US: Hundreds of thousands march in Washington anti-war ally

Anger at Iraqi occupation and New Orleans disaster

The anti-war movement in the US has been reborn. On September 24th, there was a massive demonstration in Washington DC that demanded, "Bring the Troops Home Now."

The crowd was also clearly angered by the criminal negligence of the Bush regime in relation to the events on the US Gulf Coast, which saw catastrophe for New Orleans. Hundreds of billions have been spent on war, but they didn’t have a few million to reinforce levees to prevent this disaster?

In recent polls, over half of US citizens say they want an immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq. This is the first time that polls have indicated this sentiment.

There have been various estimates of the size of the demonstration. Most of the media says there were about 100,000 demonstrators, but they give more attention and coverage to the couple of hundred counter-demonstrators. Yahoo, the internet company, had an overhead helicopter camera that estimated about 500,000 demonstrators in DC.

Still, the potential for the demonstration was much greater. Hundreds of millions of Americans want to see an end to the occupation. The US labor leaders have a position on paper that they want the troops to come home. However, the heads of the labor movement once again failed to respond to events (just like on the Gulf Coast); they didn’t mobilise for or endorse the rally.

Also, most local anti-war coalitions did not build the rally in working class and African American communities, where anger over the issues of the war and New Orleans is at its highest. Instead, they kept to their activist networks, which rarely reach out in a systematic way to working class areas.

Still, even with limited organising and the difficulties people faced in trying to get to Washington DC (Amtrak, the rail system, shut down service to DC on the 24th), the turnout was incredible, and it indicates a willingness to struggle against the establishment.

US workers have been hit with massive budget cuts, de-industrialisation and the predominance of "Mc Jobs." We live in a society where tens of millions have no access to healthcare, and tens of millions more are in debt. The war and occupation of Iraq are making matters worse. New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are faced with unimaginable conditions, and people are angry.

"Dump the Elephant. Dump the Ass. Build a Party of the Working Class!"

Socialist Alternative participated at the Washington rally. We had nearly 40 members in DC, who came from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Madison. Our organisation pointed out in conversations with protesters, that the problem isn’t just Bush; it’s both corporate controlled parties and the system that they represent.

We sold well over 300 copies of our newspaper, Justice. Also, we sold over 40 copies of our new pamphlet about Hurricane Katrina entitled, "Poor, Black, and Left to Die" along with a lot of other socialist literature.

We marched as a contingent behind a banner that read, "Make War and Poverty History. Fight for a Socialist World." We had over 20 placards with slogans about rebuilding the Gulf Coast, based on workers’ needs, ending low pay, extending reproductive rights (which are under attack in the US), building a workers’ party, and demanding free healthcare.

Our contingent was lively and our chants were original and political. We really stood out in the crowd and gained support for, and curiosity about, Socialist Alternative when we chanted, "Dump the Elephant. Dump the Ass. Build a Party of the Working Class!"

[The Elephant and Ass are animal symbols for the Republicans and Democrats].

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September 2005