Above photo: NATO protest on April 6. By Maria Oswalt for Rehumanize International.
Washington, DC – Moving the United States away from the culture of militarism and fighting for peace was the purpose of activists this week in Washington DC against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The foreign ministers of the controversial alliance held a meeting in this capital on Wednesday and Thursday in which they discussed issues such as the increase in the bloc’s budget, the increase in the military presence in the Black Sea and the confrontations with Russia.
The meeting coincided, in addition, with the commemoration on April 4 of the 70th anniversary of the organization, a fact that was highlighted by the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and the North American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
This date is also the two important events for many sectors of American society: on April 4, 1967, the civil rights activist Martin Luther King delivered a memorable speech against the Vietnam War, and that same day of the following year he was assassinated. in Tennessee.
For members of groups such as World Beyond War, Black Alliance for Peace, Code Pink and Veterans for Peace, it was an insult that the block commemorated its seven decades of creation on the same day dedicated to honor a figure who spread a message of peace and equality.
Kevin Zeese, co-director of the Popular Resistance organization, told Prensa Latina that when they learned about the NATO meeting here on the date linked to the Reverend, they prepared a whole week of activities to oppose the 29-member alliance.
The actions included a demonstration last Saturday in front of the White House, where in addition to condemning what they consider NATO abuses at the international level, they expressed solidarity with Venezuela and criticized the interference in that Latin American country.
Likewise, on April 3 and 4, they developed an initiative called the No to NATO-Yes to Peace Festival, which included mobilizations in various parts of the city, such as the Freedom Plaza (Plaza de la Libertad) and the vicinity of the Senate, where Stoltenberg delivered a speech before Congress on Wednesday.
During the afternoon and evening of that first day the festival participants gathered at St. Stephen’s Church to hold workshops on non-violent actions, enjoy musical performances and prepare with posters for the protests of the following day.
On Thursday, protesters gathered near the State Department, where the ministerial meeting sessions took place, and then moved with their message to the Martin Luther King Memorial, to pay tribute.
Actions like that, Zeese explained, have not only a political purpose, but are focused on changing the culture of the United States built on militarism and high investment in weapons, including nuclear weapons.
According to the activist, that was what Luther King called in his speech on April 4, 1967, ‘to get away from the culture of war and get closer to a culture of peace.’
Similar criteria were expressed to this medium by Margaret Flowers, also co-director of Popular Resistance, who recalled that in that speech the Reverend spoke out against racism, militarism, war and economic injustice.
‘A nation that continues to spend year after year more money in military defense than in programs of social progress is approaching spiritual death,’ said the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Flowers said that in the United States there is an expanded belief, even among people who claim to be progressive, that NATO is a positive force in the world.
‘We are trying to change that narrative,’ she said of the organization accused in many parts of the world of violating international law in countries such as Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya.
She also criticized the calls made by US President Donald Trump to the members of the bloc to carry out more defense spending.
“If we want to have security in the world, we must use the resources to meet the needs of people, such as housing, education, work, access to clean water and food. This is how we create global stability, not investing money in weapons,” Flowers explained.
All of us who lived in 1968 remember the murder of Dr. King, a leader for peace, justice, against militarism, racism and poverty, said, in turn, the singer and political activist Luci Murphy.
Murphy criticized that, contrary to those ideals, NATO and the US government take taxpayers’ money to build military bases and provoke wars. Military adventures are destroying countries, changing the climate, destroying the Earth, she said.