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Berkeley joins war protest

By Judith Scherr
Monday October 07, 2002

Chanting against the impending war in Iraq as they marched to the rhythms of drums and tambourines, about 350 mostly students made their way from People’s Park to the downtown BART station to a Sunday afternoon rally in San Francisco’s Union Square. Organizers estimated the San Francisco crowd at more than 5,000. 

The rally, called by the organization Not In Our Name, was one of a number of anti-war protests held around the country. Other major protests were held in New York City, Chicago, Portland, Ore. and Atlanta. 

The nationwide protesters were unified by a pledge read by singer Bonnie Raitt and activist Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange: “We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do – we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our name.” 

Before taking her place at the podium, Raitt told the Daily Planet she had come to the rally to “express repulsion” at what looks like a unilateral move to war. 

The protest was UC Berkeley student Lauren Bennett’s first rally. “I don’t believe in war,” she said.  

Also in the crowd was school board member John Selawsky, who had participated in a number of protests against the Gulf War a decade ago. Then there was some excuse for war, he said – Iraq had invaded Kuwait. “Now we’re the aggressor. We’re flaunting international law.” 

Speakers at the rally drew links to other struggles. Yuri Kochiyama, 81, of Oakland, reminded people not to forget the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “Sixty years ago, we went through what Arab Americans are going through today,” she said.  

Then Kochiyama turned to a local fight – the lockout of the International Longshoreman’s and Warehouse Union at the Port of Oakland. Kochiyama recalled how the ILWU had helped protest against apartheid, refusing to unload goods from South Africa. She called for anti-war demonstrators to support the union now as they face Bush administration threats to replace them with military personnel. 

“No war in Iraq. No troops on the dock,” the crowd chanted. 

Osama Qasem of the American Arab anti-discrimination committee made the link between the fight for a Palestinian homeland and the impending war in Iraq. “There’s a strategic alliance between Zionism and imperialism,” he said, underscoring that support for Palestinian statehood does not amount to a bias against Jews. “The Zionist establishment does not represent all the Jewish people of world.” 

Standing shoulder to shoulder in the blistering sun, the crowd cheered the announcement of the dozens of groups attending Sunday’s protest, including Vietnam Widows Against the War, Berkeley High School, Pax Christi from Burlingame, Oakland High School and Soccer Moms from Vacaville.