Multiple Choices for Anti-War Voices, By: Judith Scherr

Friday March 17, 2006



It’s a war goin on, the ghetto is a cage 

They only give you two choices; be a rebel or a slave. 

—Boots Riley  

of Boots and The Coup 


Watch out Walnut Creek—average home price $800,000, registered Democrats just slightly more than Republicans; 84 percent white—here comes Oakland’s Boots and The Coup, Berkeley’s Country Joe and a flock of folks protesting the Iraq War on its third anniversary. 

Oh—you thought the march was in the “city.” One—probably the largest—is. 

Dozens more, however, are scattered around the state and hundreds around the country. Nearby anti-war marches are set for Walnut Creek—Walnut Creek BART, 11 a.m.; San Francisco—Civic Center, 11 a.m.; Palo Alto—noon, City Hall Plaza, 250 Hamilton Ave.; Vallejo, 10:30 a.m., Redwood and Sonoma streets. And Rep. Barbara Lee’s holding a town meeting at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave., 9 a.m. 

The peace movement has been slowly fracturing into two main camps, one more narrowly focused on getting out of Iraq and the other insisting that protests reflect the concept that the Iraq War is just one piece of the U.S. attempt to  

dominate the planet. 

“San Francisco will be preaching to the choir,” said Tony Martarella, with the Progressive Alliance of Contra Costa County, one of the Walnut Creek march’s sponsoring organizations. “Contra Costa County is more conservative—we are moderate, centrists, not liberal progressive.” 

People need to ease into the peace movement, he said. “We don’t want to confuse people with multiple messages. After [the war] we can deal with other social and economic injustices.” 

But without multiple messages—protesters in San Francisco will hear from groups supporting Palestine, Haiti, the Philippines and more—people will not get a sense of the global nature of the conflict, argued Bill Hackwell spokesperson for the A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and Racism) Coalition, the umbrella group sponsoring the San Francisco demonstration. 

Hackwell said the march will physically link issues by stopping at Glide Church, where the hungry are fed and at the Sheraton Hotel, where workers are on strike.  

In addition to Norman Solomon, most recently author of War Made Easy, the Walnut Creek Rally will feature a number of speakers from the Democratic Party, including Rep. George Miller, D-Concord, and former U.S. Congressperson Pete McCloskey. 

Targeting these speakers, Hackwell said he has no confidence in the Democratic Party. “Kerry was for the expansion of the war,” he said, adding: “We say bring the troops home and put them in job training. Don’t redeploy them somewhere else.” 

Speakers at the Palo Alto march and rally, sponsored by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, will hear from Joel Beinin, professor in Middle East studies at Stanford University and Larry Bensky, Berkeley resident and longtime KPFA-FM producer.  

Asked why Palo Alto was organizing separately from San Francisco, Bensky responded that “a lot of people don’t want to work with A.N.S.W.E.R. People who try to work with A.N.S.W.E.R., part of the Workers World Party, have found them to be hard-line and inflexible.”  

Bensky further noted that the other large umbrella coalition, United for Peace and Justice, which has stated uncategorically on its website that it will no longer work with A.N.S.W. E.R., will be holding its own large peace march in New York, April 29. 

Speaking for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, Nathan Britton said the congresswoman wanted to hold a different kind of event, one where the community will have a chance to voice its opinions. At rallies, “generally what you get are a long list of speakers,” Britton said. 

Lee will be joined by panelists Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, Andy Shalal, Iraqi American activist and Sophie Simon-Ortiz, producer/reporter at Youth Radio. 

“Three years into this unnecessary war, after an incredible human and financial cost and our country and the world are less safe, it is time to recognize that success means ending this war, bringing our troops home and making sure there are no permanent military bases (in Iraq),” Lee said in a prepared statement.