The large peace demonstrations in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities and towns across our nation this weekend can be milestones in the history of democracy in our nation. They can be events where people’s organizations and activists who represent the country’s majority peace sentiments start moving concertedly to change the direction of our government.
These demonstrations, especially the actions in the nation’s capital, will be the first of this war when the peace movement clearly represents the majority of the American people. They will be the first mass events since Hurricane Katrina, which demonstrated so clearly how far the Bush administration has moved away from the ideas of government of, by and for the people. Our demonstrations can be a key point in the 21st century struggles to restore those ideals, particularly in relation to the issues of war and peace.
The polls and our own experience show that the peace majority is expressing its sentiment in two main ways, both with the same basic intent: bring the troops home now, and bring them home as soon as possible starting now. This is not at all the thinking in the White House or among the congressional leadership, but a growing number of Democrats and a few Republicans in Congress are beginning to speak to these issues. We have to move more of them to peace positions as a result of the demonstrations.
Winning more congressional representatives for peace will signal to millions of people that unity in action can make a difference. Hundreds of peace activists will stay over the weekend in Washington, D.C., to spend Monday, Sept. 26, participating in civil disobedience at the White House and visiting congresspersons in their Capitol Hill offices. The White House action will demonstrate mass opposition to the Bush policies of military aggression, while the lobbying will push our representatives towards ending the war and bringing the troops home.
Our Latinos for Peace campaign is sending representatives from the West Coast to participate in the Washington events. We want to make it clear that the peace movement is made up of all of the people. We want to make it clear to our Latino congresspersons and others who represent us that peace is a priority for our people, and that it is a prerequisite for winning full equality and justice in civil, labor, immigration, health care, education and other human rights.
We want to emphasize these points to the peace movement as well. We want to bring a message of optimism and confidence. In the past month we have begun an open letter/petition campaign that calls for “U.S. Out of Iraq! Bring Our Troops Home Now!” It is a grassroots volunteer effort that is picking up steam nationwide and in Puerto Rico. As I write, we have well over 2,000 signers and expect to have 3,000 by the Sept. 26 United For Peace Lobby Day. We have set a goal of gathering at least 100,000 signers by Aug. 29, 2006.
August 29 is an important date for Mexican Americans and other Latinos. It is the anniversary of the 1970 National Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War, when 30,000 Latinos and supporters marched for peace through the barrios of East Los Angeles. The demonstration was broken up by local and federal police. Three were killed. The day has become a symbol of the need to develop Chicano and Latino power on the issues of justice and peace. Some of that power has been realized and we want to make sure it is applied in the interests of peace, to end the occupation of Iraq and to bring the troops home now.
I have personally gathered over 300 signatures of grassroots people on our petition. Over 90 percent of the people approached sign. Other petitioners report the same. A large percentage of the signers have loved ones serving in Iraq or on the way. They are serious about bringing the troops home now. Youth are signing up faster than we can post their names online.
It may be that in our communities and those of other people of color the peace sentiment is stronger than in general. However, the overwhelming support for Cindy Sheehan indicates that working people all over this country have been talking about the war at the dinner table at home and the lunch table at work and are deciding overwhelmingly for peace. Our Latinos For Peace campaign is one way of bringing more people into the peace movement.
We will be in Washington and other cities this weekend gathering signatures and presenting them to congresspersons. We urge our supporters to call or visit their congressional members’ offices on Sept. 26 and tell them to bring the troops home now. We urge others to do the same. People can sign our petition at or e-mail us at latinosforpeace @ 0101aztlan.net.
Rosalío Muñoz is coordinator of Latinos For Peace.