On April 17th, Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), joined by Food Not Bombs, Bradley Manning Support Network, Uhuru Solidarity Movement, Tampa Dream Defenders, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization, held an anti-war teach-in on the University of South Florida (USF) campus. At Cooper Hall the various groups took turns calling for an end to all US wars and occupations and describing the ways in which wars affect different parts of society: immigrants, the environment, women, students, veterans, whistle blowers, and third world nations.
This event was a part of the National SDS call to protest all US wars and occupations and also in solidarity with many national organizations call for the month of April to be a month of action against drone warfare.
Billy Livsey of the Bradley Manning Support Network denounced the treatment of Bradley Manning, a military whistle blower who exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning’s case is fraught with secrecy and fraudulent claims. After being in solitary confinement for 3 years, a practice seen as torture by the UN and others, Manning’s trial is due to be held without any transparency to the public.
Tefa Galvis of Tampa Dream Defenders talked about war’s affect on immigrants. War leads to mass migration and displacement, forcing millions to flee their homeland. War is also used to demonize immigrants from countries that the United States is at war with, such as people from the Middle East. Galvis also discussed how the US’ military presence in countries like Colombia drain resources from the population and prop up military regimes.
Matt Hastings from Tampa Bay SDS discussed how the resources used on military spending account for over 50% of the federal budget. At a time when tuition has increased 900% since 1978, the military budget continuously grows. The connection between war and students was clear: the money spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone could have paid for 22 million students to attend college for free. While politicians force budget cuts and tuition hikes, squeezing teachers, students, and staff, money for military occupation and deadly drone strikes is consistently there. Hastings also called out the military’s use of Universities for research that contributes to newer, deadlier weapons and diverts research money from projects that could be used to build society, rather than destroying it.
Jesse Nevel of Uhuru Solidarity Movement paralleled US military actions that affect the lives of millions of Africans and the war on black and brown people inside the United States. He described how the police forces essentially act as a paramilitary force used to terrorize black and brown communities across the US, include Tampa and St. Petersburg, where in recent and past years police have brutally murdered unarmed African-Americans. He also pointed out how ever 36 hours, a black person is murdered by the police.
Danielle Leppo of SDS and the Coalition to End Rape Culture spoke on war’s affect on women. Rape is historically used as a weapon of war against the female populations of countries. Sexual assault against women in the military, by male solidiers is increasing at a horrific rate, with most perpetrators receiving no penalty.
Walt Byars of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization denounced the war maneuvers against North Korea and the ongoing US military presence on the Korean Peninsula. Byars spoke of how the United States has surrounded North Korea since the Korean War, and the imperialist border lines drawn by the US and other nations. He also called for self-determination for the Korean people.
The forces drawn together by this day of action show that the anti-war movement is gaining strength as activists see the emptiness of Barack Obama’s rhetoric for change and see his actions (see: drone strikes that inflict massive civilian causalities in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemeni, Afghanistan, waging war in Libya, and now threatening war in Korea and Syria) for what they are: a part of the same imperialist system that has dominated the US landscape. People of conscience, especially students who have historically been at the forefront of the movement against US wars, must step up their protests and resistance no matter who the ruling class has selected to lead the country, Democrat or Republican.
Money for jobs and education, not war and occupation!