WELCOME AND OPENING REMARKS AT AUGUST 28, 2011 NATO/G-8 ORGANIZING MEETING IN CHICAGO
By Marilyn Levin, Co-Coordinator, United National Antiwar Coalition
Hello. I’m so happy to be here and to welcome you to the conference to kick off the organizing of the mobilizations to protest the summits of NATO and the G-8 in Chicago in May, 2012.
I want to thank the organizers of this important day, especially those of you on the ground in Chicago who will bear a big load of both the logistics and the squelching of our rights that your great Mayor and Police Superintendent are planning for us. I want to thank all of you for coming because you recognize the historic importance of these gatherings of the military and economic rulers of the world and how our response in the streets and in the media is critical.
And finally, I want to thank President Obama, and the military and financial leaders for deciding to hold these summits in the United States to give the entire movement an opportunity to come together next spring to march, rally, educate and organize all of our communities to denounce their agendas of endless war and escalating poverty with our united demands for sustainable worldwide peace and justice and to offer more than election campaigns to bring about social change.
It also gives us the important opportunity and obligation to educate the public about NATO and the G-8. What we do leading up to May is equally important. People in the United States don’t understand what NATO really is and the relationship between these wars and their nefarious goals for imperial economic domination. People think NATO has to do with defense of Europe. The ongoing assault on Libya is a portent of more. We must educate our movement and the public about what it all means and what we must do to stop them.
Let me give an outline of how this came to be. UNAC, the United National Antiwar Coalition, formed last year at a conference attended by 800 activists from peace, environmental, economic and social justice groups from around the country in Albany. This was the largest antiwar conference held since 9/11 and the initiation of the so-called “War on Terror”. At this conference, we highlighted the repression directed at the Muslim community, and we passed an ambitious action program including national mass antiwar actions in April. Since then, we have been active in opposing the US/NATO intervention in Libya and other countries, campaigns about the other wars at home and abroad, and defense of civil liberties.
At a national leadership gathering attended by 80 people representing 46 groups in June, we passed a resolution calling for an internationally coordinated mobilization against war and for social justice at the site of the NATO gathering in the spring of 2012 and to organize a meeting of broad forces to discuss and prepare initial plans to begin work on this spring action. At the time, we did not know the date or location of the NATO meeting and we did not know the G-8 summit would be held at the same time.
Now we are here to officially launch the National Call to Action. We know that the 28 nations that comprise NATO and the finance ministers and heads of state of the G-8 world economic powers are coming – they say, to foster consensus on global issues such as economic growth and crisis management, global security, energy, and terrorism. We say, the name of their game is security and profits – theirs, not ours! How they achieve this is to plan increasing draconian austerity measures of social cuts and privatization of everything, and soaring debts to pay for their wars, nukes, drones and bases; through increased suppression of civil rights and liberties, with attacks on unions and dissidents, and racist attacks on Blacks, Latinos immigrants and Muslims; through their crisis capitalism profits, their assaults on the environment and climate; and through control of energy, food, water, and mineral resources.
Ours is an agenda for the future of humanity and our planet. What do we plan? We want to be there on opening day, Tuesday, May 15 to hold a press conference, rally and peaceful march. On Sat., March 19 we plan a huge legal, peaceful, permitted march and rally to exercise our democratic right to assemble and to protest. We expect to welcome national and international speakers representing those who are being targeted by war, repression, racism and austerity. We may also want to organize an educational counter-summit to feature some of the speakers in greater depth who are coming to Chicago and don’t have another platform.
The demands we will march behind were passed almost unanimously at the national conferences:
• Bring All U.S./NATO Troops, Mercenaries & War Contractors Home Now! No drone attacks, no war threats, no sanctions, no support for dictators! End U.S. Aid to Israel, the Occupation of Palestine and the Siege of Gaza!
• Bring Our War Dollars Home! No to Corporate and Bank Bailouts! Trillions for Jobs, Housing, Education, Health Care, Pensions and the Environment! Tax the Rich, Not Working People! No to Attacks on Unions, Cutbacks, Layoffs, Foreclosures and Austerity!
• Civil liberties for All! End Racist Attacks on Muslim and Arab Communities, Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and Immigrants! No to FBI Repression and Grand Jury Subpoenas to Antiwar and Social Justice Activists!
• Honor our constitutional right to assemble, to march, to protest the war machine, to speak truth to power, and to demand peace and justice.
These are the most pressing issues the world faces today. The overarching theme we can all agree to is to Say NO to the NATO/G-8 War and Poverty Agenda! It is not necessary that each organization or individual adopt the entire program of demands we project in our call. If a union, for example, can unite around “Bring Our War $$ Home”, they can endorse the rally and carry their own banners and signs, or organize a feeder march to join the broader mobilization. These demands, however, cover the major issues we need to stand up around and allow us to do outreach and bring in the broadest, most diverse constituencies in a united front action.
We have a lot of work to do as we mobilize to confront the superpowers and architects of the global “War to Terrorize Everyone”. They will try to divide us, to violence and red-bait us, to accuse us of anti-Semitism, to say we are anti-American, to say we are out to target Obama, to say mass action is passé, to say we are too confrontational. We need to support each other in our diverging political views and tactics, to work in democratic coalitions, to remain steadfast and united in our mission, and to fight for our right to be heard. If we can do that, we can revitalize our movement and send a powerful message that we are strong and that we have the power to confront the warmakers and to rewrite the poverty and war agendas.