See also: People’s Rights Fund Progress Unity Fund Workers World Party Party for Socialism & Liberation Richard Becker Sara Flounders Elias Rashmawi Ramsey Clark International Action Center Brian Becker United For Peace and Justice
Early Years & Key Leaders
The ANSWER Coalition—a.k.a. International ANSWER—draws its name from the acronym for “Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.” It was established on September 14, 2001—three days after al Qaeda‘s terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Prior to 9/11, ANSWER’s leading founders—Richard Becker, Sara Flounders, and Elias Rashmawi—were already planning to stage a late-September protest against “the Bush administration’s reactionary foreign and domestic policy and the IMF and World Bank.” But in light of 9/11, they quickly adapted their focus to the circumstances and organized ANSWER as an “anti-racist, anti-war, peace and justice group.”
As ANSWER became a leading organizer of post-9/11 demonstrations against the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, it formed loose coalitions with other likeminded entities such as Not In Our Name, Palestine Solidarity campus groups, and United For Peace and Justice.
ANSWER held its initial mass rallies on September 29, 2001, in Washington, DC and San Francisco—drawing 25,000 and 15,000 participants, respectively—to protest the Bush administration’s impending invasion of Afghanistan, whose Taliban regime had aided and abetted the al Qaeda terrorist network responsible for 9/11.
Run by Ramsey Clark’s International Action Center—an organization staffed in large part by members of the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party (WWP)—the fledgling ANSWER depicted the United States as a racist, imperialist, sexist, militaristic nation guilty of unspeakable crimes against humanity.
The libertarian author Stephen Suleyman Schwartz in 2002 described ANSWER an “ultra-Stalinist network” whose members served as “active propaganda agents for Serbia, Iraq, and North Korea, as well as Cuba, countries they repeatedly visit and acclaim.”
In ANSWER’s early years, its policies and activities were dictated by a steering committee that included such groups as the Alliance for Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines; Bayan–USA/International; the Free Palestine Alliance; the Haiti Support Network; the International Action Center; the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizing/Pastors for Peace; the Kensington Welfare Rights Union; the Korea Truth Commission; the Mexico Solidarity Network; the Middle East Children’s Alliance; the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. & Canada; the Nicaragua Network; the Partnership for Civil Justice Legal Defense and Education Fund; and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Moreover, ANSWER identified a number of additional organizations as key members of its Coalition. Among these were Al-Awda, the Green Party USA, the International Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal, the National Council of Arab Americans, the National Lawyer’s Guild, the New Communist Party of the Netherlands, Not In Our Name, and United For Peace and Justice. Other key allies of ANSWER included the president of AFSCME Local 1702, the vice president of the Baltimore branch of Al Sharpton‘s National Action Network, and the president of the World Union of Freethinkers (a militant atheist organization).
As evidenced by the fact that the ANSWER Coalition’s steering committee included such groups as the Free Palestine Alliance, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, and the Muslim Students Association, ANSWER was, from the very start, a staunchly pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel entity. Indeed, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) asserts that ANSWER:
In May 2002, “in response to a renewed massive aggression from Israeli Occupation Forces against the Palestinian people,” ANSWER dispatched an “emergency fact-finding delegation” of human-rights activists and legal/public-health experts to the West Bank and Gaza—where they found what they described as “undisputable evidence of a massacre [by Israelies against Palestinians] in Jenin, a densely populated civilian refugee camp.” But in fact, hard evidence shows that no such atrocity ever took place in Jenin.
On December 18-19, 2002, ANSWER participated in the First International Cairo Conference, which produced a document that defined Palestinian terrorist attacks as legitimate acts of liberation and urged people to “stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq and Palestine, recognizing that war and aggression against them is but part of a U.S. project of global domination and subjugation.” The declaration also called for consumer boycotts against American and Israeli goods.
At the Second International Cairo Conference—held in Egypt in December 2003—ANSWER representatives met with Hamas leader Osama Hamdan, an advocate of suicide bombings against Israel. Ramsey Clark, Sara Flounders, and Elias Rashmawi were among the conference organizers.
