Anti-war protest on campus gets TV coverage

(Champaign) On Saturday October 28 the Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort (AWARE) and the Arab Student Association (ASA) cosponsored a spirited afternoon protest against war, racism and occupation – and both news channels 3 and 15 gave it good coverage. The action, which began at 1:00 on the north end of the UIUC Quad, was part of a national day of anti-war protest coordinated by the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) coalition. Channel 3 in particular focused on specific referenda on the ballot this Nov. 7 in Champaign, Urbana and elsewhere that allow voters of any party to vote explicitly for bringing the troops home and pointed out national polls that repeatedly show Americans opposing the Bush Administration’s war in Iraq, including a solid majority of US troops in Iraq who themselves favor withdrawal. Voters in towns and cities from coast to coast will vote on similar “troops home” referenda on Election Day as part of the growing movement to end the war. Another referendum in Urbana and in Champaign calls for impeaching President Bush and Vice-President Cheney for using deception to drag us into this illegal and immoral war, an idea that has recently gained some traction in the Illinois State Legislature. ASA President Lina El-Beshbeeshy, main organizer of the protest who was not on TV, emphasized the necessity of “standing up and speaking out with a strong message.” “That is why we are out here voicing our disagreement with our government on this day,” she said. “The general American public does not realize what is actually going on in Iraq. The people of Iraq live in day to day fear of losing their lives” due to a war that is solely of the Bush Administration’s making, the student leader added. Green Party candidates also spoke at the rally, and Channel 15 ran interviews with them on their opposition to war. Representatives of other groups also spoke, then the crowd marched down Green Street and back around to the Quad before circling the Alma Mater statue. El-Beshbeeshy expressed the common denominator of anti-war sentiment: “If the mere goal of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to destroy the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and get rid of Saddam,” she said, “I believe those two things have already occurred. So why are US troops still based in Iraq? And why is the US planning on sending even more troops there in the near future?” The student leader also questioned the much-touted US commitment to “spreading democracy” in general, another question that is increasingly popular. From the US overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran in the 1950’s to support for autocracy and slavery in Saudi Arabia, support for the Shah of Iran and his notoriously brutal secret police, support for Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror during the Reagan Administration – just to mention a few Middle Eastern cases – activists say the US record has largely been just the reverse of “spreading democracy.” The Bush Administration is just the most obnoxious case. “When the Palestinian people were finally able to hold democratic elections,” says El-Beshbeeshy, “and when they voted their new government in, they were severely punished for electing a group which does not serve US and Israeli interests. Thus, I ask, is the spreading of democracy the US's real goal in the Middle East?” She answers, not surprisingly and to much applause, “No.”

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In the last few days, the News-Gazette also had a front page story on the referenda (Mon. Oct. 30), and UIUC Channel 7 news and WAND-TV Channel 17 news also covered the story. Also, please see related announcement: "Bash Bush Bash" on Nov. 5 - party for supporters and for other locals interested in learning more about the referenda. AWARE still needs help Monday night (Nov. 6) before Election Day. Call if you can help: 328-3037.

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