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October 17 MAWO Antiwar Rally Report
Under the heavy Vancouver rain on October 17th people of all ages, youth and to elders, rallied together at the Vancouver Art Gallery to protest the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and to demand “CANADA/US/NATO OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW!” In front of a vibrant display of banners and with brightly colored picket signs in hand, chants of “End the Occupations Now!” and “Self Determination Now!” rose up from the crowd and filled the downtown streets.
Alison Bodine, co-chair of Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) and project coordinator for IFCO/Pastors for Peace, addressed the rally via telephone live from the Bronx in New York City. Alison could not be present at the rally as she is currently facing a two year ban from Canada after she was politically targeted by the Canada Border Services Agency. Alison brought greetings of solidarity from one city to another and protesters were inspired to hear about the many different actions happening across the United States to protest the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.
Sarah Alwell, coordinator of the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver, spoke about the case of political prisoners Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez, Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero, known internationally as the Cuban 5 Heroes. These 5 men have been unjustly imprisoned in US jails for over 11 years simply for defending their people against terrorism against Cuba organized in the US city of Miami. Sarah explained how the case of the Cuban 5 exposes entirely the hypocrisy of the US so-called “war on terror”.
Rally MC and MAWO co-chair Janine Solanki spoke about the need to continue to struggle against the occupation in Afghanistan. Janine explained that after eight years of occupation, the US, Canada and NATO forces have brought nothing but death and destruction to the people of Afghanistan. Janine emphasized that NATO and the governments of Canada and the US cannot claim to be creating a better and more stable life for people in Afghanistan when health care is deplorable, resulting in the fact that one in five children die before their fifth birthday, and one woman dies in childbirth every 30 minutes. They cannot claim to be defending human rights in Afghanistan when less than a quarter of the country has access to clean drinking water, employment is scarce and when Canadian, US and NATO troops are responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 Afghan men, women and children. Janine called on all peace loving people to join the antiwar movement in demanding “Canada/US/NATO Out of Afghanistan Now!”
Brendan Funktek, an organizer with Port Militarization Resistance in Olympia, Washington, USA, brought a message of solidarity to the rally and spoke about the need to continue to organize and unite the movements to end war and occupation across borders. Brendan also emphasized the importance of supporting US war resisters as the amount of American soldiers deserting the army because they oppose the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to increase.
Aaron Mercredi, a Metis activist and member of the Fire This Time editorial board spoke overall about the new era of war and occupation, from the recent coup d’etat in Honduras to the occupation of Afghanistan, from attacks against Pakistan to threats against Iran. Aaron also connected the struggle of Indigenous people here in Canada and the struggle of the people of Afghanistan against occupation and for self-determination. Aaron called on all those at the rally and all those passing by on the streets to get involved in the antiwar movement and unite with oppressed people around the world against the new era of war and occupation and demand “Self Determination for All Oppressed Nations!”
The rally came to a lively and energetic close as Meghan Griffiths, a high school student and organizer with MAWO read the rally’s resolution to continue the struggle against war and occupation. The resolution was passed with thunderous cheering from the crowd.