Meeting with Ahmadinejad
More than 100 activists and journalists from a variety of organizations, religious groups and media outlets attended a gathering with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Warwick Hotel here Sept. 21. The leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran was in the city to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly.
These prominent leaders of grassroots social justice and human rights movements within the U.S. consciously rejected a well-funded campaign to demonize Iran and whip up a pro-war climate. Ahmadinejad’s visit had been preceded by incendiary billboards, ads in buses and newspapers, hostile media coverage and demonstrations against Iran, much of it funded by the CIA-connected U.S. Agency for International Development and private corporations.
After an Iranian-style dinner, the gathering moved to a conference room where representatives from various organizations spoke on the plight of people inside the United States. The displacement of African Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the burgeoning prison-industrial complex, conditions facing political prisoners, the crisis in U.S.-Iranian relations and the overall economic crisis dominated the discussion.
Among the individuals and organizations in attendance were Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. House of Representatives member from Georgia and the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2008; poet and activist Amiri Baraka; MOVE Minister of Information Ramona Africa; International Action Center co-director Sara Flounders; Ardeshir Ommani and Eleanor Ommani, co-founders of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee; former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark; Million Worker March Movement organizer Brenda Stokely; Shafeah M'Balia of Black Workers for Justice; Phil Wilayto of Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality; Larry Holmes of Bail Out the People Movement; Don DeBar of WBAIx.org; Ryme Katkhouda of the People’s Media Center; Michael McPhearson of United for Peace and Justice; and Rev. Graylan Hagler.
After listening for an hour and a half to 22 different speakers, President Ahmadinejad addressed the guests for approximately 45 minutes. He touched on the international struggle for peace and justice, saying that “trying to build peace is the most important and comprehensive struggle that mankind can have.”
He added, “Those who are opposed to justice are a few, a minority.”