The Long Arm of the Bush White House

Protest Ban on NYC Antiwar March!

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 797, 14 February 2003.

The following is a statement issued by the Spartacist League and the Partisan Defense Committee on February 11.

As the rulers prepare to launch a war of annihilation of tens of thousands of Iraqis in the name of “freedom,” a federal court has banned the right of antiwar activists to march in New York City. The court not only denied the application by the United for Peace and Justice coalition to march past the United Nations on February 15—an international day of antiwar protest—but endorsed the NYPD’s right to ban any protest march at any time in the streets of Manhattan. In issuing her decision, the judge asserted, “The Court will not second guess or substitute its judgment for that of the NYPD.”

Making the cops the final arbiters of whether the population is allowed to exercise its constitutional rights is a perfect rationale for a police state. And that’s what the streets of New York City are already beginning to look like. With the Bush administration declaring a “code orange,” the “second highest security alert,” cops with their fingers on the triggers of machine guns have been deployed throughout the city. In an extraordinary move, the federal government itself intervened to ensure a ban on any antiwar march in the city, threatening that if the judge ruled in favor of the protesters the government would take legal action.

Through its intimidation tactics in the courts and its armed police thugs on the streets, the government hopes to frighten people into staying at home with their shades drawn while U.S. bombers obliterate Iraq. And if people come out to protest, as upwards of 100,000 are expected to do, the NYPD plans to herd them into a series of tightly controlled pens surrounded by heavily armed cops. This is a setup for cop attacks and violence against the antiwar protesters.

In 1999 when the Partisan Defense Committee initiated a labor/black mobilization against the racist terrorists of the Ku Klux Klan, these same forces attempted to stop us and the thousands of working people who had rallied to our call to “Stop the KKK!” We fought back, and on 23 October 1999 at least 8,000 people turned out to stop this provocation. The mobilization was guarded by a disciplined team of trade-union marshals representing the social power of labor, not herded into a police pen trap.

Today, the court’s assault on fundamental democratic rights like freedom of speech and assembly should be met with a defiant and enormous mass protest against the war at home and abroad!

African immigrant Amadou Diallo was cut down by cops in a hail of 41 bullets in the name of the “war on drugs.” If the NYPD can do this with handguns, imagine what they can do with machine guns. Now it’s the “war on terror.” First they came to round up and incarcerate immigrants of Near Eastern and South Asian descent. Then they declared that anyone Bush determines to be an “enemy combatant” could be stripped of constitutional rights and effectively disappeared. The latest plans are to expand the USA-Patriot Act to strip citizenship from anyone Bush & Co. decree to be aiding “terrorists.”

The court decision banning the New York City antiwar march invokes the “code orange” terrorism alert. This is an open declaration that any opposition to the U.S. rulers’ war moves can be criminalized as potential “terrorism.” As popular opposition to the impending war mounts, the government is taking a step toward outlawing any protest against the Iraq war. But it doesn’t end there. When the longshoremen’s union on the West Coast was locked in a showdown with union-busting shipping bosses, the government intervened to threaten that any strike action by the workers would be a threat to “national security” and then brought down the slave-labor Taft-Hartley law. When New York transit workers voted to go on strike, the media screamed that they were launching a “jihad” and the strikebreaking Taylor Law was invoked. Firefighters who lost over 300 of their comrades trying to save people in the World Trade Center are declared a “clear and present danger to the security of the United States” in a letter signed by Republican House majority leader Tom DeLay because they are unionized!

In banning the New York City march and turning the streets into police occupation zones worthy of a Latin American dictatorship, it is the government, its courts and cops who represent a “clear and present danger” to the population. On February 9 last year in Oakland, longshoremen were at the core of a labor-centered protest initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee and the Labor Black League for Social Defense in opposition to the government’s anti-immigrant witchhunt and its “anti-terrorism” laws. More and larger such mobilizations, centered on the power of the working class, are needed to defend all our rights! Down with the ban on the New York City antiwar march!

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