New York, NY — Thousands of protestors took to the streets nationwide on April 14th and 15th, rallying against the bombing of Syria and demanding that money be spent on people, not war.
In New York City, the rally took place on Sunday, April 15th, in Herald Square. The days of action, organized by the International Action Center, an activist and anti-war group founded by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, brought together over 300 organizations that endorsed the protests, including Teamsters Local 808, based in Queens, Labor Fightback Network, based in New Jersey, as well as many labor-affiliated individuals and representatives of unions around the country.
A chant of “Tax the rich, not the poor, money for jobs, not the war,” went up from the crowd, that although relatively small in number, perhaps about 200, was vocal and well stocked with brightly colored signs denouncing U.S. policies worldwide. “The working people fight for the rich man in the war, that’s the way it’s always been,” said Marty Goodman, a retired rail worker and former Executive Board member of TWU Local 100. “They feed their own corporations while they cut funding for schools, hospitals, transit and social services.”
Chris Silvera, Secretary-Treasurer, Local 808, Teamsters, was a featured speaker. “I don’t have a speech; I have some questions,” he said from the podium. One of them was “Why are unions not striking?” Silvera told LaborPress, “Unions are not protesting the direction of the country [sufficiently] regarding the waste of money on the war machine versus better roads, improving the system we have now, etc. We have already lost a trillion dollars we could have spent putting people to work, paying teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma. Unions have a role to play besides being a cheerleader for the Democratic Party.”
Silvera’s calling out of the Democrats was echoed by many of the days’ speakers, with some saying Democrats’ “complicity” with the Republicans in voting for the military budget increase laid bare the “bi-partisan war machine in this country.” Some went so far as to accuse the U.S. of being part of an “axis of evil,” along with France and Britain. Sara Flounders, the Co-Director of the International Action Center said, “We don’t know from one minute to the next what country the U.S. military is going to invade.” Echoing a fundamental belief of labor unions, she said, “the only weapon we have against it is our unity, our solidarity.”
Silvera asked the crowd, “Why wars over living wage?” and quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, saying, “War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow.”