In honor of the 7th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, the same weekend as a huge immigrant rights march in DC, the Peace Center hosted a forum entitled “Different Shades of Militarization” at Busboys and Poets.  We learned how militarization and the US military in particular affects oppressed populations.  We discussed the experience of Iraqis after 7 years of US occupation and on the verge of US pulling out some of their troops; the experience of Latino immigrants in DC; and, making the local-global connection, the impact of over-policing that targets black communities in DC.  To see photos, click here.  Video to come!

It was an exciting and interesting conversation among three dynamic organizers:

  • Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, talked about the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine and the impact of the military budget on other national priorities. 
  • Mackenzie Baris of DC Jobs with Justice, discussed the “secure communities” legislation that DC is trying to enforce on immigrants.  This would mean that anyone who is arrested, no matter if charges are dropped or they are proved innocent, can have their fingerprints sent to ICE to check their documentation status, rolling back 25 years of DC being a “sanctuary city” of sorts for immigrants. 
  • Johnny Barnes of ACLU of the National Capitol Area discussed over-policing in DC, including attempts to install cameras throughout the district, the Trinidad checkpoints and police brutality. 

Some Highlights:
“The tactics that are used in Iraq, Anacostia and Columbia Heights seem similar because the goals for each area are the same – to make them available for corporate investment.” – Mackenzie
“After 10 years of intense development and investment in DC, we are now the most un-equal city in the US” – Mackenzie
“Who’s profiting from these wars?  The same equipment is used in Iraq and DC – the same spotlights, surveillance cameras, guns, etc.  The CEOs of the companies who make these items are profiting from the wars on poor people and Iraqis.” – Phyllis
“It’s the intersection of war and racism that MLK talked about at Riverside Church” – Phyllis

Why don’t communities and organizers see the connections between these issues?
“Fear is keeping movements apart.  The Bush administration did a great job instilling fear post 9/11” -Phyllis
“People in power use divisive tactics to prevent unifying because it leads to strength.  They will often try to divide people who are struggling based on race, class, gender, etc.” -Mackenzie

– “Coalition building – and it can’t happen in a crisis but over time” – Mackenzie
– “We saw what snow did to our city this winter.  Each snowflake is small and so delicate – but when bonded together they can make a big impact.  We need to bond together as snowflakes” – Johnny
– “Budget fights can bring us together.  We need to cut the military budget and redirect it to the needs of the people – this is something that affects everyone and that we can all work together on” – Phyllis.