NYC MEETING: CLARK, LA RIVA REPORT FROM YUGOSLAVIA
By John Catalinotto
Some 500 people who jammed the PS 41 auditorium in New York's Greenwich Village had just seen the latest NATO assaults on downtown Belgrade on television. They raised their voices in angry chants of «Stop the bombing» and «Yugoslavia.»
Like the New York anti-war demonstrations, which have numbered as many as 7,000, the meeting was made up largely of people from the Balkans. Besides Yugoslavs, there were many people from Greece, including veterans of the Greek anti-fascist resistance during World War II.
It also attracted North Americans who have been active in previous anti-war movements, as well as young people who only recently became politically aware.
Its thrust, as chairperson Sara Flounders of the International Action Center made clear, was to «build resistance to the war right here in the United States.» Flounders announced that the IAC was calling for «coordinated anti-NATO demonstrations on April 17 in cities all over the United States and all around the world.»
Novelist, playwright and filmmaker Nadja Tesich, who is originally from Yugoslavia, got the audience cheering and yelling as she expressed the Yugoslav peoples' determination to resist NATO aggression. The reaction of the crowd reflected the mood in Yugoslavia, where the entire people are now up in arms against NATO and U.S. imperialism.
SOLIDARITY AMONG ALL OPPRESSED Continually interrupted by applause and cheers, Monica Moorehead of the Millions for Mumia Mobilization expressed her solidarity with the defense of Yugoslavia against NATO bombs and invited people from the Yugoslav community to participate in the anti-racist struggle here -- under their own banners.
«We know it's a lie that the U.S. is carrying out these horrific bombing campaigns along with its NATO allies over concern about the Albanian minority in Kosovo,» she said. «As an African American woman who grew up in the segregated South, I personally know this is a lie.
«When in the history of this country has the U.S. government ever given a damn about any oppressed people,» she asked, «unless it was to help keep the racist status quo in power by pitting one national- ity against another. It certainly didn't give a damn about the former slaves in the South when the Union Army left them to endure a terror campaign conducted by the Ku Klux Klan.
«We can't allow another Vietnam War to happen without mass opposition,» she said. «Then over two million Vietnamese lives were lost along with the lives of almost 60,000 U.S. GIs. It is not the lives of rich youth on the line but the lives of working-class and poor youth, especially those of color, that will be sacrificed by the Pentagon generals.»
Moorehead summarized political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal's case and the deadly incident in 1985 when the police dropped a bomb on the MOVE organization house in a Philadelphia Black community. She then called on the audience to «join us on April 24» at the «Millions for Mumia» demonstration to free this journalist and former Black Panther who has been on Pennsylvania's death row since 1982.
«Free Mumia and all political prisoners,» she concluded. «U.S./NATO out of Yugoslavia!»
This message was repeated in a different form later when Chicana activist Teresa Gutierrez discussed the Yugoslav militia's capture of the three U.S. soldiers. «You know two of the three were Chicanos.
And the Chicano community feels like a family. But I feel closer to my sisters and brothers in Yugoslavia standing up to U.S. bombs than I do to those soldiers.»
Gutierrez suggested that to win the solidarity of people in North America against NATO, the Yugoslav community should reach out especially to the most oppressed segments of society -- the Black, Latino and Native people and the working class -- to win the fight against the war.
IAC organizer and video-maker Gloria La Riva from San Francisco had filmed the Yugoslav people's mobilizations against the NATO-imposed war and scenes of the suffering they are enduring.
La Riva, who described some of her experiences in an article in the April 8 Workers World, told of thousands of youths wearing T-shirts with targets painted on them who gathered in Republika Square in central Belgrade to protest the bombing at daily rock concerts.
La Riva showed rough cuts from the video she's producing to bring to the U.S. public the truth about the U.S.-led bombing of Yugoslavia.
While these scenes conveyed some of the determination of the population, they also showed that even the early bombing raids had inflicted pain, suffering and death on the civilian population. The IAC plans to distribute the finished video in the thousands.
Along with distributing the video, the IAC plans to continue demonstrating against the war. Brian Becker announced plans for a May 22 demonstration in Washington starting at the Vietnam War Memorial and marching to the Pentagon. He also asked for a show of hands for volunteers to come to the IAC office during the week. Dozens offered to come in both daytime hours and during the evenings.
The audience greeted Ramsey Clark with a standing ovation in gratitude for his solidarity with Yugoslavia.
But before Clark spoke about the current situation in the Balkans, he reviewed for the audience the past 50 years of U.S. military aggression and subversion. His list of nations and peoples included Korea, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Haiti, Sudan, Grenada, Cuba, Panama, Palestine and Iraq.
Clark opened by saying, «I have always considered the Cold War to be the greatest crime against humanity.» It squandered trillions of dollars of wealth on weapons that could have been spent on human beings.
He pointed out that after the Vietnamese defeated France and the U.S. and drove them out, Washington imposed 20 years of economic sanctions that did even more damage than the 10 years of war. The same is true in Iraq, where murderous sanctions have killed 1.5 million people.
Clark concluded that the U.S. has «committed genocide without a question.»
As he declared his solidarity with Yugoslavia against the NATO air strikes, Clark made it clear that Washington's policy was no temporary aberration but a continuation of over 50 years of aggression.
Kingsborough Community College history teacher Barry Lituchy ended the meeting, saying he could hardly believe that those in the Clinton administration who planned the war were so ignorant and stupid as to think that the Yugoslav people would roll over and die because they were bombed.
«We must mobilize millions of people around the world to fight against this war,» he said.
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