Organizers gathered Friday at the Downtown Berkeley BART station to rally against the United States’ involvement in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
Around 4 p.m., members of the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center, or MDPJC, came together to protest potential United States military involvement and expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. MDPJC works to achieve peaceful solutions through education, advocacy and community building, according to its mission statement.
“We’re in a dangerous time,” said Rick Sterling, MDPJC vice chair, at the event. “We want Russian troops to leave — for there to be a resolution. We want a commitment from NATO to stop expanding.”
Sterling was joined by members of other organizations, including the United National Antiwar Coalition, the International Action Center, Code Pink and the Black Agenda for Peace.
Speakers at the rally compared elements of the Ukrainian conflict to the Afghanistan War, fearing the loss of civilian lives. Eugene Ruyle, professor emeritus of anthropology at California State University, Long Beach, noted the organizers are hoping to create a dialogue with the people of Berkeley.
Ruyle said the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center agrees with China’s position: that we require a new world order that is not unipolar, unlike the United States.
“The final settlement of the Ukraine crisis requires abandoning the Cold War mentality,” Sterling wrote in a distributed flier. “It is important to give full attention and respect to the legitimate security concerns of all countries, and on that basis conduct negotiations to put in place a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism.”
Judy Greenspan, member of the International Action Center, commented on media coverage of the ongoing conflict, encouraging attendants to decide for themselves their position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, regardless of reporting by major news outlets.
The rally continued as fliers were distributed and attendees shouted things including “stop that war” and “no war, no sanctions, no NATO.” Protestors also carried signs that said “Bring the Troops Home Now!” and “Fight COVID, Not Russia.” Sterling’s flier noted potential solutions, including stopping the expansion of NATO, avoiding U.S. militarism and reallocating tax dollars toward social issues rather than military expenses.
Dave Welsh, delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, noted that although attendees took different positions on the conflict, they came together as people against war.
“(United States) intervention, both open and secret, has been a major driver of the events in Ukraine,” Sterling wrote in an article for the LA Progressive. “Let us hope that the violence ends quickly and a genuinely independent Ukraine, no longer a tool of the United States, emerges.”