WASHINGTON - August 26 - On Sunday, August 29, 2004, hundreds of thousands of people will be traveling to New York City to come together in a massive protest march. They will be marching against the politics of endless war abroad, matched with fear, hatred, and corporate greed at home. These sentiments will be echoed at simultaneous marches in other communities around the country.
Sunday's march has been called by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a coalition of more than 800 antiwar and social justice organizations. As a member of UFPJ since its inception, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has helped to build this march, and our offices up and down the northeast United States have helped fill buses with our friends and supporters.
Sunday's protests are an outpouring of what has become known as the world's second superpower global public opinion. AFSC is proud of doing our part to sustain and lift up diverse voices from every community and every country that are calling for a peaceful future, equality and basic rights for all people, and a just and sustainable economy for our world.
For AFSC, raising such a voice is part of our foundational commitment, rooted in the Quaker tradition, to speaking truth to power. It also involves the exercise of the most basic democratic rights, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Both are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both are fundamental underpinnings of any democratic system.
In this time of fear, marching for our values and our vision is the most powerful way we know to lift up a voice of faith, love, and determination. Sunday's march is completely legal and has been issued a permit by the City of New York. At this writing, the rally site at the end of the march is the subject of a lawsuit before the New York State Supreme Court, and is thus still uncertain.
Some of the city's preparations for the march involve the necessary care that any municipal government must take to accommodate a large public gathering. Other preparations, however, seem designed to mute the voices of protest, or intimidate potential protestors from traveling to New York by raising the specter of violent confrontation, lining the march route with barricades, or issuing news statements about tactics that will be used to confront protestors.
Not long ago, an AFSC intern in Denver, Colorado, was visited in her home by four FBI agents and two police officers at least one in full SWAT gear who refused to identify themselves and asked our intern and her housemates if they were planning any criminal activity at either the Democratic or Republican national conventions. It is difficult to understand this incident as anything but intimidation, and it is only one of many troubling stories from around the country.
Like other march organizers, we will be making every effort to keep events in New York safe and enjoyable for everyone. We call on local, state, and federal authorities to do the same for the countless New Yorkers, and countless visitors, who are coming together on Sunday to exercise their inalienable democratic rights. We are protesting because we must and because AFSC's existence as an organization is based in our faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.