Activists aiming at war
Antiglobalization concerns take back seat to protesting against new military efforts
By ROBERT MATAS
Saturday, September 22, 2001
VANCOUVER -- Antiglobalization activist Garth Mullins has been one of the louder voices in the movement that he says is dedicated "to stopping global capitalism in its tracks."
But after last week's horrific terrorist attacks in the United States, Mr. Mullins and many others who rallied against globalization are reassessing their approach to protest over global issues.
Without abandoning their harsh criticism of globalization, they said in interviews, they are shifting gears.
In Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto, groups are planning protests against the war effort that is a global coalition and the possible curtailment of civil liberties, rather than rallying against globalization.
"It's definitely having an effect," Mr. Mullins said. "Myself and others are working to have the movement put more emphasis on antiwar actions and peace, instead of economics and globalization."
The focus of several forthcoming events has been changed. A teach-in on the North American free-trade agreement this weekend has been turned into an antiwar teach-in, he said. Speakers and workshops are to deal with "the coming war," the racist backlash and restrictions on civil liberties.
Activists want to send a message to Ottawa and Washington that war and a crackdown on civil liberties are inappropriate responses to the terrorist attacks, Mr. Mullins said.
In Ottawa, a "festival of creative non-violence" planned as a protest outside the U.S. embassy during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting on the Thanksgiving weekend has been turned into a vigil for peace on Parliament Hill.
The Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade had the support of more than 125 non-governmental organizations from 12 countries for the festival, Richard Sanders, the organization's co-ordinator, said in an interview from Ottawa.
The vigil is also receiving broad support, he added. A global appeal on the Internet for a non-violent response to the terrorist attacks has received 10,000 replies, he said.
Activist Jonathan Oppenheim, who rose to prominence during the anti-APEC protests in Vancouver in 1997, said in an interview from Edmonton that many people are reconsidering their views on protest against globalization, directing their efforts instead to shutting down "the U.S. war machine."
But the refocusing of protests has angered some who say the left has unilaterally disarmed.
In a note circulated in cyberspace to the so-called Left Labour Opposition, a Seattle activist criticized prominent groups that backed out of an antiglobalization demonstration outside the White House scheduled for next week.
"I'm really tired of hearing 'we're cancelling our demonstration out of respect for those who lost their lives,' " Rick Giombetti wrote. "What a fine way to honour the September 11 victims. Let's unilaterally give up our constitutional rights and join the flag [wavers] at the Sierra Club in helping warmakers usher in fascism."
Michel Chossudovsky, an economics professor at the University of Ottawa, said in an interview from Ottawa that the terrorist attacks are leading to "a fundamental shift" in the antiglobalization movement.
"The antiglobalization movement is gaining an understanding that war and globalization are interconnected. They go hand-in-hand.