Turning the world upside down

The worldwide movement against the US-UK war against Iraq put on a show of strength and militancy to mark the beginning of the conflict. Within hours of the first cruise missiles slamming into Baghdad, tens of thousands of anti-war protestors were on the streets in cities around the world. The first reported demonstrations were in Australia, where upwards of 100,000 people clogged Melbourne's streets and brought the city to a standstill. A similar scene was to be found in San Francisco, where activists blockaded bridges and streets, and closed off large sections of the city to anyone other than protestors and local workers. Over 2,000 arrests were made by police. Throughout Europe and Asia, workers downed tools and took to the streets to protest the invasion. In Greece, the national trade union federation called a three-hour strike in opposition to the war. In Italy, a two-hour strike followed a morning of mass demonstrations in all major cities. From Jordan to Pakistan, workers spontaneously walked off the job and joined anti-war protests. Following the lead of unions in Italy and Britain, the Canadian dockers' union on the east coast, the International Longshoremen's Association, issued a "hot cargo edict" barring any union member from loading or unloading ships carrying war materials. The Canadian Union of Public Employees issued a call for all members to join demonstrations and show "massive workers' resistance". In New York City, site of the September 11 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, tens of thousands began demonstrating on the afternoon following the first bombs falling on Iraq. On March 22, close to half a million marched through Manhattan, effectively closing down the city. Throughout the weekend, police and demonstrators clashed, as peaceful protest gave way to anger, and working people openly expressed their views - in word and deed. Trade unions in Australia are continuing their anti-war actions. According to Kevin Reynolds, spokesman for the UnionsWA federation, the two aims of the strikes are to "bring the troops home and kick [Australian PM] Howard out". Unions in South Korea are also poised to strike if the newly elected government of Roh Moo-hyun supports the US-UK action. Martin Schreader Texas: Police brutality It seems like there is a media blackout on Austin, Texas. All day nearly 2,000 people expressed their opposition to the war on Iraq by blocking traffic, then, beginning at rush hour, marched very slowly, holding die-ins at intersections, to the main tourist bridge. There were signs that read "Iraq is Arabic for Poland", "Iraqi lives are sacred too", "Draft the twins" (a reference to Bush's daughters) and "Not in my name". Dozens of riot police with no names and no badge numbers waited for night to fall and then began 'clearing' the street of protestors. About 20 or so people decided to sit in the street in an act of peaceful civil disobedience and be arrested, and the rest of us stayed on the sidewalks as witnesses. With absolutely no cause a policeman approached those of us on the sidewalk and squirted us in the face with pepper spray. When we complained that it was uncalled for and that the sidewalk is public property, we were told, "Tonight it's not", and "We're about to spray you again if you don't leave." We began walking with the police behind us and they started to walk faster and hitting us in the back with their batons, screaming "Move". We screamed that we were walking and they had no cause or right to hit us, but they kept doing it. As soon we were pushed far enough away so as to block our view of those who were sitting in the street, they began the arrests. The chants of "This is what democracy looks like" quickly turned to "This is what a police state looks like". As we were pushed along off the sidewalk and into an intersection, one of the riot police grabbed a young man (right in front of me) who was chanting peacefully, just like the hundreds of us who remained, and slammed him onto the concrete. At the same time another cop sprayed a woman at close range directly in the eyes with pepper spray. The rest started running toward us to push us far away, so we could not see what was happening with the young man who was on the ground. All of this was completely, utterly unprovoked. It actually seemed as if they were trying to cause a riot so that they could become even more violent. It was clear that this group of police had a sense that they were accountable to no one and/or that they could do absolutely anything and that they would be protected. There were several television cameras but to our knowledge nothing was shown on the news. We are meeting with Latino community leaders, city council people and the mayor about these deplorable actions against peaceful people. There are actions planned every day while there is war. Annette d'Armata Cape Town: Youth take centre stage On March 20, across the Cape metropolis, about 8,000 mainly school pupils took to the streets in Guguletu, Langa, Athlone, Maitland and Salt River. Among them were increasing numbers of workers. The 24-hour continuous picket at the US embassy was supported by about 200 people and at this very moment there are shifts of 50 people manning it. This marks a historic phase in the anti-war movement, as it is the first time that the youth have taken centre stage in the post-apartheid struggles - and on a directly political issue at that. There are also the first signs that members of Cosatu unions are starting to come out in bigger and bigger numbers. History in South Africa has shown that when the youth start to take the stage a period of decisive struggles against the capitalists is dawning. This is just the start and we encourage all schools and workplaces to set up Anti-War Coalition structures, to adopt days on the picket at the US embassy, and to put their shoulder to the wheel in the broad anti-war resistance. In the light of the illegitimate war being waged by the US and UK forces, the political pressure is mounting on the South African government to shut down the US and UK embassies. All eyes are on the government to see if they will cancel its contracts with the US and UK militaries. Shaheed Mahomed