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International Day of Peace observed at State House rally



At first glance it might seem that economic sanctions are preferable to armed conflict, and while that may be true to some extent, sanctions can be just as deadly. They lead to grinding poverty, hunger, loss of health care and much needed medicines.

The Rhode Island Anti-War Committee (RIAC) held a demonstration and march in observance of the United Nations International Day of Peace on Saturday in front of the Rhode Island State House. They were joined by individuals and members of several Rhode Island groups dedicated to peace, including the Sisters of Mercy, Pax Christie, Brown War Watch, Open Doors Rhode Island and others.

RIAC called for the de-militarization of policing and an end to the Trump Administration’s use of violence and arbitrary arrests to suppress largely peaceful protests against racial injustice. RIAC condemned President Trump’s rhetoric that “seeks confrontation rather than calm and encourages armed vigilantes to engage with protesters.” RIAC demanded an end to the violence used by police to suppress the demonstrations.

“Economic sanctions are overlooked as a weapon of war,” said Tim Sprouls an organizer with RIAC. “At first glance it might seem that economic sanctions are preferable to armed conflict, and while that may be true to some extent, sanctions can be just as deadly. They lead to grinding poverty, hunger, loss of health care and much needed medicines.”

Economic sanctions, continued Sprouls, “are not for the purpose of promoting democracy. Some of the most oppressive and authoritarian regimes are considered firm allies of the U.S. But when a country runs afoul of U.S. corporate interests, it risks the wrath of U.S. economic sanctions.”

“We currently face two existential threats, that is, two threats that could end human existence,” said Bill Waters from Pax Christie. “Global warming and nuclear weapons. If we do not eliminate nuclear weapons, they will eliminate us.

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“We have a history of viewing human beings as being instrumental, as being objects to serve, extra money from, to extract labor from to extract life from, in the cause of war,” said Michael Araujo. “This instrumental idea of human beings being, ‘I don’t see the full human, I see the commodity.'”

“The students of Brown organized a beautiful grassroots campaign to have the University divest from the occupied territories of Palestine. The University simply ignored them,” said Les Robinson an organizer for Brown War Watch. “2500 students voted to divest. The University simply ignored them.”

“It’s come out that in ICE [United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention centers Latina women are being forcibly sterilized, coercively sterilized,” said Miranda Grundy from Open Door Rhode Island. “They are being told, not in their native language, what their procedure will be. They’re told a variety of different reasons, to justify why they should [these procedures] which are untrue… This is not a new practice, by any means…”

“I’m here to call out both parties, both Democrats and Republicans. We understand the implications of what four more years of Trump means for us, here in his country. It’s a matter of our future and democracy,” said Enrique Sanchez, a community activist. “But what about the rest of the world? What about for people in Venezuela and Iran? Yemen and Syria? Both parties now are trying to beat the drums for war against China, against Russia…

“After November, is there going to be an end to war?”

Nuclear weapons, said William Smith, “are incompatible with with human life, and they must all be taken apart. How will we ever achieve that?”

“A bunch of people from the non-nuclear weapons countries banded together and in 2017 created a new, international treaty that completely bans nuclear weapons. Once 50 nations ratify it, it will become international law and nuclear weapons will be legally banned.” Both the United States government and media have played the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons down, said Smith, but he thinks we can change that.

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.