[Last update: 14 September 2001]

Sadness for Terrorist Victims Mixed with Fears of War

300 Austinites Make Resistance to Bush's War Visible

by Stefan Wray

Austin, TX, September 14, 2001 -- About 300 people gathered in front of the Texas state capitol today at 5:30 p.m. to voice both sadness for the victims of Tuesdayıs World Trade Center attack in New York and fear and anger at the impending military response on the part of the U.S. defense establishment and government.

Earlier today, a smaller rally had occurred at the University of Texas campus. Both events were quickly planned after a community meeting attended by 250 people held on Wednesday evening, just 36 hours after the attack on Tuesday.

The theme throughout Wednesdayıs meeting and todayıs protests was that the type of terrorism inflicted on civilians in New York is deplorable, but so too will be the anticipated U.S. military response.

At both the community meeting and this afternoonıs rally, the public soap box was open for anyone to speak. And people needed and wanted to say something.

Some people simply spoke from the heart, expressing their deep regret over the loss of life. Others provided a litany of U.S.-backed atrocities throughout the world that make the death toll in New York and Washington D.C. seem small by comparison.

Another point raised was that in some ways the U.S. has brought this on itself. It was said that this terrorism is home-grown. For one, the U.S., through itıs foreign policy debacles has enraged many peoples throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East. And second, the U.S. historically, through the efforts of the CIA, has in fact even had a hand in the training of foreign terrorists like Osama bin Laden.

Several people who spoke had been active in the movement against the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991. We heard about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who had died as a direct result of the U.S. air war and the subsequent sanctions.

And we looked forward. Numerous people pointed to potentially dark times that lie ahead, worried about possible further erosion of the Constitution, the first and fourth amendments.

Most, except for a few newly arrived students, had lived here while George W. Bush was governor of Texas. Some had been involved with the Campaign To End The Death Penalty during his tenure and likened Bushıs eagerness to march forward with a war to his turning a blind eye to appeals to end the death penalty. The idea that Governor Death will become President Death was alluded.

Bush's father was mentioned. Someone relayed information about how the elder Bush was linked to the U.S.-backed training of Osama bin Laden.

An overarching concern, and argument against military action - which at this point seems to be inevitable - is that once we retaliate we will enter into a cycle of terrorism and war. When the U.S. strikes out, terrorists will strike back. There was a strong worry about this simply getting out of control.

But also, ideas for action were put forward. Someone from the Green Party announced a letter writing session the next day to appeal for peace to legislators. A young Asian woman invited people to a meditation for peace at the University. Others talked about the need to organize, to both oppose the use of force and to defend against racially or politically motivated attacks - and to plan more and hopefully larger demonstrations of opposition to Bush's war.

As it turns out, fears of racially motivated attacks are not unfounded. Already, in Chicago, Seattle, and elsewhere there have been reports of attempted arsons and gunfire directed at Arab-Americans.

On Day 4, the burgeoning anti-war movement in Austin, Texas is still cathartic and recovering from the initial shock of terrorism and war. The speed of events makes it difficult to make sense of it all.

But the threads of an organized and hopefully more powerful opposition to war from the heart of Texas is underway. There will be another planning meeting this coming Sunday, Sept. 16, at 5:00 p.m. at Cafe Mundi, 1704 E. 5th St.

There is a standing call that when the U.S. launches a retaliatory strike that people will again gather at the Texas State Capitol, at 11th and Congress. If the U.S. strikes during the day, the gathering will be at 5:30 p.m. that day. If it strikes at night, it will be 5:30 p.m. the next day.

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