“I’m proud and honored to be here,” proclaimed a 22-year-old Iranian voice at Boston Common’s Park Street T stop on October 6, 2012. Flanked to her right by Kristen Martin of the Boston University Antiwar Coalition, Shahrzad Noorbaloochi explained how U.S. economic sanctions are imposing starvation and suffering upon the ordinary people of her Persian homeland.
About 80 supportive listeners would soon march to Government Center, comprising a Peace March endorsed by United for Justice with Peace, Veterans for Peace, the American Iranian Friendship Committee, Occupy Boston Action for Peace Working Group, Code Pink, and others.
Fellow Iranian native Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, an internationally respected author and peace activist, spoke soon after. There is a “full-fledged war raging against Iran right now,” he said. “Millions of Iranians [are] suffering.” Recalling the words of his former friend and BU colleague, Howard Zinn, Afrasiabi critiqued the now eleven-year-old Bush Doctrine: “War is Terrorism.”
Behind him, two activists held an artistic replica of an unmanned military drone, as an accompanying sign read, ”Drone attacks are for cowards.”
These weren’t the only people marching on October 6. Earlier, Code Pink cofounder Medea Benjamin set out from Islamabad, Pakistan, destined for tribal Waziristan. Many Americans and thousands of Pakistanis marched alongside in solidarity. On the 11thanniversary of the Bush Administration’s controversial global war, Benjamin would apologize to villagers for the terror that U.S.-taxpayer-funded drones inflict upon their society.
“We will continue to fight until we put an end to these barbaric attacks,” she told a large and spirited group of Pakistani supporters. “We want to live in peace and harmony with our brothers and sisters in this region.” Pakistanis cheered and chanted, reciprocating her message of goodwill. The peace march of Code Pink its Pakistani allies received tremendous support along its route.
“Tens of thousands are marching in Pakistan right now,” Anwar Kazmi of the Muslim Peace Coalition informed Boston listeners. “Brothers and sisters,” he said, “I couldn’t think of a more counterproductive way” for the U.S. military to “win hearts and minds,” than deathly drone strikes. Kazmi reasoned that the pro-democracy views of U.S. citizens closely agree with the pro-democracy views of citizens in the Arab world. The latter group, he said, merely opposes “ [U.S.] policies and double standards.”
Multiple signs and chants in the crowd contended that, against the public will, and in violation of the law: the U.S. power elite supports dictatorships in the conflict-ridden region, not democracy, in order to control capital.
Speaking in an ironic tone of voice, U.S. veteran Pat Scanlon suggested, “Maybe… we could cut military spending just a little bit. Maybe… we could direct those resources into human needs, as opposed to war.” He alluded to the fact that legislators allocated between $1.030–$1.415 trillion U.S. taxpayers’ dollars to “defense-related” spending for 2012, or about 3/5 of the entire discretionary budget.
As the group passed by a Hyatt facility, Edward Childs of Hotel Workers Local 26 criticized the hotel chain for exploiting its immigrant workers, whose plight he linked to corporate globalization and violent U.S. foreign policy. We “conquer nations, force people here, and exploit people here,” he noted, before the crowd chanted, “Shame on Hyatt” and “Boycott Hyatt.”
After the protesters passed Old South Meeting House, some onlookers took offense. One Vietnam vet standing outside the Center for Homeless Veterans scowled and grumbled, “This makes me sick,” before puffing a cigarette.
But as he puffed, Al Johnson of Veterans for Peace was actually in the process of stopping the Peace March in order to acknowledge and speak in support of the homeless service members. Johnson appealed to marchers that part of their tax money ought to be spent caring for these needy veterans and others like them across the U.S.
Soon after, Frank Neisser of the Coalition for Equal Quality Education suggested part of it could also aid public schools in historically oppressed communities such as Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, as part of a greater struggle against the “corporate attack on public education.”
At Faneuil hall, Lynn Meza with Chelsea Uniting Against the War (Chelsea Uniéndose En Contra de la Guerra) stood behind a statue of Samuel Adams. “Why aren’t more people in the streets?” she inquired. “We need thousands, millions.”