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Milwaukee celebrates International Women’s Day by focusing on building a liberated future for all

By staff

International Women's Day celebrated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. | Fight Back! News/staff

Milwaukee, WI – To end the Wisconsin Coalition for Justice in Palestine’s (WCJP) Day of Action with an exclamation point, the Milwaukee International Women’s Day Coalition convened hundreds for the celebration of this important working-class holiday.

Artists, vendors, and coalition partners showcased their work and goods inside the Islamic Society of Milwaukee’s Community Center as the crowd trickled in to listen to two stellar panels of speakers.

The focus of this year’s celebration was twofold: fighting back against political repression and building a liberated future. Both themes, represented by separate panels, were unified by various threads, but the struggle for Palestinian liberation played the central bridge connecting them.

When participants in the first panel, which focused on fighting political repression, were asked about how their organizing relates to the repression that Palestinians face, they offered insightful remarks that connected the student movement, reproductive justice movement and police crimes movement with the Palestinian liberation movement.

Blake Jones, propaganda chair of Reproductive Justice Action – Milwaukee, spoke about protesting Vice President Kamala Harris when she kicked off her “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour in Big Bend, Wisconsin this January. Concerned about Harris’ hypocritical tour, Jones rhetorically asked, “How can you have reproductive freedom without a free Palestine?”

The other panelists, Aurelia Ceja of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (MAARPR) and the Coalition to March on the RNC 2024, Jamilah Arabiyat of Students for Justice in Palestine, and Allux Arellano-Motoxen of Students for a Democratic Society, also touched on the connections between policing in the U.S. and the Israeli occupation forces. Ceja emphasized the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program, which as they stated, “is an exchange program between the U.S. and Israel for cross-training. They train the exact same tactics here and there. We’re facing the same kind of violence and torture by the police.”

The speakers in the second panel discussed one of the main reasons why organizers often face political repression: we are fighting for and building a liberated future. Janan Najeeb, president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and co-chair of the WCJP, spoke to the conditions in Palestine and the need to materially change these conditions in order for Palestine to be free.

Najeeb stated, “Liberation for Palestinians means a free Palestine. It means the liberation of my people, self-determination [and] to be able to decide their future. To live as human beings, raise their children and their families like everyone else in the world, be able to travel without restrictions, not have to go through 700 checkpoints, not to have their water controlled, not to have their schools and their medical accessibility controlled. So as a Palestinian, liberation means total liberation for my people.”

Christy Breihan of the Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba criticized the current contradictions with the “two-party system.” The Democratic Party’s involvement in the Palestinian genocide has stripped away the liberatory facade of the “vote blue no matter who” slogan, showing that liberation will not come simply through a vote. Breihan called out these false choices that Democrats are pushing on their constituents, stating, “the way that they’re telling us to protect reproductive rights is by voting for a president that sends bombs that murder women and children in Palestine. That’s the tradeoff I have to make, because genocide Joe will not be as bad as the racist, xenophobic, misogynist, other guy? That’s the recommendation about how women in the U.S. should liberate ourselves? I say that’s crap!”

Sara Onitsuka, chair of the Milwaukee Anti-war Committee, also spoke to the internationalism necessary for building a liberated future. As Onitsuka explained, there is a significant hypocrisy when advocates of the U.S. war machine justify imperialist domination by claiming to defend the rights of women.

Onitsuka stated, “Protecting women is also often used as an excuse for the U.S. to get involved in stuff abroad and invade countries. It’s been called pink washing and purple washing specifically for women, but that’s a huge issue that we need to be fighting against here. It’s really kind of ironic considering that we’ve overturned Roe v. Wade here, there are many transphobic laws that are being passed all across the country, and somehow the U.S still sees itself as a moral beacon of the world, to be spreading freedom around the world, but they’re using that as an excuse.”

As the movement for women’s liberation unfolds abroad, we must establish those firm connections with the movement inside the U.S. itself. Lo Cross, co-chair of the MAARPR and member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization, provided this framework by emphasizing the need to put an end to police crimes in order to build a liberated future. Cross stated, “When we’re thinking about liberation, Black liberation, Palestinian liberation, we need to fight oppression in all forms it takes. Whether that’s misogynist violence in the workplace, attacks on people because of their gender in the community, or police crimes. [When] we talk about getting justice for victims of police crimes, we’re not just talking about George Floyd, we’re talking about Breonna Taylor, we’re talking about Ta’Kiya Young, a pregnant woman murdered by police, we’re talking about Maya Hall, a trans woman murdered by police, and we need to unite with everyone we can.”

The Milwaukee International Women’s Day Coalition’s third annual celebration showcased the ongoing struggles that various organizations are leading in Milwaukee to end gender-based oppression. It also demonstrated that through these incredible organizations the liberated future we all fight for is bright! Long live international solidarity!

#MilwaukeeWI #WomensMovement #InternationalWomensDay #MAC #RJAM #MAARPR #International #MiddleEast #Palestine #AntiWarMovement #ReproductiveRights