On March 23, 2004, ANSWER responded to Israel’s assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin by staging an emergency protest outside the Israeli consulate in New York, where participants voiced support for Yassin, Hamas, the Palestinian Intifada, and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
On April 18, 2004, New York-based leaders of ANSWER and the International Action Center joined with Al-Awda and New Jersey Solidarity to protest Israel’s recent killing of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
During a July 31, 2006, interview with Fox News, ANSWER’s national director, Brian Becker, said: “Do I consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization? The answer is no.”
On August 12, 2006, ANSWER, along with the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation and the National Council of Arab Americans, helped lead more than 30,000 demonstrators (by ANSWER’s count) in a Washington, DC rally to “Stop the U.S.-Israeli war against Lebanon and Palestine.” At issue was Israel’s then-recent military response to a longstanding, relentless terror campaign that Hamas and Hezbollah had been conducting against the Jewish state. Smaller demonstrations were also held that same day (August 12) in San Francisco (10,000 participants), Los Angeles (5,000), Seattle (600), and Orlando (300).
At Al-Awda’s sixth annual convention in May 2008, ANSWER co-founder and West Coast regional coordinator Richard Becker proclaimed his “full solidarity” with the Palestinian people.
That same month, ANSWER co-sponsored several anti-Israel events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Nakba—Arabic for “Catastrophe”—the term that many Palestinians and Arabs use to describe the founding of the state of Israel.
In December 2008 and January 2009, ANSWER helped organize rallies in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington, and elsewhere to protest Israel’s military operations in Gaza. At these events, signs abounded condemning Jews, praising Hamas, and likening Israel’s military actions to the Holocaust. At issue was the fact that on December 27, 2008, Israel—in response to years of provocations and terrorst attacks by Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza—had launched a military operation called “Operation Cast Lead.”
On January 10, 2009, ANSWER helped coordinate anti-Israel marches in hundreds of cities worldwide, where hundreds of thousands participated in public calls to “Let Gaza Live!”
At a March 21, 2009 demonstration in Washington, a number of participants waved Hezbollah flags and displayed signs bearing such slogans as: “Condemn Israeli Baby Killers,” “Stop the Palestinian Genocide,” and “Stop Israel’s Slaughter in Gaza.”
On August 2, 2014 in Washington, DC, ANSWER helped lead 50,000 marchers (by ANSWER’s count) in denouncing “the Israeli massacre against people in Gaza.”
Additional Key Events in ANSWER’s History, 2002-2005*ANSWER’s Houston chapter was a signatory to a February 20, 2002 document condemning military tribunals and the detention of immigrants apprehended in connection with post-9/11 terrorism investigations. The document read, in part: “[T]hey [the U.S. government] are coming for the Arab, Muslim and South Asian immigrants…. The recent ‘disappearances’, indefinite detention[s], the round-ups, the secret military tribunals, the denial of legal representation, evidence kept a secret from the accused, the denial of any due process for Arab, Muslim, South Asians and others, have chilling similarities to a police state.”
ANSWER’s first “six-figure” rally took place on April 20, 2002, when (by ANSWER’s count) more than 100,000 people protested outside the White House and marched through Washington, DC “in support of justice for Palestine.” According to ANSWER, this demonstration “broke the existing taboo in the United States among the traditional peace movement against open solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle,” and “revealed that the U.S. anti-war movement … could successfully organize with tens of thousands of Arab-American, Muslim and South Asian people to form a united front.” The aforementioned communities, said ANSWER, “have been under siege” in the U.S. since 9/11.
On June 29, 2002, ANSWER organized a demonstration at the site of the FBI and Justice Department headquarters in Washington, DC, in opposition to the USA Patriot Act and other “attacks on civil rights and civil liberties.”
On October 26, 2002, ANSWER organized the first major national demonstration against the possibility of a U.S. war against Iraq. Among the largest crowds of participants were those in Washington, DC (more than 200,000, by ANSWER’s count) and San Francisco (100,000).
On January 18, 2003, ANSWER initiated the first internationally coordinated Day of Action against the impending war in Iraq, when (by ANSWER’s count) some 500,000 people demonstrated in the District of Columbia, as did 200,000 in San Francisco, and millions more in cities around the world.
