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January 16 MAWO Antiwar Rally Report
On Saturday, January 16th, peace-loving people came out to the streets in front of the Downtown Vancouver Art Gallery to show their opposition to war and occupation. Organized by Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO), this rally was the first of 2010, and came on the heels of a devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Janine Solanki, co-chair of MAWO, opened the rally by explaining what the last year of war and occupation has done to oppressed people around the world. The United Nations' latest statistics that 2009 was the deadliest year for Afghan civilians. In early December 2009, US President Barack Obama announced that 33,000 more US troops would be deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. Without a doubt, this means even more killing and bloodshed of Afghan people.
Janine welcomed up Kelly White, a Coast Salish elder and media activist who provided an Indigenous welcoming and address to the rally. She began by raising her hands for the people of Haiti who are still struggling to rescue its people from under the rubble its earthquake, and led the crowd in a song demanding no to wars and invasions.
Alison Bodine spoke next via cel phone from New York. She is working the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization(IFCO)—Pastors for Peace in New York where she has been involved in organizing the annual Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba in defiance of the cruel US blockade. Alison spoke about the situation created by imperialist countries occupying Afghanistan, and about the earthquake in Haiti, citing that Cuba had doctors volunteering in Haiti long before the earthquake, and were the first to really respond to the tragedy by sending more.
Sarah Alwell, coordinator of the Free the Cuban 5 Committee—Vancouver spoke about the hypocrisy of the United States and its declared ‘war on terror,’ as it harbours terrorists within its own borders who have committed terrible crimes against the people of the world, as in the case of Luis Posada Carriles. At the same time, the US has kept 5 Cuban men locked up in jails throughout the country for simply defending Cuba against terrorist groups operating with impunity on US soil.
Andrew Barry, executive committee member of MAWO, spoke next. Andrew highlighted the crimes that have been committed by imperialist countries in this new era of war and occupation. He emphasized that this era didn’t end with the start of a new decade, but has escalated with the new attacks on the people of Yemen and the targeting of Muslims within North America and Europe. He pointed out that the US and Canada are taking advantage of the massive humanitarian crisis to reinforce their occupation of the country, which they began in 2004 by overthrowing the democratically-elected president of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. By sending military troops when the Haitian people need doctors, engineers and humanitarian aid, they are continuing to make the Haitian people suffer.
The rally concluded with an address by Kerri Goodwin, an Oji-Cree activist and executive committee member of MAWO. She read aloud a resolution that the crowd passed overwhelmingly with cheers and chants. The main demands were:
ALL FOREIGN TROOPS OUT OF HAITI NOW!
SEND DOCTORS, NOT TROOPS TO HAITI NOW!
RETURN PRESIDENT ARISTIDE TO HAITI!
END THE OCCUPATIONS OF IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, PALESTINE, AND HAITI!
SELF-DETERMINATION FOR INDIGENOUS NATIONS, TAMILS AND ALL OPPRESSED NATIONS!
US HANDS OFF PAKISTAN, IRAN AND YEMEN!
STOP ATTACKS ON MUSLIMS!