Youth groups call for national peace march

WASHINGTON – The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition met here last weekend to begin plans for a national anti-war mobilization April 14 in the nation’s capital. Representing hundreds of thousands of students on hundreds of campuses and young people in communities in every state, the coalition of 16 national organizations held a press conference Dec. 10.

“We are here to speak for the millions of young people opposed to this war,” said Jo’ie Taylor, vice president of the United States Student Association (USSA). “Our membership has called on us to speak their concerns about U.S. policy since Sept. 11, a policy of war and undermining civil rights.”

The coalition categorically condemned the Sept. 11 terror attacks and extended its support to the direct and indirect victims. The coalition also called for an end to any military response to those attacks, instead calling for a solution through international venues and by addressing the root causes of conflict.

Fasih Saddiqui, a student at George Washington University representing Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada, condemned the restrictions being imposed on foreign students. “Without exposure to different cultures, how can we appreciate, measure and evaluate our own culture and democratic history?” he asked.

Saddiqui also stated that many foreign Muslim and Arab students have received threats and have returned to their home countries out of fear for their safety.

The coalition called for the repeal of the USA Patriot Act, railroaded through Congress in the wake of Sept. 11, purportedly to increase security and safety.

“Real homeland security is job security, a quality education, the right to free speech,” said Dartmouth University student John Brett of the Campus Greens. According to Brett, USA Patriot curbs civil liberties without providing real security at all.

“The best way to support our brothers and sisters who were sent to Afghanistan is to bring them home,” said Shelly Delos of the Young Communist League. She condemned the disproportionate representation of people of color in the front line troops of the U.S. military. “Raining terror on the people of Afghanistan will not repair the devastation we suffered as a result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.”

The coalition has five demands for the Bush administration and local authorities: 1) pass legislation against racial profiling and racist military recruitment; 2) target economic relief programs at those hardest hit and away from corporate bailouts; 3) increase need-based financial aid without strings to military service; 4) full disclosure of military research on campuses and 5) for universities to divest from the private prison industry, which benefits from immigrant detentions.

The coalition promises to organize local campaigns on these five demands, which will also be the basis of the April 14 national demonstration.

Erica Smiley, of the Black Radical Congress Youth Caucus, fired up the crowd by reminding Congress and the president that young people will not only be out in the streets calling for an end to the war at home and abroad, but that young people vote.

“We will remember come November whether you vote for smart bombs or for smarter kids!” Smiley said.