Anti-war protestors marking the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan met up with Occupy Hartford to hold a rally Sunday which started at Hartford City Hall and made its way to the state Capitol.
The two groups mixed, with some at the antiwar rally holding signs such as, “We are the 99%” and “Battle the Rich Greed.”
The “Occupy Hartford” banner that marks the encampment at the corner of Broad and Asylum Streets came too.
John Bengtson of Newington said the two movements are related because a majority of this country’s money is being put into a war effort and many would like to see that money put to better uses here at home.
Monsoor Alam of the Council on American Islamic Relations and a freshman at Wesleyan University said if the United States decided to stop fighting the war it would cut the national debt in half.
“Day after day this no longer seems like a defensive war, but a war to end my very root of my being. The identity of Muslims across the world,” Alam said. “How can Muslims live contently when our homelands are being occupied?”
Dan Therriault, a college student who is part of the Occupy movement, said if they can occupy other countries and use “our resources to do it then we can play that game too and occupy businesses.”
Dan Durso of Teamsters Local 559 recalled the Edwin Starr song, “War (What Is It Good For?)” The crowd shouted back the refrain “absolutely nothing.”
But he said there are some wars worth fighting like the “war on bigotry, or the war on hunger, or the war on ignorance, or what about the war on corporate greed? Now there‘s a war worth fighting.”
“It’s great to see us fighting back. The U.S. wants to occupy the Middle East to protect American interests, American interests otherwise known as Exxon Mobile. We’re occupying Wall Street for American interests also. Interests like economic justice and social justice,” Durso said. “We’re occupying Turning Point Park in Hartford for American interests such as living wage jobs, Social Security, and health care for all.”
Rev. Cornell Lewis said he was there Sunday to talk about one thing and one thing only: “Bring our war dollars home.”
“America is spending billions of dollars, and those dollars are diverted to wars abroad,“ Lewis said. “Because those war dollars are diverted we’re catching more hell than Baskin’ Robbins has flavors of ice cream.”
He said the country also has to ask itself if the wars abroad are also wars on black and Hispanic communities who have suffered with increased spending overseas.
Hartford Councilman Luis Cotto said President Barack Obama has said, “you should be able to count on a job that pays the bills, health care for when you need it, a pension for when you retire, and an education for children that will allow them to fulfill their God-given potential.”
“I would say to my dear President Obama you can have that if you end this war right now,” Cotto said.
In Hartford alone based on the $34.8 million city taxpayers are paying towards the war the city could give health insurance to 13,116 low-income children for one year, it could fund 4,406 Head Start slots for one year, or 418 school teachers for one year, or 3,518 scholarships for college students for one year, Cotto said.
But it’s not only the war in Afghanistan more than 175 Connecticut residents turned out to protest Sunday, it’s the countless wars being fought by the United States in countries not occupied by U.S. ground troops and not authorized by Congress.
“We now live in a time where never ending wars are now occurring that can an will happen in virtually every corner of the world,“ Tokuji Okamoto of Connecticut United for Peace said. “These wars are conducted in ways that they never have before.”
Many of these wars are being fought by the Joint Special Operations Command, which according to its website is “charged to study special operations requirements and techniques, ensure interoperability and equipment standardization, plan and conduct special operations exercises and training, and develop joint special operations tactics.“
Okamoto said unit uses drone air strikes, night raids, and carries out assassinations—some of which are based on “spotty intelligence.” He said currently JSOC is operating in 120 countries and “more civilians are being killed in these undeclared wars than Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Despite these grim statistics, Okamoto said he is full of hope. He said the Arab Spring has “captured the imagination of the entire world.”
The Arab Spring has been mentioned as a source of inspiration by many of those joining the occupy movements across the country. The occupy movement seems to want to stay away from electoral politics, but at least one speaker Sunday asked the crowd to support the Working Family Party candidates in Hartford.
“We think we need people outside and we need people inside,” Hartford Councilman Larry Deutsch said. “If regular Democrats and regular Republicans have fallen down then Working Families is one alternative.”
Similar antiwar rallies were held all over the country this weekend and many also met up with local “Occupy Wall Street” groups according to numerous news reports.