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Archive for October 2007

Prelude to the End of the War: Orlando’s Time to Shine

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As of October 1, the US war with, and occupation of, Iraq has entered its 1,292nd day, with no sign of ending soon. Almost one million Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the conflict as well as over 3,700 coalition troops. In addition, more than 450.7 billion US tax dollars has been wasted, much of it disappearing into the coffers of war profiters.

The situation in Iraq grows increasingly desperate as the civil war wages on between groups divided not only on religious grounds, but into many localized tribal factions. The government of Iraq is equally divided, with government ministries competing against each other with their own autonomous armed forces. The coalition forces are just another faction, that is forced to pick sides. In doing so they pour US wealth, bombs, and blood into the country, further deepening existing divides.

The US has shown a sheer ineptitude at providing reform necessary for providing peace and stability in the region. Our leaders are far more interested in pursuing US military and economic interests, than providing stability and prosperity for the Iraqi people. The US presence has worn out its welcome in the country for several years now, particularly after the latest incident with Blackwater (see the international news section). US military might will not rebuild Iraq, and the continuing bombing and messy political alliances will only make things worse.

Our leaders are incapable of handling this situation, and we have to accept the fact that we are ill-equipped to solve this problem through force. It’s time to withdraw troops, and send aid instead of dropping bombs. In the end, only the Iraqi’s can solve their own problems (even if we helped create them). Is that not what Democracy is all about?

So, how is this a “Local News” item? Well on October 27th, Orlando will see something it has never seen before, a several hundred strong anti-war march right through the heart of downtown. Up till now a march of this magnitude would only have been possible in New York City or Washington DC, but the groundswell against the war has now reached a fever pitch. Polls taken in the last couple months by the New York Times, CNN, ABC, and the Washington Post all show about 60% of Americans are now opposed to the US occupation of Iraq.

The march will include people from not only Orlando and Florida, but people from several other states throughout the southeast. It will coincide with 10 other large marches throughout the United States. These events are being organized by United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of organizations opposed to the US occupation of Iraq. Founded in October of 2002 to protest the then looming conflict in Iraq, the coalition has grown to include 1300 groups throughout the US, and has hosted the two largest demonstrations against the occupation.

We have an opportunity to make a serious change. This will not be another muted march against the Iraq conflict. I would also like to stress to those who have questioned the impact of such rallies that the previous marches, even in Orlando, have proven to be very effective. The best example is the immigrant rights march of May 2006, in which 25,000 people captured the attention of both local and national media. With the help of coordinated marches throughout the country it helped to improve the national dialog even in the notoriously anti-democratic corners of our government and media.

While its doubtful that this march will receive the same level of turnout as mentioned above, it still stands to be an overwhelming improvement to Orlando’s anemic anti-war protests. The effect this demonstration will have on the national debate over the war, and the withdrawal of coalition troops, is up to us. I urge you, dear reader, to spread the word far and wide, and to spend one afternoon with us so we can bring our troops back home. A great deal of responsibility has been entrusted to us. Lets not screw this up.

If you want to be involved in helping to organize the event, contact the editor at jackofspades@populistpress.com (or by telephone at 407-492-4243). You can also visit www.oct27.org/orlando for more information. In addition to spreading the word about the demonstration, and (of course) being there, we need donations of water, vinegar, medical supplies, and money for permits. Any help you can provide would be most appreciated!

Written by jackofspades83

October 5, 2007 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Iraq

Rebels With Rice: Understanding Food Not Bombs

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Its a hot Wednesday afternoon in Lake Eola park.  On the intersection of Eola and Central a ragged band of roughly fifty people sit under a large oak in circle of blue tables and chairs.  In the adjourning parking lot there are several cop cars watching the crowd.  A quiet sense of tired anticipation hangs in the air.  A little after five a car pulls into the parking lot, right across from the cops.  Several people pile out with pots and trays, a small group from the oak tree approach to help bring the load into the park.  Four tables are pulled from the circle to hold the waited for goods, and the crowd lines up to be served.

Its just another week for Food Not Bombs in their renegade crusade to fight hunger in the Orlando area.  Recently they have gained the attention of the local media for standing up against the local ordinance that seeks to restrict the sharing of food in the downtown parks.  However, Food Not Bombs has been serving at Lake Eola for over a year and half, well before the ordinance was proposed, let alone enforced.
As the driving force in the Stop The Ordinance Partnership, they have united local activists, homeless men and women to fight against discrimination directed towards the 8,500 without homes here in Orlando.  But who are these outspoken food warriors?

Food Not Bombs is a loose nit national organization of anarchists who have made it their primary mission to feed the masses.  They are quick to point out that our society makes more than enough food to feed its population, yet much of it is wasted.  To prove their point they serve food that would have otherwise have been thrown out.  They receive generous donations from local Paneras and Whole Foods, to supplement the large stock of food they save from being garbage.  They have set up a very professional  practice of collecting food from local restaurants and markets that can be cleaned and safely consumed.

Food Not Bombs cooks the food  they collect every Wednesday prior to serving it in the late afternoon.  They serve healthy vegan (not containing animal flesh or by products of animals ) cuisine, usually containing a mixture of stew, vegetables, rice, beens, and lentils.  A particular crowd favorite is the potato pierogi, a sort of polish potato croquette, which are snapped up as quickly as they are served.

Since a group may only serve 24 people at any one time, Food Not Bombs is joined by other groups from the STOP partnership.  The groups that serve on a regular basis downtown are the Young Communist League, CodePink, and the Orlando Progressive Alliance.  These groups bring items such as utensils, plates, juice, and cookies.  The total amount served tends to range between fourty to fifty homeless, with an additional ten to twenty volunteers.  Even with the large group to feed, in the year I have been involved, not a single person has been turned away.  Furthermore, I have always observed a surplus of  food at the end of each event.  Food Not Bombs distributes the surplus, in addition to other goods, in Paramore during their Free Supermarket Day each Thursday.

As an anarchist group Food Not Bombs tends to be maligned as being violent and antisocial.  Their opposition among the developers and wealthy downtown residents has taken every opportunity to paint the group in such a manner.  However, except for violating a noise ordinance at an anti-dyer protest (mayor Dyer is a major proponent of the ordinance against food sharing), and the arrest of Eric Montenez for “utilizing a ladle to serve 30 people”, no other charges have been brought against Food Not Bombs members.  They believe that anarchy is not about creating disorder and chaos, but rather that all people are equal, and that no person or institution has the right to assert their beliefs onto others.

While I might find their political ideology to be a bit to idealistic, their actions are both grounded and noble.  They prove that we can already feed all Americans, and give hope to our ability to feed the world.  Their activities show what can happen if we spend less on killing people and more on feeding people.  I urge you to become part of the potential of a new, more caring America.  Come any Wednesday, at the intersection of Central and Eola, around five.  Fill your belly, and open your heart.

Written by jackofspades83

October 5, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Social Justice