Approximately 275 antiwar demonstrators converged at Martin Luther King Jr. park yesterday evening to kick off a nationwide protest of all aggression and violence against civilians. The coalition, “Not in our Name,” stands against war, Israeli occupation of the West Bank, increased aggression between India and Pakistan and the U.S. extending military to aid to be used against all people.
Snehal Shingavi, a UC Berkeley graduate student, and outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, said the illustrated the continued commitment of the people.
Shingavi has been the subject of some controversy lately at the university over a class he teaches entitled The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance.”
Shingavi, also a leader of Students for Justice in Palestine, included in the course syllabus, a statement that “conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections.”
According to Shingavi there are conversations, debates and dialogues that can only happen within any given movement. But university officials said Shingavi was in violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of political beliefs.
Shingavi has since removed the sentence at the university’s request.
Shingavi recently learned that members of his group SJP were allowed back onto campus again, and that charges against them had been dropped by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. Yesterday’s rally, was additionally good news for him.
“People come coming out again and again,” Shingavi said. “And saying none of this [U.S. military action abroad as well as financial support of the Israeli government] serves the interest of the people. And they say it is in the interested of safety that the U.S. government does this. When it is their actions day by day that makes the world more unstable and unsafe.”
The coalition sited 13 other cities that were staging simultaneous rallies — including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City and Boston.
But some present had different views on how quickly a national movement would take shape in the current political climate.
“Essentially it’s a civil rights movement, and there’s always an ebb and flow,” said International Solidarity Movement member Rob Lipton.
Lipton returned from Israel in mid-April where he was engaging in a civil disobedience protest that escalated into his essentially being a human shield in between armed Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians, according to Lipton.
“It will grow as our civil liberties are more and more impacted. The concern will become greater and greater,” Lipton said. “This is basically the McCarthy era all over again, but we’re a lot smarter now.”
The march began at 7 p.m. and ended near the UC Berkeley campus off Telegraph Avenue. It drew the attention of the Berkeley Police Department but was peaceful and there were no arrest.
“This is more of a solemn march,” said Raiko, an organizer of the event. It was smaller, more organized and far less tumultuous than previous protest. And it was designed to appeal to a broad base, and reach out to people who might shy away from rowdier rallies.
“Part of what we are trying to as people who live in this country is say ‘no,’ not in our name,” said Xochitl Johnson, a member of Not in Our Name who was charged with assaulting an officer at a previous protest down University Avenue.
“We’re going to have to build this movement from a very broad base and bring in people who are not use to stepping up and speaking out,” Johnson said.
She added that there is a clear correlation between what is happening today in the Middle East and what has happened in history with other groups who have economically oppressed.
Another member of the group who spoke out was Jeff Paterson, a former U.S. Marines who at 19-years-of-age was stationed in the Gulf and expected to fight. Paterson was the first U.S. military personnel to take a stand against fight in the Persian Gulf and after the war spent two years trying to negotiate freedom for more than a 100 U.S. military personnel who were incarcerated for protesting the war. Paterson said it was his experience in the U.S. military that opened his eyes to the inherent racism that exist in U.S. military policy.
In the next several months the coalition will attempt to establish as many national ties as it can.
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