UNAC Administrative Committee, 3/18/20
The coronavirus is serious, and our movement needs to take it seriously. We must protect ourselves and each other. These are the sentiments that brought us to the movement in the first place. For a coalition like UNAC, which has always supported street demonstrations, face-to-face meetings and mass actions, we need to rethink our activity during this period. This means for now we need to rely more on social media and other non-contact forms of communication and protest. A good example of this was the recent Sanctions Kill panel that was organized from the San Francisco Bay Area by the International Action Center, the Alliance for Global Justice and co-sponsored by UNAC. We had projected a public forum as part of the weekend of actions to protest the unilateral sanctions that the US has imposed on countries that will not submit to the dictates of Washington and Wall Street.
To not spread the virus and to keep our movement safe, the public forum was changed to an on-line webinar that was also livestreamed on Facebook and viewed by thousands and had over 100 shares. The panel speakers were all able to speak from their homes through the Zoom platform, and people were able to ask questions and make comments. You can view the panel here.
Additionally, some people have started to use twitter hash tags to demonstrate and get noticed by a growing social media user community as more and more people are spending more time in their homes. These are models that our movement should copy during this period and many of us may also learn how to use social media more effectively.
Although, we may need to make some changes in how we work for peace and justice, this is a time when we must re-double our efforts, because the coronavirus has laid bare many of the problems of this capitalist system of war and injustice. We must use this opportunity to expose this, and help people draw the lessons from the period we are going through. The Sanctions Kill actions are an example of this.
The US has sanctions on 39 countries. To many of these countries, the US is denying medicine and medical equipment that could be used to save people’s lives during this pandemic and arrest its spread. The coronavirus recognizes no borders and has spread around the world in a matter of weeks. Sanctions are used to make people of a given country suffer in the hope that they will turn against their governement and build an opposition that US agencies and NGOs like the National Endowment of Democracy and US AID can take advantage of, attempt to turn them violent, and use as a vehicle for regime change. These sanctions are nothing short of war by other means, and because they are aimed at civilians, they should be considered war crimes. Sanctions have killed millions and have been the preferred form of warfare in recent times as the US population turns more and more against outright invasions and occupations which has cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.
Additionally, the anarchy of the capitalist market driven economy has been demonstrated by the feeble attempts of the US government to solve the crisis. So that affected industries do not suffer loss of profit, and as the stock market tanks, the laws of capitalism demand that workers get laid off. In this “richest country in the world”, half of working families live paycheck to paycheck and can find themselves homeless, without needed medications, with not enough food and with additional anxiety by the economic consequences of the coronavirus. This is the system that the US tries to impose on the rest of the world and enforce through its military actions, sanctions, coups and propaganda.
Also, the for-profit healthcare system leaves many without adequate healthcare or without any healthcare and can lead to many not getting tested or treated and may cause the virus to spread. The US has dealt with the spread of the virus with a patchwork of solutions determined mostly at the local level instead taking decisive national actions as was done in China, where the crisis seems to be coming to an end.
The climate crisis movement has long warned that as the earth heats up new diseases and strains of virus will be released. We are a country that has denied that such a crisis exists and has withdrawn from, or not signed onto, international agreements to stem the climate crisis. Even the Obama administration agreed to sign the Paris Accords only if they were non-binding.
The situation at our borders where migrants and refugees have been excluded, jailed and had families separated also adds to the spread of the disease as does the huge prison population. With around 5% of the world’s population, we have around 25% of the world prison population, which can cause the virus to spread rapidly in the jails and prisons. To stop the spread of the virus, the Iranian government, a victim of US sanctions, has release 85,000 prisoners. Will the US do the same?
Additionally, during this period the US has sent thousands of its military to Europe, today’s epicenter of the virus, to participate in “war games.” Though they have been scaled back, they have not been cancelled.
Although we must all be careful during this period and change our behavior, we have seen how the government has used national emergencies in the past to curtail civil rights and stop protests. Crises have been used in the past by the government to manipulate public opinion and get people to act against their interests. Our movement must oppose such attacks on our civil liberties.
We need to make the demand that the US end the trillions for war and the military and use the money to create a publicly funded healthcare system and puts human needs before profits. Now is the most important time to make these demands. The federal reserve through its repo market recently provided $1.5 trillion to bolster the banking system. That astronomical sum is proof that all human needs can be met in this country. Workers need to be made whole from COVID-19 related losses. Big business should not get a blank check. Relief funds should not be used to buy back stocks or undo union contracts. The Trump administration proposal to provide $1,000 per person is neither adequate nor a sufficient sum to quiet demands for change.
If organizations would like to hold webinars and on-line meetings and would like to do livestreaming, UNAC can help. Livestreaming can be done through the UNAC Facebook pages that has thousands of followers. If you would like help doing this, contact us at and we will help you make this happen.