Two members of the New York City War Resisters League (WRL) were arrested this evening as part of an anti-Afghanistan War demonstration in Grand Central in Midtown Manhattan. 64-year-old Ed Hedemann and Eric Laursen were taken away in handcuffs by the New York Police Department during a protest marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.
Hedemann was arrested and then picked up and brought downstairs by four officers after attempting to drop an anti-war banner in Grand Central, while Laursen was apprehended for “disorderly conduct” after following the officers who were arresting Hedemann, one witness said.
The arrests came in the middle of an action attended by at least 60 people who were calling for an immediate end to the occupation and war in Afghanistan. The demonstrators held anti-war signs up and pictures of crying children and flag-draped coffins as they chanted, “Bring the troops home, now alive!” and “Hey Obama, end the wars now!”
Demonstrator Ruth Benn said she was protesting to “remind people about the war, and to encourage people to do something, like contacting your Congress person.” Benn, a member of the NYC WRL, and other activists passed out leaflets to commuters at Grand Central instructing them on what they could do to help end the war in Afghanistan.
There were over a dozen police officers on hand at the action.
The Grand Central protest was one of many around New York City and the United States today. This morning, according to one participant, about 15 anti-war activists held an vigil outside Congressman Michael E. McMahon’s (D-Brooklyn, Staten Island) Brooklyn district office. The demonstration was meant to pressure him to support an amendment put forth by Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) that would require an exit strategy for the war in Afghanistan. McMahon voted against the amendment when it came to a vote during the summer.
Also in the city, anti-war organization Military Families Speak Out held a vigil outside Federal Hall in the financial district where they read the names of soldiers from New York State who had died in the Afghanistan War and held up crosses.
“We’ve basically started a civil war in Afghanistan, and you can’t win a civil war,” said Vicki McFayden, a member of Military Families Speak Out.
There was also a screening this evening at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan of the Robert Greenwald film “Rethink Afghanistan,” and a panel on the war was held at the CUNY Graduate Center that included investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill and Bill Fletcher, editor of the Black Commentator.
The Grand Central action was organized by WRL, and endorsed by a host of other peace and justice groups, including Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK, and the Ya Ya Network. It came on the heels of an anti-war action outside the White House Oct. 5 that saw 61 people arrested. Anti-war activists around the country are looking to jump start a largely moribund anti-war movement in the wake of polls showing the American public turning against the war.
“It is so sad to be here on the anniversary of an invasion that should have never taken place. Millions are dead and have become refugees and orphans,” said Jenny Heinz of the Granny Peace Brigade.
The spate of anti-war demonstrations has occurred amidst a debate in the Obama administration about the way forward for the war. However, according to news reports, President Obama has ruled out a reduction or withdrawal from Afghanistan, and is deliberating on General Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops for the war.
“I’m here to protest this horrible, horrendous war in Afghanistan, a war that has been killing people for 8 years, making us bankrupt,” said demonstrator Ted Auerbach. “I voted for Obama, and Obama said, ‘make us do it,’ and we’re going to build a social movement and an anti-war movement that’s going to make Obama withdraw from Afghanistan.”
Members of the anti-war group World Can’t Wait, which has ties to the Revolutionary Communist Party, performed street theater. Activists dressed up in wedding clothes held a “die-in” in the middle of Grand Central to represent the deaths that have occurred during weddings in Afghanistan. In November 2008, U.S. airplanes reportedly bombed a wedding party in Kandahar Province, killing 40 civilians, including two-dozen children.
The Rev. Billy Talen, the Green Party candidate for mayor in New York City, attended the anti-Afghanistan War protest, screaming “Peace-alujah.”
“We shop and we bomb. We need to bring the troops home, and at the same time do the other thing, which is save our neighborhoods,” Talen said.
Follow me on Twitter for the latest updates and articles I write!