On February 15, 2003, ANSWER, in conjunction with United for Peace and Justice, helped mobilize another set of massive antiwar demonstrations. Some 500,000 (by ANSWER’s count) attended in New York City, as did 100,000 in Los Angeles, and many others in Chicago, San Francisco, and elsewhere across the United States.
On March 15, 2003—four days before the U.S. invasion of Iraq—ANSWER organized demonstrations of over 100,000 (by ANSWER’s count) in Washington, DC; 100,000 in San Francisco; and 50,000 in Los Angeles. Internationally, millions of people in more than 2,000 cities and towns likewise took to the streets in anti-war rallies.
Marching behind a banner that read, “Occupation is Not Liberation,” ANSWER led a march of 30,000 (by ANSWER’s count) in Washington, DC on April 12, 2003—three days after U.S. forces had taken control of Baghdad. Simultaneous demonstrations were held in more than 60 countries around the world.
On MAY 17-18, 2003, the ANSWER Coalition held its second national conference in New York City. More than 850 organizers and activists attended.On October 25, 2003, ANSWER initiated a demonstration in Washington, DC where 100,000 people (by ANSWER’s count) demanded that the United States “Bring the Troops Home Now” and “End the Occupation of Iraq.” United For Peace & Justice (UFPJ) co-sponsored this event.
To mark the first anniversary of the U.S. bombing and invasion of Iraq, the ANSWER Coalition designated March 20, 2004 as a coordinated Day of Regional Actions all over the world. ANSWER and UFPJ co-sponsored a New York City rally that drew (by ANSWER’s count) some 100,000 marchers. All told, there were rallies in approximately 250 U.S. cities and at least 60 countries worldwide. In addition to opposing America’s “occupation of Iraq,” the demonstrations also condemned Israel’s “occupation of Palestine.”
On January 20, 2005—the day of President George W. Bush’s second inauguration—over 10,000 antiwar activists held a “Counterinaugural Demonstration” at an ANSWER Mass Convergence site along the Inaugural Parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Factional Split in 2005*
In 2005/2006, ANSWER underwent a factional split in which a San Francisco-based contingent calling itself the Party for Socialism and Liberation took many of the organization’s activists with it, while the New York contingent remained loyal to Ramsey Clark and the International Action Center.
Split with United For Peace & Justice*In December 2005, United For Peace & Justice (UFPJ) announced that it had “decided not to coordinate work with ANSWER again on a national level,” on grounds that ANSWER: (a) had failed to honor agreed-upon time limits for its sections of a recent pre-march rally, thereby delaying the start of the main event, and (b) had managed to turn out only a small number of volunteers for that event.
ANSWER responded by accusing UFPJ of directing “a false and ugly attack on the ANSWER Coalition,” and of doing so for “embarrassingly petty and astonishingly trivial” reasons.
Key Events in ANSWER’s History Since 2010*
On March 20, 2010, ANSWER activists were prominent among thousands of marchers in Washington, DC who demanded: “U.S. Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!”
On May 1, 2011, ANSWER was a key participant in a Los Angeles demonstration where 20 to 40 thousand people convened “to commemorate May Day, a day that belongs to all workers”—i.e., including illegal immigrants.
In June 2011, ANSWER organized a six-city speaking tour called “Eyewitness Libya,” to protest the international military actions against Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi. As the Anti-Defamation League reports: “Common themes throughout the tour stops included opposition to Western intervention in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East, and steadfast support for the Qadhafi regime—despite its ongoing brutal and systemic violence against Libyan civilians.”
In the summer and fall of 2014, ANSWER was a key organizer—along with the Revolutionary Communist Party—of protest demonstrations denouncing two recent incidents where black men—18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri and 43-year-old Eric Garner in New York—had died as a result of altercations with white police officers.
Shortly after Republican Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, ANSWER played a major role in orchestrating massive, sometimes violent, anti-Trump protests in cities all across the United States.
How ANSWER Rallies Are Conducted*
Most ANSWER-organized rallies are conducted in a similar fashion: Protesters gather at a mustering ground flanked by information and merchandise tables that are manned by a variety of leftist and communist organizations, which have paid ANSWER a fee for permission to distribute literature or sell their wares. An elevated stage is set up at the front of the rally site, complete with a massive sound system. After a musical prelude, a number of speeches are delivered—usually, over a dozen. Once this initial round of speeches is completed, the attendees march along a short route to the location of the final rally, where they encounter more literature and merchandise tables and are treated to another round of speeches. At both rally locations and along the course of the march, ANSWER volunteers raise funds by moving through the crowd with large buckets into which attendees deposit cash donations.
