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Two Grand Rapids activists occupy Senator Levin’s Office

December 1, 2009

At 4p.m. EST today, two Grand Rapids activists occupied U.S. Senator Carl Levin’s Grand Rapids office. They released the following statement:

Why We Occupied Senator Levin’s Office

Today, we occupied Senator Carl Levin’s office in Grand Rapids as a protest against the current administration’s decision to escalate the US war in Afghanistan. We do this not simply because we are against war, but because this decision by the Obama administration is unjust.

The US is not in Afghanistan to bring DemocracySince 1979, the US has supported anti-democratic forces such as the Mujahadeen, the Northern Alliance, the Taliban and a variety of individual warlords. The US has also supported the current regime of Karzai, knowing full well that his administration has been corrupt from the beginning.

The US is not in Afghanistan to protect the rights of Women – The groups of armed men that the US has supported for decades, like the Mujahadeen, are some of the most misogynist groups in that country. Even under the current government of Karzai, a law was passed that essentially legalized the rape of women.  Afghan Women’s groups like RAWA and the Afghan Women’s Mission have made it very clear that if those of us in the US want to support women in Afghanistan then we should work for an end to the US military occupation of their country.

The US is not in Afghanistan to Prevent Terrorism – Many credible members of the US intelligence community have stated in recent years that there is no link between the Taliban and Al Qaida. The Taliban did not attack the US on September 11, 2001. The Taliban are a nationalist group that wants the US out of their country. In fact, we would say that the US occupation of Afghanistan only gives rise to potential acts of terror and feeds a growing anti-American sentiment.

What the US is doing in Afghanistan has more to do with long-term strategic interests. We believe that the US recognizes that Afghanistan is a bridge between the Middle East and Central Asia, that it borders Iran, Pakistan, China and other important countries. We believe that the US sees Afghanistan as playing an important role in the control of future resources in that region, both because it will likely be a major trans-shipment point to move oil and gas in the region, but also because it can act as a US outpost to prevent China, India and Russia from gaining access to the region’s resources.

The US is currently expanding military bases it has had there since 2001, as well as constructing new bases in strategic locations throughout Afghanistan, which implies that the US, like in Iraq, has no plans to leave that country for a long time to come. The US recently built a 1,100 person prison facility at Bagram Air Base, which is another indication that the US has no timely withdraw plans.

We are occupying Senator Levin’s office today because this war is now primarily at the feet of the Democratic Party. The Democrats control the White House and the Congress and is therefore the major force behind this escalating war in Afghanistan. Senator Levin may have tactical disagreements with how the war is being prosecuted (he has supported more training for an Afghan Army), but he supports the fundamental premise of the White House that the US occupation of Afghanistan is in the National Security interest of the US.

We know that our occupation of Senator Levin’s office will not stop the escalating US war in Afghanistan, but we cannot be silent. Senator Levin needs to know that he cannot support President Obama’s prosecution of this brutal war in our name.

We also act today in order to send a message to those who call themselves progressives. We strongly encourage all progressives to ask themselves if they really believe the lies about Afghanistan and to stop supporting this escalating war. We ask them to stop being silent and to take action that leads toward an end of the US occupation in Afghanistan.

We ask people of good will to think about the escalating cost of this war, which as of today, has cost over $232 billion dollars for the country and $122 million from the residents of Grand Rapids.  Considering the current economic struggles that people face in this community, how can we support a war that costs so much?

We ask people to think about the relationship between the US military industrial complex and global warming (see the book Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism). The US military is one of the single largest polluters on the planet and exists primarily for the purpose of stealing other countries fossil fuels. (see the film Blood & Oil, by Michael Klare).

We ask people to think about whether or not they want their family members or their friends who might be deployed to Afghanistan to participate in the killing of innocent Afghani civilians or to come home traumatized, wounded or dead. There is a growing movement of US troops who oppose the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and we need to hear their voices.

We ask people to talk about this war, to educate themselves and to take action – write letters, sign petitions, yes, but more importantly engage in direct action! Take to the streets, prevent young men and women from entering the US military, confront the corporations that are profiting from this war, don’t pay your taxes, don’t vote for people who support war, organize a march, organize a sit in, shut down a military recruiting center . . . do something!

End the US Occupation of Afghanistan Now!

Bring the Troops Home!

Pay Reparations to Afghanistan for the Damage We Have Done to Their Country!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Not a chance permalink
    December 1, 2009 10:36 pm

    I hope you are punished to the full extent of the law.

    I hope you have to repay expenses incurred to remove you from the office.

