On February 15th, 2003, millions of people from around the world took part in a series of coordinated protests against the impending war in Iraq. Although estimates of the number of participants ranged from six to thirty million, it was, without a doubt, the single largest protest event in human history to that date (BBC News 2003). Many scholars commented that the unprecedented level of successful global coordination against the war was made possible by the work of institutional leaders cooperating in large scale coalitions (Boekkooi, Klandermans, and van Stekelenburg 2011; Corrigall-Brown and Meyer 2010). These types of coalitions seemed indispensable for this level of mobilization. However, the recent success of the intentionally unorganized Occupy movement challenges us to reassess the necessity of formal coalitions between organizations and ask: in what contexts are formal coalitions needed for mass mobilization and how do formal organizational coalitions shape the nature of campaigns? Continue reading
Tag Archives: antiwar activism
Just over a decade ago, activists around the world organized the largest coordinated set of peace protests in history, trying to stop the impending invasion of Iraq. On February 15, 2003, millions of people took to the streets in the largest cities of the richest countries, with the largest turnouts appearing in countries were governments were poised to support the war (Walgrave and Rucht 2010). The demonstrations captured media attention and the political imagination of would-be activists around the world. They did not, however, stop the war. On March 20, 2003, a multinational coalition comprised overwhelmingly of American military forces started a bombing campaign designed to inspire “shock and awe,” and pave the way for a relatively smooth invasion with minimal non-Iraqi casualties. In relatively short order, the American-led coalition ousted Saddam Hussein’s regime and installed its own provisional government, promising an orderly transition to democracy. That didn’t quite happen. Continue reading
By Kathy Kelly
In April of 2003, I returned from Iraq after having lived there during the U.S. Shock and Awe bombing and the initial weeks of the invasion. Before the bombing I had traveled to Iraq about two dozen times and had helped organize 70 trips to Iraq, aiming to cast light on a brutal sanctions regime, with the “Voices in the Wilderness” campaign. As the bombing had approached, we had given our all to helping organize a remarkable worldwide peace movement effort, one which may have come closer than any before it to stopping a war before it started. But, just as we’d failed to lift the vicious and lethally punitive economic sanctions against Iraq before the war, we also failed to stop the war and the devastating civil war it created. Continue reading
By Andrew Yeo
Millions of citizens around the world mobilized on February 13, 2003 to protest the impending U.S.-led invasion in Iraq. It was arguably the largest anti-war protest in history.[i] One month later, the United States and the coalition of the willing rolled into Iraq, initiating a war which would drag on for eight years. As we now know, the Iraq invasion did not sustain the global anti-war effort as perhaps imagined by some of the earlier organizers.
Looking back, it is easy to dismiss the protests and broader anti-war movement (and by extension the peace movement[ii]) as ineffective and naïve. It is also tempting for social movement scholars to respond by qualifying what defines movement “success,” and argue that anti-war mobilization, while failing to end (much less stop) the war, generated other intended or unintended social and political consequences. This includes raising public consciousness about the human effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; drawing support for center-left candidates or opposition parties; or building new transnational ties and networks. Continue reading