The speakers at ANSWER rallies are generally members of the political far left who oppose not only America’s role in the war on terror, but also many additional aspects of the nation’s foreign and domestic policies. Such speakers include prominent members of activist and communist organizations; celebrities and entertainers; and politicians—often members of the Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus. Some—such as Brian Becker, Teresa Gutierrez, Larry Holmes, Sara Flounders, and Sarah Sloan—are members of the Workers World Party. When addressing the crowds, these speakers accuse the U.S. of a broad spectrum of transgressions, including its alleged pursuit of colonialism, imperialism and world domination; its “attacks” on the “civil rights and civil liberties” of Americans, as embodied in the Patriot Act; its mistreatment of “political prisoners” like cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal; its allegedly excessive military-related spending coupled with its “cuts in social programs”; and the discrimination, institutional racism, and police brutality it supposedly directs against nonwhite minorities.
Other notable speakers who have appeared at ANSWER events include: Harry Belafonte, Medea Benjamin, Michael Berg, Madhi Bray, Ramsey Clark, Herbert Daughtry, Mike Farrell, George Galloway, Thomas Gumbleton, Delores Huerta, Jesse Jackson, Mumia Abu Jamal, Jessica Lange, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Elias Rashmawi, Al Sharpton, Cindy Sheehan, Michael Shehadeh, Lynne Stewart, and Lucius Walker.
*ANSWER’s Positions on Various Issues*
ANSWER supports an immigration policy that calls for open borders as well as amnesty and full civil rights for illegal aliens residing in the United States. Along those lines, the organization’s website once featured a link to a petition that read: “Neoliberal economic policies targeting Latin America, like NAFTA and CAFTA, have pushed millions of people into abject poverty. Immigrants are forced to come to the U.S. to look for work. Nobody should be criminalized for attempting to survive. No human being is illegal. Racism against immigrants emanates from the same forces behind the U.S. war to conquer and control the wealth of Iraq.”
ANSWER became involved in immigrant-rights activism in 2005, through protests against groups like Save Our State and the Minutemen Project, both of which are devoted to curbing illegal immigration. By ANSWER’s reckoning, however, such organizations are guilty of practicing racist vigilantism.
In 2005-06, ANSWER strongly opposed HR 4437, a bill proposed by Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, which would have made it a felony for anyone to reside in the U.S. illegally, or for any citizen to assist such individuals in doing so. ANSWER was also prominent in the promotion of a “Day Without An Immigrant” strike and boycott on May 1, 2006.
Guantanamo Bay Detention Center:
ANSWER charges that at the U.S. military’s detention center at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, people are “imprisoned and interrogated … with no recourse whatsoever to due process.”
Over the years, ANSWER has mobilized against “the illegal coup and UN occupation of Haiti”; “the illegal [U.S.] blockade of Cuba”; “the illegal [U.S.-backed] ‘regime change’ war on Libya”; the U.S. “occupation of Afghanistan”; “the renewed [U.S.] assaults on Iraq and Syria”; “the [U.S.] drone attacks on Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia”; and “racist and religious profiling” in the United States.
ANSWER today has chapters in Albuquerque, Boston, Chicago, Connecticut, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, and Syracuse.
How ANSWER Is Funded
During the early to late 2000s, a 501(c)3 nonprofit known as the People’s Rights Fund served as a fiscal sponsor for ANSWER and the International Action Center (IAC), allowing donors to make tax-deductibe contributions to both groups—neither of which was tax-exempt.
More recently, the San Francisco-based Progress Unity Fund (PUF), which has ties to the Workers World Party, has taken over the role of fiscal sponsor for ANSWER and the International Action Center. In 2007, for instance, PUF allocated a total of $270,000 in grants, of which ANSWER chapters received nearly $230,000. The following year, PUF issued grants totaling almost $140,000, of which more than $80,000 went to various ANSWER chapters.