December 6, 2001

Global Protests Reach Ho Plaza

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Members of the Cornell Forum for Justice & Peace and the Students for Peaceful Justice (SPJ) assembled yesterday on Ho Plaza to protest the war in Afghanistan.

Cornell protesters joined peaceful demonstrators around the world in this protest initiated by students in France. Circling silently around the plaza, faculty, staff and students demanded “Justice, Not Revenge” and “There Is No Compassionate Militarism.”

“[Our purpose is] to raise awareness of what’s going on in Afghanistan and in the world. We do not approve of anymore lives being lost,” said Christina Schiavoni ’02.

Referring to reports that less aid is reaching those who need it in Afghanistan than was before the bombing campaign had started, protesters argued that the war is punishing the Afghanis through the direct bombing of civilians, and the reduction of relief efforts and food aid.

Concerned for the people of Afghanistan, the SPJ has held regular peaceful vigils and has spent the past month participating in a rotating fast with at least one member fasting each day.

“The vigils, the fasting, and this strike are all aimed at raising awareness that this war has real and devastating consequences for people who had nothing to do with the Sept. 11th attacks,” said Mikush Schwam-Baird ’02. “Afghani civilians continue to face starvation because of the instability the war has created. People seem to think we’ve won something. All we’ve won so far is more devastation.”

Offering alternatives to violence, many protesters suggested achieving progress in Afghanistan through peaceful dialogue between the nations involved in the conflict.

“[The conflict is] based on a lack of understanding,” said Prof. Lourdes Beneria, city and regional planning and women’s studies. “I am a proponent of trying to understand why people are willing to kill themselves through [these terrorist acts].”

The protesters also expressed concern that the events in Afghanistan have had malevolent consequences for Americans’ civil liberties.

“We are concerned with the reduction of civil liberties at home through the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, as well as the disregard for judicial process evident through military [tribunals],” said Christina Tonitto, a graduate student from the University of California-Berkley who attended the protest.

Convinced that reaching a solution for preventing future acts of terrorism should be an international concern, many members of the SPJ are proponents of international institutions preventing similar atrocities in the future, and to facilitate alternatives to retaliatory war.

“An international police force [should be established] to infiltrate bodies of violence,” Tonitto said.

The SPJ will persist in its peaceful protests as members continue their fast until Sunday.

Archived article by Ellen Miller