NEW YORK – Thousands of fire fighters rallied outside New York’s City Hall against proposed budget cuts and station house closings, on March 12, while the City Council passed a peace resolution, making NYC the 140 municipality to officially oppose the Bush administration’s war drive.

These two simultaneous events threw into bold relief the debate on the war and the budget cuts, which is taking place here, the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Alongside strong feelings against using 9/11 as a reason for war is the reality of the economic crisis the city and state face, while the federal government prepares to spend hundreds of billions fighting Iraq. The deep cuts in services, programs and jobs that are proposed by the Republican mayor and governor will not spare the city’s fire department, whose ranks include hundreds of the heroes and victims of Sept. 11.

As the peace movement in the city heated up, attention focussed on the resolution, which resulted in the 31-17 vote by the Council.

Moving testimony was given at the Feb. 26 public hearing on the resolution by Rita Lasar, whose brother died on Sept. 11 in the World Trade Center. “I don’t want my beloved city to be attacked again, but if we attack Iraq, it won’t be a war, it will be a slaughter,” she said.

Lasar said, “One cruise missile per minute, on a city smaller than New York” will rain on Baghdad and other cities killing thousands of Iraqi innocents.

Rita Haley, president of NY NOW, said “We love this city, and we are asking you to express the will of the People who braved the cold” on Feb. 15. Haley said, “$100 billion dollars is three times what the government spends on education. George Bush subverted the will of the people when he was appointed and annointed by the right-wing Supreme Court; don’t let him subvert the will of the people again.”

More than two dozen speakers called for passage of the resolution, including the head of the NY Civil Liberties Union, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, representatives of United For Peace and Justice, two Democratic Party clubs, the Green Party, the NY State Communist Party, Uptown Youth for Peace and Justice, as well as many community-based peace coalitions.

The presidents of two of the city’s most important unions, Dennis Rivera, SEIU 1199, and Roger Toussaint, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, as well as other prominent labor leaders spoke in favor of the anti-war resolution at a press conference in late February.

The anti-war resolution was introduced last fall by Deputy Majority Leader William Perkins, who represents Harlem. Councilman Perkins, a supporter of ongoing peace organizing in Harlem and around the city, had called on New Yorkers to be as “vociferous as they could” in their opposition to war.

Councilman Eric Gioia, who had been among the “undecideds,” said he voted for the resolution because he is “pro-peace, pro-troops and pro-common sense.”

Councilman Charles Barron, who voted in favor of the resolution, said, “There are no smart bombs; bombs are all dumb, they kill people, and destroy property and infrastructure. We need a just foreign policy,” Barron said. “War will only increase terror.”

The author can be reached at

PDF version of ‘NYC council votes against Iraq war’