On March 2, 2024, nearly 1,000 Mainers responded to a call from the Maine Coalition for Palestine to march through the middle of Portland, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and justice for Palestinians. Here we publish excerpts from speeches by two members of Maine DSA, which is a member of the coalition.

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Spencer Barton

I’d like to thank my fellow members of the Maine Democratic socialists of America and the southern Maine Workers Center, and Bodily Autonomy Maine, as well as our friends and comrades in the Party for Socialism and Liberation and everyone in the Maine Coalition for Palestine. You may know Maine DSA for our work on local referenda for rent control, a Green New Deal for Portland, affordable housing for the working class, and our work in the statewide campaign for a power grid that actually serves the people of Maine. And, all around the country, chapters of the DSA and college campus groups of the Young Democratic Socialists of America are active in organizing against genocide and for Palestinian Liberation. 

I come to you as a frustrated student in two senses. I’ve always wanted to build things that help people, but I’ve never wanted to build weapons of war and genocide for the military industrial complex. I left my engineering degree program in 2020 during the height of pre-vaccine Covid lockdowns on campuses, a time when a total of seven deaths of despair occurred within a matter of months at my college of just over five thousand students.

Students and youth of the present day face unprecedented pressures in many regards: climate change, economic instability, the rapid pace of technological development (including mass surveillance), as well as witnessing the decline of the US empire and the end of whatever remained of “the American dream.”

Yet students and youth of the past faced the threat of nuclear annihilation and responded to the unspeakable horrors of the Vietnam war, showing us a way forward in the present.

In an excerpt from Fred Halstead’s book Out Now, he recounts how student strikes shut down college campuses across the country, converting many campuses into anti-war organizing centers for education and mass mobilization. 

The May upsurge [in 1970] shut down or took over for a period of time some 536 college campuses, with something over 350 of them on strike and the rest closed down by school officials. 

Protest demonstrations of significant impact occurred at over half of the 1,350 college-level institutions in the country. Sixty percent of the college enrollment of 7.5 million, that is, over 4 million students, were involved. In addition, uncounted high school, junior high school, and even elementary school students participated. 

By all accounts it was the biggest student strike in world history. The magnitude of these events showed clearly that the opposition to the war had passed far beyond a radical vanguard and now embraced virtually an entire younger generation….

Antiwar referenda in the scattered places where the movement could get them on the ballot would carry by majorities rather than just receiving large minorities. Significant trade union endorsement of antiwar activities would become the rule rather than the exception. The great bulk of the young soldiers going to Vietnam as replacements would be opposed to the war even before they got there. And the ruling class lived in fear of another upsurge which might go further than that in May 1970.

And contingents of Palestinians turned out en masse in American demonstrations against the Vietnam war. Now it is high time we do the same and more for the people of Palestine. 

The struggle against the ongoing genocide in Gaza is a political struggle, it is an economic struggle, it is an anti-militarist struggle, an anti-imperialist struggle, an anti-racist struggle, and an anti-colonial struggle. Any mass movement of this magnitude inevitably leads many to realize the need for an anti-capitalist struggle and a revolutionary struggle, because a free Palestine is not truly free without socialism, and none of us are free so long as we live under the boot of capitalism and imperialism.

Jeanne Lafferty

There are fourteen million union members today in the United States. Nine million of them are represented by unions who have called for an immediate ceasefire. Nine million… so far! They, and we, have the power to make the earth shake with our outrage. I want to add that the last year I spent working in Boston during the Vietnam antiwar movement, I worked with veterans’ groups and they found a place in my heart that will always be there. Their bravery on the battlefield was matched, certainly, by their bravery in joining the antiwar movement by forming their own movements, by publishing newspapers, by having their own coffee houses, and marching in uniforms. That was illegal, but they marched with us in the huge marches. The United States imperialist government couldn’t use ground troops in Vietnam [by the end of the war] because they would not fight. Yesterday, I watched the video of Aaron Bushnell and of the vets burning their uniforms in honor of him. I was so moved by this. I’ve always thought that we could organize the military and I think it can still happen even though we don’t have a conscripted army. Aaron has shown us this. And the antiwar vets who burned their uniforms have shown us this. So I just want to end by saying, Remember Aaron Bushnell! He is not alone!

Spencer B and Jeanne L are members of Maine DSA’s From the River to the Sea Working Group.