The People's Rally For Peace & Justice brings activists together
By Erik-Anders Nilsson
On the relative eve of the Congress voting on (and almost assuredly passing) an additional $120 billion dollars to continue the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the People’s Rally For Peace & Justice was held this past Saturday in Newark to counter the miss-appropriation of our tax dollars -- and to bring the troops home now!
Held by the Peace and Justice Coalition, a group of over 124 endorsing peace and justice organizations (including City Belt) and led mainly by the People’s Organization For Progress (POP), the event at Essex County College was attended by more than 600 activists. The four-hour speak-out and rally was a follow-up to the People’s Peace Conference held this past January.
To open the action, a jazz group jammed on a song, "The World Is a Ghetto." The lead singer and saxophonist's 28-year-old son was killed in Iraq on December 18, 2005.
As he spoke about his son, he choked up several times. Shot in the head, (its still unknown if it was "friendly fire"), this father explained that his son was “never in jail or on drugs,” and yet “could not get a job” no matter how many hours he walked and sought a decent job. Then his son joined the National Guard, where he became a respected leader and Purple Heart recipient.
Unfortunately, what happened to his son happens to many young men and women (especially persons of color) -- they are enticed by the promise of funds, jobs and schooling. Sadly, the bandleader explained that for his son, "it was just a job."
Rep. Donald Payne, the first African-American to be elected to Congress in New Jersey, riffed on the "W" in George W. Bush -- "wrong” on weapons of mass destruction, “wrong” on the short war, “wrong” on how the “Iraqi oil” will pay for it. “Wrong” on Iraq being linked to “9/11”.
He educated the crowd as to how much this illegal war has cost New Jersey in lives (53 dead), wounded (23,000) and dollars (20.8 billion).
Speaker after speaker acknowledged the slaughter of the Iraqi citizens and the illegality of the occupation of Iraq.
A Rutgers-New Brunswick student anti-war leader spoke about his involvement in a recent walk-out at that campus, and promised future actions.
During the ‘open-mike’ portion of the event, activist after activist spoke of their cause and dedication to ending the wars and injustices.
"The truth of the matter is only a handful of people want to continue this war," said POP Chairman Larry Hamm. He added that the anti-war movement needs more persons of color working towards its goals.
But perhaps the father who lost his son in Iraq said it best: “P.O.W -- that stands for ‘prisoners of war.’ We are all prisoners of war.”
This summer, a march for Peace, Equality, Jobs and Justice will be held in Newark (August 25)