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Home Action Action History 2003 Global Justice Activists Point towards the Roots of War on ?tour of shame? in DC
Global Justice Activists Point towards the Roots of War on ?tour of shame? in DC PDF Print E-mail
April 13, 2003 - On a beautiful spring day in Malcolm X Park in Washington DC activists from across the U.S. and Latin America gathered to listen to inspiring music performances and speeches spelling out the connections between U.S. militarization and the expansion of corporate globalization. The Latin American Solidarity Coalition (LASC), a national coalition of dozens of social, environmental and economic justice organizations called for the rally and ?tour of shame? weaving through the streets of DC. By the time the march was underway thousands of activists walked through the streets of DC chanting and stopping at Taco Bell, the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), the U.S. Department of Commerce and ending in front of the World Bank and IMF denouncing all of these institutions for promoting and benefiting from economic and social violence.

Kristen Labrador, an activist who traveled all the way from Burlington, Vermont said: ?We are here today not to simply call for ?peace? but to make it known that the U.S. military is but one tool in the U.S. toolbox of so called ?free trade?. The U.S. government claims to spread ?democracy? through militarization and ?free trade? yet what they?re really spreading is the U.S. empire?. One of the speakers at the rally Charity Ryerson is facing up to 12 months in federal prison. After having been found guilty by a federal judge, she?ll return to Colombus, Georgia on May 24 for her sentencing - joining the hundreds before her who were found guilty of ?trespassing? at Fort Benning Georgia?s School of the Americas. Charity addressed the crowd at Malcolm X Park, arguing that the U.S. government has its own terrorist training camp in the School of the Americas, noting that the School of the Americas was created to explicitly protect U.S. interests and guarantee access and control of natural resources in the hemisphere.

Vernon Bellecourt, of the American Indian Movement, ridiculed the idea that war was ?patriotic,? pointing out that he and other indigenous peoples throughout the Americas were - and are - the ?true patriots for peace? and that the war against indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere is over 500 years old. Other speakers, songwriters, and performers - though covering different issues - had a unifying theme: the U.S. military and economic policies in Latin America and all over the planet are part of the same plan: a plan for Pax Americana or building a single U.S. world order. Several of the speakers pointed towards specific ?free trade? plans such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas, Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the Plan Puebla Panama as plans that would deepen U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere. They also made clear that the ?neoliberal? policies of the InterAmerican Development Bank, World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) were part of the U.S. sphere of influence creating economic conditions that favor the wealthy of the region of Latin America and respond to the needs of U.S. corporations while destroying the environment and deepening poverty. Additionally, Graciela Monteagudo, from Argentina, addressed the crowd by sharing hopeful examples of how many Argentineans were no longer looking towards the market nor the state to meet their basic needs rather they are organizing into ?neighborhood assemblies? where people themselves are creatively finding ways to meet their own needs.

While the messages appeared very ?global,? Marisabel Villagomez, one of the LASC organizers, brought the issues home to DC; ?all of the issues that we?re talking about - like the U.S. funding, promoting and profiting from economic and military violence in Latin America - have also forced people throughout Latin America to abandon their families and communities to meet their basic needs. Many emmigrate to the U.S. where they are forced to live invisible lives, have their rights abused and are constantly fighting discriminatory policies throughout the U.S.?
Songs and ?spoken word? from both the stage at the rally and at each stop along the protest route enriched the spirit of the rally and protests. The first stop at Taco Bell had the Coalition of Immokalee Workers leading chants such as ?Yo no quiero taco bell? and ?boycott taco bell? and then the Florida based hip-hop group ?Counter Intelligence? performed a song denouncing Taco Bell?s exploitation of farm workers. The next stop at the InterAmerican Development Bank featured Gustavo Castro from Chiapas, Mexico who denounced the IDB?s ruthless promotion of ?free trade? projects that expand the social and economic inequality that has taken hold in Mexico since the 1994 passage of NAFTA to the region of ?Mesoamerica? including the Plan Puebla Panama, Central American Free Trade Agreement and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. After the IDB the march stopped at the U.S. Department of Commerce where Atossa Soltani of Amazon Watch explained the role of U.S. Occidental Oil in profiting from socially and ecologically devastating U.S. led ?free trade? and military plans in Colombia siting the case of the U?Wa indigenous peoples struggle against Oxy. Before departing for the World Bank and IMF, activists pointed towards the U.S. Department of Commerce as a symbol of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, whose promoters promise that it will be finalized at the end of this year.

As the crowd approached Farragut Square Park the chants turned towards ?More World!? ??No Bank!? The final rally at the park had activists on their feet dancing when David Rovics, activist and songwriter, belted out a new song called ?After the Revolution?. Njoki Njoroge Njehu, Director of the 50 Years is Enough Network told the onlooking crowd, ?Our demands to the World Bank and IMF are simple. Cancel the debt to free up resources for health, education, safe water and credit to farmers! Stop policies that harm the environment and communities around the world!? Meanwhile at the World Bank and IMF meetings the agenda shifted towards the reconstruction of Iraq. Brian Martin, an activist who traveled from New York City commented, ?The U.S. destroys Iraq and now the World Bank and IMF are called upon to rebuild it, yet as we?ve seen in the past throughout Latin America ?rebuilding? means institutionalizing and legitimizing inequality and setting up economies that respond to the interests of capital and multinational corporations. This is what they call ?development?!?

While mainstream media continues to claim that the ?global justice? movement is dying in the U.S. Lauren Sullivan, of ACERCA, described the current political climate in the U.S differently, ?The anti-war movement has brought hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. out into the streets and we are engaging in a dialogue with people whose message is ?peace? or ?stop war? by posing questions such as: how can we have peace or stop war when ?free trade? in fact is the source of so much suffering, hunger, contributes to the aids crisis, and generally promotes a system of inequality and violence?.

The Latin American Solidarity Coalition hosted a teach-in on Saturday April 12 and on the minds of many was ?what?s next for the global justice movement?? One clear response to those active in the weekend?s events is working more closely with newly politicized activists who have taken to the streets to stop the war. Many who were active since the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era, such as Bernice Williams from Maryland argued, ?You can?t build a movement on stopping a war alone, to stop this cycle of war we need to radically transform the economic and social realities and structures on which corporate globalization thrives.?

The LASC weekend ended with a dialogue about upcoming important dates in the global justice movement including: the First Hemispheric Forum Against Militarization in Chiapas, Mexico May 6-10; the upcoming ?mini-WTO-ministerial? meeting in Sacramento, CA June 23-25; the WTO meetings in Cancun, Mexico in September, and the FTAA meetings in Miami, FL November 19-21; followed by the next School of the Americas protest in Fort Benning, from November 22-23.

By Brendan O?Neill
ACERCA, a project of the Action for Social and Ecological Justice Collective (http://www.asej.org). ACERCA is a member of the Latin American Solidarity Coalition (http://www.lasolidarity.org).


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