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NATO summit protest in Toronto

Darren Edgar

May 19, 2012

Coinciding with other solidarity protests around the world, peace activists in Toronto came out to rally and protest against the NATO summit currently taking place in Chicago.

Gathering across from the US Consulate on May 19, over 100 people—plus many passersby who stopped to listen—heard speeches denouncing NATO’s militarism; still others chanted slogans, distributed literature and waved placards.

There were also many Palestinian flags present, representing the concern many people have that the most powerful NATO member—the US—will win its arguments for Israel’s future involvement in NATO, if not in this summit. With the US continuing to massively fund and support Israel—both militarily and otherwise—and with the Canadian government marching in lockstep and whole-heartedly supporting the illegal occupation of Palestine, this display of solidarity and the demands for liberation of the Palestinian people are critical to any anti-war or peace demonstration.

Organized by the Canadian Peace Alliance, Afghans For Peace (AFP), the Canadian Arab Federation and the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, speeches were given by members of AFP, Palestine House, the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, and the War Resisters Support Campaign, denouncing Canada’s involvement in NATO—and even NATO’s continued existence—when all it offers is war and unimaginable suffering, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya and possibly soon to Syria and Iran.

Beside the death and destruction abroad, a US war resister spoke movingly about the toll war takes on the soldiers who are sent overseas to fight, from the physical and psychological trauma—much of which goes improperly diagnosed or treated—to the shockingly high percentage of veterans who are unemployed, homeless or victims of suicide. When the costs of war are so high—for the civilian victims as well as the soldiers—clearly the only reasonable response is to demand an end to all wars and to promote peace instead.

But this isn’t NATO’s raison d’être; these days, it’s often the military vehicle used by an imperialist cabal of Western nations to pillage other nations accused of spreading “terrorism.”

At this summit it is expected that the strategic partnership between the US and Afghanistan will be renewed, which will see foreign troops remain in Afghanistan until 2024. For his part, Stephen Harper and his Conservative government have already indicated that they may keep Canadian Special Forces soldiers in the country. This summit will also be an opportunity for NATO to cynically rebrand itself as a military organization that keeps international peace through force—instead of the relic of the Cold War it is.

To counter these attempts the speeches, slogans, chants, placards and signs at this protest all rallied around common themes: an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan; the return home and proper care of all troops; no new interventions or wars in Syria, Iran or anywhere else; the end to the occupation of Palestine; and, an end to the human, resource and monetary waste that military alliances like NATO create.

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