Today we mark the International Day of Peace with the knowledge that we live in a world dominated by forces of oppression and injustice. Climate destruction has helped lead to the most devastating hurricanes on record. While Trump threatens to destroy North Korea, the War on Terror rages on as the US and partners like Russia and Saudi Arabia continue military assaults on people worldwide, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, and Somalia. Immigrants are deported en masse and DACA is under attack as the Trump administration prepares to expand and further militarize the US/Mexico border wall. The cries for justice for Black, brown, and Native people disproportionately killed by police continue to be unheard.
We know the injustices of US empire are connected to Zionist oppression in Palestine – grounded in a shared ideology of white supremacy and colonialism; armed and sustained by the same corporations; and trained in the same tactics of repression.
It has been just over 3 years since uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri against the police killing of unarmed Black teenager Mike Brown built a national rallying cry “Black Lives Matter.” Last Friday, September 15, the city of St. Louis erupted again in response to the acquittal of white former officer Jason Stockley for the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith, a 24-year old Black man and father of a one-year-old girl. Stockley shot Smith five times at close range after a police chase, during which Stockley announced to his partner his intention to kill Smith The story includes many indications of Stockley’s guilt, and the“mental gymnastics” that went into acquitting Stockley shine a light on the gears of institutional racism in this country.
St. Louis is home to US Campaign member groups, Steering Committee members, and staff, who have been on the ground supporting mass protests seeking justice for Smith and the thousands more who have met the same fate. On Sunday night, after protesters were tear gassed and pepper-sprayed, police officers kettled more than 100 demonstrators, media, and legal observers, slamming them to the ground, handcuffing, macing, taunting, and then mass arresting them. We cannot forget that St. Louis police have exchanged training with Israeli police, who use the same tear gas and crowd control tactics in their attempts to crush Palestinian popular resistance.
As the UN General Assembly meets in New York, we are reminded that government officials here in the US and all over the world often state their desire for peace without any commitment to dismantling the systems of oppression that make peace impossible. Their calls are hollow because, in the words of Palestinian boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) co-founder Omar Barghouti: “Peace in the absence of justice is institutionalized injustice.”
Today, on the International Day of Peace, let us not talk about peace. Let us talk about justice and liberation. Let us talk boldly about racism, heterosexism, patriarchy, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and US empire. Let us stand with those fighting institutional power, repressive regimes, and state violence wherever they may be.
P.S. News recently broke that the Israeli-owned defense manufacturer Elta North America has been hired to develop a prototype of Trump’s US/Mexico wall, and occupation profiteers Elbit Systems and Caterpillar are reportedly gearing up to help with construction. We are working hard with partners on a delegation of Mexican and indigenous activists fighting the border wall to travel to Palestine to connect with Palestinians fighting Israel’s apartheid wall. We know that united we are stronger. There is still time to donate to help make this crucial delegation a reality.