to War Grows
By Channing Joseph
Joining a growing international anti-war movement, Oberlin students
have come together to oppose a U.S. war with Iraq through a student
coalition, Oberlin Coalition Against the War. Bringing together activists
with a diverse set of political interests, the newly-formed umbrella
group is planning a number of public actions to unite members of the
local community around a five-point agenda. Their agenda centers upon
opposing military aggression Iraq, ending U.S. economic sanctions
on Iraq, defending civil liberties, demanding money for education
and health-care and commitment to anti-oppression.
“People are coming out against the war by the tens of thousands,”
junior coalition member Vanessa Fatton said. “We need to organize
ourselves on a local, national and international level… We have
the momentum… [and] we just need to take it forward.”
OCAW has gathered over 100 signatures in a petition calling for a
Student Senate referendum publicly stating that the Oberlin student
body opposes a war in Iraq. Through the Senate referendum, the group
hopes to gather more local attention to their anti-war cause.
OCAW is also continuing to organize campus caravans to peace rallies,
such as recent ones in New York City and Washington, D.C., as well
as an upcoming demonstration in Columbus this Saturday, Nov. 10.
The Coalition is not, however, limiting its activities to protests
and demonstrations. As part of its current plan, the group is calling
a regional anti-war conference to be held at Oberlin College during
the weekend of Dec. 7-8, and which will specifically focus on organizing
and educating youth and student activists from Ohio and surrounding
states. Delegations from many colleges throughout the Midwest region
are expected to attend, including Ohio State University, University
of Michigan, University of Minneapolis and Antioch College.
“We are going to bring in speakers and invite faculty to hold
workshops… [as well as invite] other student organizations from
other schools,” senior Marianna Leavy-Sperounis, one of the
Coalition’s most vocal and active members, said. “The
theme is organizing the organizers and bringing together youth and
student activists so that we can come together to create a broader
Possible topics for the conference’s workshops include: understanding
Islam, the post-World War II history of Iraq, U.S. foreign policy
in the Middle East since the Gulf War, and the role of the media since
Sept. 11, 2001.
“We want to come out of [this conference] better educated and
with a network [of activists] prepared to call actions and take the
movement forward,” Fatton said.
The organization is also lending its support to the recent demonstrations
against College layoffs, as well as planning a national day of action
with the “Not In Our Name” youth and student committee
for Nov. 20. The group is considering a walk-out, teach-in or other
form of public demonstration on that day.
On the whole, the members of OCAW seem to have a positive outlook
for the work that the Coalition is doing.
“Just given how quickly youth organizations have mobilized this
fall and their overwhelming presence at anti-war demonstrations in
D.C. and New York, I am very optimistic that we can build a vibrant
and active youth and student anti-war movement,” Leavy-Sperounis
Leavy-Sperounis, however, did not seem naïve in her ambitions.
“Given the Republican sweep in Tuesday’s election,”
she said, “it’s clear just how much we’re up against
in this fight, but the anti-war movement as a whole is growing rapidly,
and I think we could have a significant impact on the course our government
takes in Iraq.”