The anti-war group Code Pink marked the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks by marching across the Golden Gate Bridge and calling for foreign troops to leave Iraq and Afghanistan.
About 150 peace activists from Code Pink and other organizations gathered on the San Francisco side of the bridge, then marched out to the center of the span, where they formed a line between the two towers and announced to the tourists and others passing by that “these are not our wars, the people declare peace!”
No arrests were observed or reported.
“A lot of things changed after 9-11. The fear and the rage have increased dramatically since then,” said Martha Hubert, of San Francisco, who helped lead the march by carrying a floral peace sign. “Our security system is ridiculous. We’re spending way too much money on the military and it increases all the time. People have been dying. A lot has been happening since 9-11 and a lot of it doesn’t have anything to do with 9-11.”
Among the many changes, she said, was her own level of political activism. Before the 19 men from Al Qaida slammed jet planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing almost 3,000 people, she never participated in peace actions.
“It got me activated because it’s scary what’s happening and unless we all participate it’s just going to get worse,” she explained. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it and the only therapy for having to think of those horrible things all the time is to get out and be active.”
Richard Ivanhoe of San Francisco agreed that much has changed over the last decade as a result of the attacks.
“Too much money has been spent on wars for one thing. People have forgotten some of the values in the Bill of Rights. They’ve gotten less important. People have also forgotten that most everyone in the world really just wants to live a peaceful life,” said Ivanhoe.
Cathy Bellin, also of San Francisco, suggested that some of the changes in her life since 9-11 have been more positive.
“I’m inspired by people who are reaching out to the world and telling them that we’re against war and everybody’s the same,” said Bellin. “I think there’s been a real organized promotion of fear in our country and so I’m making sure I’m not driven by fear but by hope and just knowing that everybody’s more the same than different in this world. We all have the same needs.
“I’ve also increased my commitment to peace and actions for peace. … Just feeling more committed but also making sure I’m focused on remaining inspired by the efforts of others as well and there’s still a lot of love in this world,” she said.
Jeffrey Shurtleff of San Bruno, California, was carrying a sign that said “Thank You Bradley Manning.”
“Bradley Manning is an international hero in that he told the world about American military misadventures and war crimes in the Middle East,” said Shurtleff. “To some he is considered a liability or has put American troops in jeopardy but actually he is a hero who has told the truth about the war, the tragedies of the war in the Middle East.”
When a reporter pointed out that many Americans consider Manning a traitor to his country, Shurtleff rejected that description.
“The real treason is silence about the war. The real treason is indifference to the war and Bradley’s mission in divulging the WikiLeaks documents was to inform the people not to betray the people,” he said.
The march continued north across the bridge and ended on the Marin side with a rally at the Lone Sailor memorial to Navy veterans.
Several speakers addressed the crowd, including a woman named Fatima. She said she was born in the United States but most of her family still lives in Afghanistan, so she did not want to give her last name out of concern for their safety.
“As an Afghan woman in America the morning of 9-11 was not just traumatic because I was seeing innocent people in the buildings burning but immediately the first fear in my mind was ‘what is going to happen to the people of Afghanistan?’ People that had already been suffering under ten years of the Soviet war and then ten years of civil war and the Taliban,” she said.
“When I went to work my co-worker asked me ‘don’t you think they deserve to die after what they did? Don’t you think we should go there and kill them now?’”
She noted that this was a largely impoverished country with the world’s third-highest infant mortality rate and is so isolated that when the NATO invasion began, most Afghans didn’t even know the 9-11 attacks had occurred or why their country was suddenly under attack.
“The Afghan people had nothing to do with 9-11 yet they paid quite a heavy price for it, from kill teams collecting Afghan body parts to the death of Afghan civilians,” she said. “… I have to ask. Did these people really have to be punished like this? Why did they pay the price for something they had nothing to do with?
“(The United States) has been going on the path of increased rampant militarism. Since 9-11 $7.6 Trillion have been spent on war and militarism in this country. While there’s a war going on outside of this country, there’s a war going on (against) the working class people of this country. Our schools are being shut down. We don’t have jobs. People are losing their homes.”
Monalisa Wallace was also at the rally, representing the National Organization for Women with others in the group. She also agreed that much has changed in the last decade.
“I think there’s been a lot more tolerance for racism and for racial profiling in general and I think that things have actually gotten worse as far as the reputation of the United States. I think that what the message here today was really focused on, these are not our wars and the people declare peace,” said Wallace.
A reporter asked her about the necessity of invading Afghanistan in order to eliminate Al Qaida training camps and end the rule of their allies the Taliban.
“I would say that’s the opinion of bureaucrats and the military and what we really need is to truly change the hearts and minds of the people who would consider us their enemy and understand that it is military leaders and bureaucratic leaders that decide and declare war and it’s the people who declare peace,” she responded. “It’s the people who suffer from war; it’s the children, it’s the innocents.”