order to stabalize Afghanistan. Foremost, is to increase the International Security Force from 5,000 to at least 30,000 in the next 10 months. Among others is "expanding the de-mining program; there are still some 8,000,000 mines in Afghanistan, killing and maiming people every hour."
And finally, "we call on our government......to switch from emphasizing consumerism, militarism, imperialism, in it's old and new forms, and to switch to world peace, justice, democracy and sustainable development, here at home and throughout the world."
Zaher Wahab
Next, Liz Samuels from Jews For Global Justice introduced Zaha Hasan, from Americans United for Palestine Human Rights, who in turn introduced Liz. Zaha was the first to speak, and dedicated this speech to her daughter who was forced off a bus recently, accused of being a terrorist.
She then detailed a number of Occupations in which the U.S. is engaged, first listing the obvious, Iraq, which is supposed to be a "benign occupation, that is meant to help the Iraqi people to get back on their feet, set up Democratic institutions and establish peace in the country. Well, I'm a Palestinian American, folks, and I've lived in the occupied West Bank, and there is no such thing as a 'benign occupation.' Occupation by definition is the wholesale deprivation of an entire people."
Next she talked about her homeland, Palestine. and then detailed how our government, both the Presidency and Congress, are occupied by corporate defense contractors and the pro Israel lobby.
Liz Samuels spoke about the strategic role Israel plays in, first the British, and then U.S. Foreign Policy in the Mid East. "In addition to economic aid, the U.S. gives over 2 billion dollars a year in military aid alone."
She then talks about a wall currently being constructed around the West Bank, a 360-435 mile long wall that cuts into and divides Palestinian land. "The Warsaw Ghetto started with a wall. Will we wait until a ghetto is established in Palestine, or will we stop it before it is completed"
Both talks take about 11 minutes
Liz and Zaha
Before a few concluding remarks, Jo Ann introduces the President of the Islamic Center of Portland, who spoke about civil rights, post 911. He begins his 7 minute presentation by saying "that we are all here today because we know something is wrong. There is something wrong in the world and there is something wrong with our country. In the past three years we have been through two wars already."
The Bush Adminstration is claiming that they are trying to bring liberty and freedom to those countries. "At the same time they are taking away the civil right and freedom of citizens and immigrants here in the United States of America. Is this hypocrisy or what?"
He finishes by saying that we all should object to the so called PATRIOT act, following the example of cities that have already done so.
Portland Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Jo Ann concludes by stating that this is not a Muslim issue, it's not a Palestinian issue, it's not a black issue, it's not a white issue; it's a human rights issue."
Islamic Center of Portland Speaker

When the march reached Pioneer Square, Ramon Rameriz, of PCUN briefly addressed the crowd, explaining a little about the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride to the east coast over the next two weeks and asked for their support. He mentioned that KBOO, 90.7 FM Community radio will be broadcasting updates concerning the Freedom Ride.
Ramon Rameriz

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