- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

NEW YORK While the U.S. government is planning to make war on terrorism, some longtime dissidents are planning a war against the government.

An anti-war coalition of longtime critics of U.S. policies made a promise this week: "We are going to stop the monster from roaring we have the numbers."

The International Action Center (IAC) says that "monster" is the "imperialist" United States, which teeters on the edge of a military response to last week's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"We have 70 organizing centers, and more and more groups signing on to help us oppose this war," an organizer at an IAC meeting told a packed crowd at its 14th Street headquarters Tuesday night.

The upstairs loft is sandwiched between two union halls, those of the Local 169 and the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades. Coalition members, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with communist guerrilla Che Guevera and touting the AFL-CIO, seated the 90 attendees Tuesday.

They were protest veterans, with a long pedigree of causes and events: military exercises in Vieques, the presidential inauguration, the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle, the IMF in Washington, Philadelphia cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

"It is essentially the working class that is under attack right now by the United States government and all over the world," said Samia Halaby, who is with the Al-Awda Palestine Right of Return Coalition.

"Muslims are now under attack all over the world," she added.

The more than 20 groups represented Tuesday including the National Green Party, the Sikh Student Organization from George Washington University and the National Lawyers Guild have made plans for a march on Times Square when the first U.S. missile is fired. If it occurs on a weekday, the groups will convene at 5 p.m., rush hour. If the U.S. response comes on a weekend, the meeting time is noon.

Plans are also in place for a Sept. 29 march on the White House, a quick change from the previously scheduled protests of the now-canceled meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Larry Holmes, the IAC's co-director and a two-time presidential candidate of the Workers World Party, a Marxist splinter group, gave a pep talk to the activists Tuesday, encouraging them and assuring that the government "cannot shut the movement down.

"We are shrewd, we have lawyers, and we have been in touch with our brothers and sisters and colleagues all over the world," he said. "To the government, those who are out there on the streets protesting, we are the terrorists."

Like officials in Baghdad, which has refused to express condolences to the United States for the terrorist attacks, the leaders of the anti-war groups blame "aggressive" U.S. policies.

"Under no conditions was this terrorist attack worthwhile," said Mary Loo, who declined to give her last name because it is Palestinian. But she said the attack gave several of their causes a higher profile.

"It is like one of those plastic snow decorations, that you shake up and the snow flies," she said, standing in Union Square handing out fliers for upcoming meetings and marches. "It has given all of what we have said for a long time some credibility."

"I am angry," she added. "I am angry at our government for getting us into this."

Post-terrorism Union Square has become an open market for all sentiments. The U.S. flags are countered by posters that disparage American policies.

"Perhaps now you can remember the poor, working, disabled, disadvantaged, underprivileged who have been ignored," implores one such sign, written on white cardboard with red and blue marker.

The peace marchers hold court loudly and proudly daily, while those who favor a military response of some sort are more inclined to walk silently among the photos of the deceased.

But some are clearly enraged that anyone would be advocating peace when their neighbors have been killed by acts of war.

"That is ridiculous," said 23-year-old Wendy Auerbach, who spent an evening this week taping up posters of Osama bin Laden with the phrase "Wanted: dead, not alive."

"I am in favor of peace, but we won't have any if we don't do something about this."

Meanwhile, the anti-war groups have ruined the neighborhood for some who called the ground of Union Square home before the attacks.

"I've been living here for a month or so," said a 35-year-old man, sitting next to his bedraggled blue bedroll. "These kids come in for this cause, or whatever it is. These are just kids who actually have a home to go to. They want to live on the street because all their friends are."

He's going back to a shelter on the lower east side, he said.

"It's more peaceful there."

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