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Say No to Occupation of Yugoslavia!

By Meredith Aby

Washington, D.C. – June 5, over 60 Minnesotans marched in the largest national protest against the U.S. and NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia. March organizers estimate that 10,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., from the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial to the Pentagon. The demonstration coincided with similar protests in San Fran-cisco, London, Prague, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Amsterdam, Mexico, Brussels, and Melbourne, Australia. This march is a sign of a growing anti-war movement in the country.

“We have assembled here at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial to demand that the war against the people of Yugoslavia be ended, but also because we will be constructing a Yugoslav Veterans Memorial unless the Pentagon war machine is stopped,” said Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center (IAC) which organized the march.

Protesters came from New York, Chicago, Detroit and across the country to march with signs saying, “Stop Bombing Yugoslavia,” “150 schools, 18 hospitals bombed by NATO,” “Clinton and Albright are the Real War Criminals,” and “We Demand Peace!”

Many of the Minnesota protesters, who included high school students, anti-war activists, and members of the Serbian-American community, braved a twenty-hour bus ride. Kat Gordon, a Bloomington high school student, said this after her first national anti-war protest, “I liked the bus ride. People were really open and all committed to the same cause. I think it was really important for us to go and get our point across.”

The demonstration at the Pentagon took place two days after the announcement that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had consented to the occupation of the Serbian province, Kosovo, by NATO ground troops. In spite of this agreement, NATO missiles and bombs continued to rain down on Yugoslavia during the protest.

According to IAC co-director Brian Becker, “This is not a settlement between two equal parties. No, this was nineteen NATO countries with a total population of 600 million carrying out 33,000 bombing attacks on Yugoslavia for more than seventy days. This so-called peace settlement is not about peace, but about the outright occupation by U.S./NATO troops of a sovereign country.” Becker and other speakers called for the right of the Yugoslav people to decide their own country's future.

Michael Bailey, with the Midwest Institute for Social Transformation, commented on the speech by radio journalist, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! “She made the connections concerning why the Western powers want to move into the Balkans since the end of communism, and how economics drives the U.S. choices about whether to intervene or not to intervene. This is not the humanitarian war the U.S. government claims it is.”

Speakers said the Pentagon shouldn't increase its budget while Congress plans to cut spending for education, housing, health care, and food stamps. They also said that the U.S. has no right to intervene in Yugoslavia over human rights, while within the U.S., police brutality and school violence are increasing every day.

Twin Cities On the Move

For Minnesotans, the march on Washington comes in the midst months of local organizing. The Coalition Against US/NATO War on Yugoslavia has brought together many Twin Cities peace groups to organize massive protests and public forums since the bombing began.

At a May 27 demonstration, 200 anti-war activists marched through downtown Minneapolis to Peavey Plaza, outside of WCCO television. The protest targeted the media for working hand-in-hand with the Pentagon in its one-sided reporting of the war.

WCCO-TV has refused to cover the growing anti-war movement and has used a refugee relief fundraising drive to create sympathy for the NATO campaign. After a theater piece with Pentagon generals writing the news reports, protesters delivered a banner with signatures calling on WCCO to do honest investigative reporting.

With the addition of ground troops the war on Yugoslavia is changing, but it has not yet ended. Anti-war activists and Serbian-Americans will continue educating people about the true nature of US/NATO ground troops and what the long term impact is of the bombing campaign.

Kristin Dooley, of the Emergency Committee Against U.S. Intervention in Yugoslavia, said, “The march in Washington showed how many people oppose what the U.S. has done in Yugoslavia, and they will continue to struggle against the occupation. Even if the media turns its back on the situation, the activists will not. We will continue to fight against this illegal and immoral occupation of Yugoslavia.”

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