Civil Rights

Providence joins antiwar protests around the world urging no US military action in Ukraine

“…the only sane course of action the United States can take is a commitment to diplomacy with serious negotiations, not military escalation which could easily spiral out of control to the point of pushing the world into nuclear war.”

February 5, 2022, 5:45 pm

By Steve Ahlquist

Following the Biden Administration’s announcement that it is moving 3,000 United States troops to Eastern Europe, protesters took to the streets across the world to raise the alarm about the dangers of a war between the United States and Russia and called for de-escalation and diplomacy. In Providence, over 50 people gathered on the south side of the Rhode Island State House lawn, facing the Providence Place Mall, to express their concerns.

Similar protests are taking place this weekend in cities such as Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Portland Oregon, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Asheville, North Carolina, and many more.

The events are being organized by CODEPINK in conjunction with other national and numerous local activist groups because, “the only sane course of action the United States can take is a commitment to diplomacy with serious negotiations, not military escalation which could easily spiral out of control to the point of pushing the world into nuclear war.”

While the United States and Russia have both played a role in worsening this crisis, said local organizers in their press release, the roots of the crisis are entangled in the failure of the United States government to live up to a promise made in 1990 by then-Secretary of State James Baker that NATO would expand not “one inch eastward.”

Since 1999, however, NATO has expanded to include numerous countries, including some that border Russia. “Rather than dismissing out of hand the Russian government’s current insistence on a written guarantee that Ukraine will not become part of NATO, the United States government should agree to a long-term moratorium on any NATO expansion,” wrote local organizer Timothy Sprouls, who began the speaking program at the protest.

“Within the BLM RI PAC we approach foreign policy very seriously and consistently call for de-escalation when our government decides to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries across the globe,” said BLM RI PAC Political Director Enrique Sanchez. “We demand that our federal delegation and United States Congress halt military aid and not commit to sending more troops to the Ukrainian border with Russia.”

John Larkin, a war veteran from Providence, spoke about how he personally has been impacted by war. He is a member of the Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign and began his statement by quoting decorated Marine general turned anti-war activist Smedley Butler.

“”War is a racket. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” That was true in 1935 and it’s true now,” said Larkin. “The all-encompassing war machine profits off of death while Americans can’t afford food, healthcare, education, housing, and other necessities. It’s immoral and it’s our obligation to fight it.”

“I want to start off by unequivocally condemning President Biden and the Neo-liberal establishment in their quest for war with Russia,” said Samy Amkieh, from the Providence DSA. Amkieh pointed out that when the government engages in military spending, such as sending $500 million in weapons to the Ukraine this year, the money is always found. “Where’s the age old question of ‘How will we pay for it?'” asked Amkieh. “That only seems to come up when we all propose some transformative legislation that actually helps people.”

“What I am really aggravated about – and that isn’t even a strong enough word – is that here we are, still dealing with a pandemic where people around the world are suffering and dying, and we are in the process of destroying the planet with climate change, and – I don’t think any of us want another war,” said Nancy Hood, from the East Bay Citizens for Peace.

“Pope Paul VI said that if you want peace, you have to work for justice,” said Angela McParland, from the Sisters of Mercy. “It’s not peace and love and warm fuzzies – it’s peace based on justice where people have enough of what they need. People have enough to connect with one another and there’s not the threat of empire that is constantly looming over them.”

“War, in itself, is a racist system that invokes violence because of one’s beliefs, power and perceived domination over another,” said Terri Wright of DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality). “We need our soldiers home!”

“We say, ‘No war with Russia!'” said Satya Moha Patra with the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).

“Not many people realize that the United States deploys our nuclear weapons in NATO countries. So you can see why Russia doesn’t want Ukraine to enter NATO,” said William Smith, a former American Peace Corps volunteer from Jamestown. “After all, look how quickly we responded when Russia tried to place their nuclear weapons in Cuba back in 1962! I think Biden and Putin should negotiate an agreement that satisfies everyone’s security concerns.”

State Representative David Morales, who has been a sponsor of war economy divestment legislation, echoed the need to redirect military funding to programs of social uplift. Morales urged the members of the Rhode Island congressional delegation to use their national platform for this purpose and to avoid war.

State Senator Tiara Mack, who has also sponsored such legislation, concurred and stressed the intergenerational suffering the impact of military service of her grandfather had inflicted on her family.

Final thoughts came from Timothy Sprouls, who closed out the event:

Jonathan Daly-Labelle from No Endless War or Excessive Militarism (NEWEM) acted at emcee.