Today I called the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I left a short message for him, stating that I will be marching on the streets of his town next Saturday, February 15, in protest of a renewed war on Iraq. I added that I will do so whether a permit is granted for the demonstration or not. I also mentioned that I intend to bring two or three hundred of my neighbors with me on buses fellow organizers and I are have chartered. I made it quite clear that, permit or no permit, we will march.
As a US invasion force builds in the Middle East, the largest, most diverse movement ever to challenge a war expands in scope and intensity throughout the world. This latest clash between the streets and the elites is at this phase neither cataclysmic nor revolutionary, but it is certainly momentous. The coordinated, global actions of February 15th will almost certainly constitute the largest grassroots mobilization in history.
Citing a concern that people’s “everyday lives” would be disrupted by a massive demonstration in Manhattan, police and city officials have refused to provide protest organizers a permit to march outside the United Nations headquarters. Somehow the preposterousness of that statement seems to be lost on authorities and most reporters: It is the destruction and cessation of peoples’ lives we will be marching to prevent. Disruption of lives the world over is guaranteed by the policies being aggressively pursued by the US government. To oppose the elimination of lives, we will march.
Bloomberg’s attempt to deflate demonstration sizes by denying a permit is remarkably transparent. It has been tried before, in New York and many other cities throughout the United States. There’s a significant likelihood that, as is typical, a permit will be granted at the eleventh hour, once officials are satisfied that a substantial number of would-be demonstrators have cancelled their plans to participate.
Ironically, if a permit is not handed down, officials will be partly responsible for transforming what would otherwise be a legally sanctioned expression of dissent, into a truly massive act of civil disobedience. The remainder of that responsibility rests on the shoulders of those of us who can participate. If the state wishes to offer us a choice between silence and civil disobedience, they leave us no choice at all. If we number in the tens of thousands, they will have no capacity to stop us, and any attempt to do so would be massively detrimental to the Cityâ€™s image. We will look around at ourselves, at the sheer mass of protesters, and we will march.
We are motivated, at this point, by something no politician can so easily manipulate or stifle. We are repulsed by the anti-democratic process by which our leaders have settled on the course of war. We are disgusted by the disdain their carelessness demonstrates toward the security of the Middle East and the world. We are terrified of what missiles, bombs and bullets will do to the people of a country already tortured by more than a decade of vicious sanctions. These motivations have compelled us to pour out into the streets of countless cities large and small, in unprecedented numbers. And as the buildup of invasion forces in the Middle East continues, a comparable escalation in the size and intensity of antiwar forces is approaches a boiling point throughout the world.
Now that the government has revealed its objective is to use crude repression to quell our dissent, those of us who live in the Northeastern US have even more reason to turn out in New York City. Instead of letting them frighten off a movement they have no practical ability to restrict, we will demonstrate their efforts to quiet us can only backfire by inspiring still more action. We will march!
Brian is an antiwar organizer in Syracuse, NY. He and other local activists have organized 5 charter buses and numerous carpools to NYC for February 15.
For more information on the demonstrations in New York and San Francisco, check out http://unitedforpeace.org.
To tell New York City officials you intend to march on New York streets come February 15:
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg: 212-788-9600, 212-788-3010, 212-788-3040 NYC Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly: 646-610-8526 NYPD Chief of Department Joseph Esposito: 646-610-6710