On Wednesday October 7, students on 26 campuses across the United States protested eight long years of war against and occupation of the people of Afghanistan. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a nation-wide student organization committed to activism for peace, justice and equality, organized the protest.
Hundreds of students marched in Washington, DC in a Funk the War event organized by DC Students for a Democratic Society. The demonstrators stormed the lobby of a building that houses Chevron, Shell, Blackwater’s lobbying group, United Technologies, and Clear Channel, demanding U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Gainesville, Florida, 40 people rallied in the Plaza of the Americas at the University of Florida to protest the war in Afghanistan. The protesters then marched while chanting “Fund education, not occupation” and “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” The demonstrators held a “die-in” during a class change to symbolically represent innocents killed in war. Protester Fernando Figueroa said, “What we have done today doesn’t end here. We will keep building the movement to end the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.”
A spirited rally at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee saw fifty students demonstrate against the war. “We’re participating in this national day of action because the war in Afghanistan is wrong and we need the troops out now,” said Maral Safavi of Milwaukee SDS. “This war is only benefiting the rich.”
In Asheville, North Carolina students shouted “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!” across the quad on the University of North Carolina at Asheville. UNCA Students for a Democratic Society member Angela Denio said, “The people of Afghanistan have the right to self determination. Eight years of unjust U.S. occupation in Afghanistan has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties, and displaced too many families that are now living in extreme suffering and poverty.”
A Funk the War protest by Rochester SDS that drew dozens into the streets demanding an end to the occupations and an end to militarizing schools ended violently, when almost 30 police cars interrupted the peaceful protest. Police then began shoving students and community members, threatening them with batons, and spraying them with pepper spray. The police arrested 12 protestors, 2 of whom had to go to the hospital for injuries caused by police brutality. The first person arrested by the police was the only African-American student in the vicinity, and protestors quickly called the police out on this obvious racism. This protest was part of a larger campaign by Rochester SDS to end budget cuts and demilitarize their schools.
University of Minnesota SDS held a protest of 30 students that included a skit to demonstrate the need for funding to go to education and not the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Grace Kelley of SDS linked the war to sexism in the United States, saying “It has been argued by many people, politicians, and even feminists, that the war in Afghanistan is in fact going to liberate the women of Afghanistan … How can our military forces help the women in Afghanistan overcome their own cultural oppressions when we can’t even eliminate sexism within the military itself, with one in three female veterans reporting sexual assault while in service?”
University of Houston held a teach-in with 70 people in attendance. Afghanistan war veteran Matt Dobbs spoke about his experiences in two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and how he has come to oppose the war on a civilian population that is fighting a battle of self-defense against the U.S. occupation.
Chicago students joined a mass rally and march of hundreds against the occupation of Afghanistan. Doug Michel, a member of Chicago SDS, said, “Students from four different Chicago campuses stood up today to demand an end to the US war in Afghanistan, and we will keep speaking up until the last U.S. troop is off Afghan soil.”
And at UNC-Chapel Hill, thirty students rallied against the war, while hundreds of passers-by stopped to listen to the speeches and take antiwar literature. War veterans, community members, and students spoke out to denounce the occupation of Afghanistan and demand immediate withdrawal. The demonstration was organized by the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, and supported by many other campus groups.
Across the United States, dozens more campuses took part in the national day of action to protest the occupation of Afghanistan.
The October 7th protests came on the heels of the largest loss of life for U.S. occupation forces in a year. On Sunday October 4, anti-occupation fighters in Afghanistan killed nine U.S. soldiers in a series of attacks. So far, 869 U.S. troops are dead in Afghanistan since the occupation began in 2001 – with over a quarter of those killed in the past ten months alone. There are over 4,000 U.S. wounded.
U.S. and NATO occupation forces do not keep track of civilian casualties, but many estimate that U.S. air strikes and gunfire have killed tens of thousands of Afghanis. Just last month, U.S. air strikes killed over 90 Afghan civilians in the northern Afghan village of Omar Kheil. A similar strike in Farah province on May 4 this year killed 147 civilians.
U.S. Out of Afghanistan Now!
Fund Education, Not Occupation!
The SDS Anti-War Working Group exists to help coordinate national SDS anti-war activity. More information, reports, and organizing materials are available on the SDS Antiwar Working Group’s homepage at http://sdsantiwar.wordpress.com.