As activists met in Richmond, VA for the UNAC conference entitled “Stop the Wars at Home and Abroad: Building a Movement Against War, Injustice & Repression,” the US military was shooting down another Syrian plane from the skies over Syria, and the cop who murdered Philando Castile was being acquitted. Despite these realities, the conference and the movement took a huge step forward, as over 300 people registered for the conference, bringing together people from 31 states as well as nine foreign countries: Canada, Columbia, Hungary, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and Venezuela. The conference was the most diverse by age, race and geography of any antiwar conference or meeting in recent history.
Hosted in Richmond by the UNAC-affiliated Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality, the Friday night through Sunday conference presented a number of panels and workshops on the wars abroad and the wars at home on people of color, workers, immigrants, Muslims and others. The entire conference was professionally live-streamed and recorded by Other Voices, Other Choices, with producer Wilton Vought. The recordings can be seen and heard here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLatnOpu3eZimt5YieDM5MFzDPGe0ZQgzI.
This was the first time that UNAC attempted a conference in the South and away from the major East Coast metropolitan areas. This was due to the number of groups from the South that have recently joined UNAC and an increased pace of struggle in that area of the country.
Speakers at the conference recognized that we are at an extremely dangerous time with current expanding, unending wars, millions of displaced refugees, more than 800 foreign U.S. military bases, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and climate destruction. At the same time, at home, the social safety net is being ravaged, repression of dissent is rising, mass incarceration accelerates, wages and standard of living stagnates and the obscenely wealthy are raking it in. Now, more than ever, we need a strong unified coalition of antiwar and justice movements to fightback against the imperialist war system and win!
A number of panels and workshops were held at the conference, which included speakers from UNAC affiliated groups and friends. Each panel focused on international or domestic issues, but all contained speakers who addressed both to draw the connection between the wars abroad and the wars at home.
Two sessions of workshops were also held and included topics on NATO expansion, building the antiwar movement, drone warfare, environmental justice, the “color revolutions,” the peace process in Columbia, youth activism, the Black Alliance for Peace and more.
The final panel of the weekend, held on Sunday morning, was called “Building a More Powerful Movement for Justice and Peace.” The panel can be seen and heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vyvAkBLPMI&index=10&list=PLatnOpu3eZimt5YieDM5MFzDPGe0ZQgzI. On this panel, leaders of several organizations with different experiences brought their ideas to the conference in the hope of building a stronger movement. This panel was followed by the presentation of an action proposal and an open mic to discuss the proposal and how we could best move forward. Based on the discussion, the unanimously adopted proposal was modified. The final version can be found here: http://nepajac.org/actionproposal2017.htm.
The action proposal started with a reaffirmation of the founding principles of UNAC: "UNAC reaffirms its commitment to the organization of independent, mass action, united front mobilizations against all U.S. wars at home and abroad. Unity in action against the endless imperialist wars for power and profit is inseparable from the same necessary unity at home against the inherent racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-working class policies generated by a society ruled by the one percent.” The proposal went on to assert that UNAC will organize and support actions along these lines and will expand our leadership bodies to broaden and strengthen our coalition.
The conference concluded with a march from the Richmond Conference Center to Richmond’s African Burial Ground in Shockoe Bottom, once the epicenter of the US domestic slave trade, where we declared our support for the ongoing struggle to reclaim, expand and properly memorialize that site.
This [Shockoe Bottom] was the first and only…burial ground where Black people were permitted to be buried in the city of Richmond…Gabriel, who along with hundreds of others, attempted to lead a rebellion on August 30 of 1800 and gave his life on the gallows on this spot…Gabriel’s son and every generation of that family appointed a historian to carry that story forward. - Ana Edwards, Chair, Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project.
The conference represented the rapidly changing consciousness of the people of the US. It represented the coming together of the antiwar movement with a significant section of Black leaders and international guests who have a clear understand of what is needed for our movement today and how all the issues discussed are interconnected. There was a consensus that the wars abroad and at home stem from the same source – the integrated corporate, financial, military, political machine at the top. The importance of having a broad coalition and building UNAC was stressed by speakers and attendees throughout the conference. Given the state of the US and the world today, it is essential that we build on this conference by strengthening our movements and our collaborative efforts. We urge all to go to the UNAC web site (http://UNACpeace.org) to join our email list and have your organizations join our coalition.
End the Wars at Home and Abroad!
This is an excerpt, for the full article please visit www.unacpeace.org
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