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Rome, Italy, by Stephanie Westbrook
End the War in Iraq! No Military Action Against Iran!
By Stephanie Westbrook, U.S. Citizens for Peace and Justice
As the October 27 mass demonstrations calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq and opposing military action against Iran were getting underway in 11 cities across the U.S, a solidarity protest was unfolding on the tourist-filled Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy.
Organized by U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome and joined by Italian activists and groups such as Un ponte per... and Mondo senza guerre, the protest called attention to the enormous human costs of the ongoing tragedy in Iraq. Under the banner reading "OVER ONE MILLION CIVILIAN VICTIMS IN IRAQ," hung hundreds of white "remembrance ribbons" with names of Iraqis who have been killed. The ribbons represented only a fraction of the victims -- if we had made ribbons for all the victims, it would have stretched for 20 kilometers! -- but it was a way to keep the name of an innocent Iraqi alive. Tourists from all parts of the world as well as Italians stopped to add a ribbon to the display.
Carrying our signs and wearing stickers that said "No War on Iran!" we also attracted a steady stream of people to sign the two petitions opposing military action against Iran (dontattackiran.org and peace-action.org). Before even setting up, the signs had caught the eye of Ali, a young Iranian artist selling watercolors on the square, who thanked us and later came by to join us and sign the petitions.
We quickly ran out of the 300 flyers with more data on the costs of the occupation to the Iraqi people: the 2.2 million internally displaced, the 2.2 million who have fled the country -- including over 36% of the doctors in the population -- and the 80% of all citizens without effective sanitation.
As night began to fall, we placed candles on the ground to spell out "Peace Now", which attracted more people to come over and look at the ribbons. A young Italian girl of about 10 asked her father what we were doing. We explained to her the significance of the ribbons. She looked up at us and said, "O, che peccato." (Oh, what a pity.)
A pity indeed. A tragic, sickening, heart-wrenching, shameful pity perpetrated on the people of Iraq by a criminal administration aided by a complicit Congress.
Meanwhile in the United States, over 100,000 participated in marches, rallies, protests and mass die-ins, many led by veterans and military families. And in a poll on the organizers' web site asking people what they felt should be the next step in the anti-war movement, the response overwhelmingly favored mass civil disobedience.
In France, the group Americans Against War also held a solidarity protest in Paris. This came on the heels just the day before their protest against Donald Rumsfeld who was visiting the French capital. AAW also played a small but fundamental role in charges being filed against the former Defense Secretary while in Paris.
In London, some 500 delegates from over 100 groups in the U.K. attended the Stop the War Coalition annual conference, deciding on a day of action against an attack on Iran for November 24, 2007.
Elsewhere in Italy on that same day, an assembly was held just outside of Rome in the small industrial town of Colleferro, which made headlines recently when a young man was killed in an explosion in a weapons factory. Local activists have been calling for the reconversion of the weapons industry, which is killing people both in the town and in countries around the world. [see our statement to the assembly]
And, finally, 2000 people marched in Vicenza, Italy, where the initial phase of construction on the new U.S. military base began last week as equipment was moved into the proposed site in the wee hours of the morning. Families, children, militants, students and the elderly marched side by side in a demonstration that the people have not given up and are working to prepare the 3-day mobilization in December.
As it turned out, Saturday October 27 was an international day of action bringing people together, some in coordinated actions, others in parallel initiatives, but all with common goals and intent on making a difference.
For reports, photos and videos of October 27 demonstrations, see oct27.org and afterdowningstreet.org.