  2. Bob Vance permalink
    December 2, 2009 12:23 am

    I hope that some day you’ll understand that the only reason you are able to cross the street without being afraid of being picked up by the police because of the way you look or what you believe in is because of brave people who have the audacity and real hope that these two people have.

  3. stelle permalink
    December 2, 2009 12:27 am

    Thank you, Bob.

  4. December 2, 2009 3:12 am

    Hi Stelle!
    I really like our present Commander-in-Chief but I am also torn by his decision with Afghanistan because Karzai is a puppet of our previous administration in the White House. Anyway, nice to read your article and of your courage. I have some books to return to the Bloom Collective, maybe I’ll see you there.

  5. stelle permalink
    December 2, 2009 12:49 pm

    Thanks for your input, Jim. Just to clarify, I only posted the statement as part of my role with GRIID. I didn’t take part at Levin’s office.

    The Obama administration has had time to firmly establish itself; it’s time for those who voted for him to demand he live up to his promises of change–and to express their outrage with the continuing occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza.

  6. confusued permalink
    December 2, 2009 5:14 pm

    I’m confused, are people still occupying the office? If not how long were they there and why did they leave?

  7. stelle permalink
    December 2, 2009 5:57 pm

    The people involved were arrested and released later last night.

  8. James permalink
    December 2, 2009 9:43 pm

    Thank you to the brave individuals willing to stand up and shout at the rest of us “Constant war is not something to get used to!!” I’m paraphrasing, but that is the message and reminder that I take away from the action. We are a broke and broken country that needs to focus on fixing shit NOT fucking shit up. (Please, if you are offended, excuse my German)

  9. Nick permalink
    December 3, 2009 4:51 am

    James, I agree. It saddens and depresses me that when people actually take action and make a statement against the powers that be, they are often ridiculed for it.

    I am glad that you mentioned the “broke” part. That is what is currently worrying me most right now. Our country is still very much in a “recession” or “depression” or whatever you want to call it. I have not heard anyone in a position of power give a realistic plan to get us out of it. While there may be some tactical disagreements over how to proceed, our representatives on both sides are cheering on the war and are more than willing to spend another few hundred billion on the other side of the world, but can’t give us health care at home, or figure out how to educate children. The fact that Americans are not absolutely furious with our government right now is mind-boggling to me. And if people are furious, they are only expressing it in conversation or behind the protective shield of the internet (which I fully recognize I am doing now).

    With all that in mind, I absolutely support and admire the two people who took part in this occupation. While it will obviously not end this illegal occupation today or tomorrow, or even the next day, it serves as a reminder that just a few people can start something big.

    “Power concedes nothing without a struggle. It never has and it never will.”
    -Frederick Douglas

  10. WZZM 13 Coverage permalink
    December 4, 2009 8:44 pm

    Here’s a video from WZZM 13 about the protest:

    And here is a transcript from WZZM 13’s website:

    “GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) – Instead of sending more troops, some protesters in Grand Rapids think President Obama should bring U.S. forces home from Afghanistan.

    “Sending more troops is immoral, illegal and it’s not going to result in anything but more deaths,” says anti-war activist Jeff Smith.

    Tuesday evening, protesters held a demonstration outside the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building. Inside the building, a pair of anti-war activists occupied the office of U.S. Senator Carl Levin and refused to leave when the office closed at 5:30 p.m.

    “An officer came in and asked us if we would leave and we refused,” says demonstrator Tom Henry. “At which point he told us to stand up and they put handcuffs of us and escorted us out.”

    Including the two men police had to remove from the senator’s office, there were about a dozen anti-war activists at the demonstration.

    “I think this is how movements get started; by one person or two people taking actions that get people thinking,” says Smith.

    “Hopefully what comes of this is a little bit of consciousness-raising about what is going on in Afghanistan,” says Henry.

    The demonstrators say they represent the majority of Americans who do not support the war in Afghanistan. ”

  11. An afghan girl permalink
    May 26, 2010 11:30 am

    woow Thank those who brave individuals willing to stand up and shout at the rest of the world.
    I’m an Afghan girl who lives in Denmark.
    Afghan people do know about of these truths for a long time, but they but unfortunately they are helpless and powerless, thats why they can´t do anything against it.
    I am so happy to know about GRIID and I am proud to see humanism exist in people like you.
    I wish I could help!! people who have been victims of injustice is going to do anything to bring justice into the world.

  12. stelle permalink
    May 26, 2010 1:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing your comment and encouragement. I hope together we all can do more to ease the pain of the Afghan people. It’s nice to know that GRIID has a reader in Denmark!


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