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Protesters shut down recruiting center

Marilyn Bechtel -

FREMONT, Calif. - Over 100 demonstrators, including many from this city's large Afghan American community, shut down its military recruiting center in a non-violent action March 30 2012FREMONT, Calif. - Over 100 demonstrators, including many from this city's large Afghan American community, shut down its military recruiting center in a non-violent action March 30 as they protested the killing of 17 civilians by a U.S. soldier earlier in the month and other atrocities against Afghan civilians, and demanded an end to nearly eleven years of war.

The protest, organized by Afghans for Peace and Iraq Veterans against the War, was joined by others from Fremont's Afghan American community - the largest in the U.S. - and from San Francisco Bay Area Occupy movements and peace organizations. Demonstrators carried posters with photos of the civilians killed March 11, and placards bearing their names.

"Everything is intertwined with power and money and resources," Afghans for Peace member and college student Abass Darab told the crowd as demonstrators blocked the recruiting station's entrances.

Just as Native Americans were forced off their lands over resources, he said, the U.S. is in Afghanistan, "treating people the way we're treating them, because they have natural gas, they have minerals. None of the wars that are happening today have been without a huge impact on resources that are available in those countries.

"Everyone has to wake up and stand up against this," Darab said. "We have to realize they are a minority. The minority has a lot of money but we have numbers and we have power."

Citing the latest polls showing growing majorities, including Republicans, opposing the Afghanistan war, Vietnam veteran Francis Grinnon of Veterans for Peace called on participants to "reach out to the millions of Americans who oppose this war ... We need an independent, mass anti-war movement. We have to go out and do the work and build the movement."

Other speakers drew parallels between the atrocities against Afghan civilians and the murder last month of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Afghans in the crowd echoed the speakers' calls for a speedy end to the war. Said one young woman, a high school senior, "America needs to start solving its own problems. You can't go into another country and solve their problems. The soldiers are making it worse."

Harun Arsalai emphasized that there is no military solution. "The people, not the puppets, need to be in power," he said. "No corrupt leaders, no U.S., no Taliban. Afghanistan is the most fertile country in the world, yet people are starving there, and hundreds of thousands are dying."

Arsalai's father, Mohammad Arsalai, who emigrated from Afghanistan, said, "Everything is being destroyed. The U.S. and the U.S. puppets are destroying all the villages."

The latest opinion polls are showing a big drop in U.S. backing for the war. A New York Times/CBS News poll taken March 21-25 found 69 percent thought the U.S. shouldn't be fighting in Afghanistan, up from 53 percent in November. That view was shared by 60 percent of Republicans, with 40 percent saying the U.S. should leave before the end of 2014, when the Obama administration has projected all troops should leave.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll found 60 percent saying the war was not worth fighting, while a Pew Research Center poll found 57 percent saying U.S. troops should come home as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, reports from Afghanistan continue to allege that more than one soldier was involved in the March 11 killings. Children who witnessed the attack have reportedly spoken of soldiers carrying lights and standing in yards or entering houses, while village elders reported boot prints of several soldiers in the area, and helicopters hovering overhead during the attacks.

Photo: Marilyn Bechtel/PW


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