Formed in the wake of the September 11th attacks, ANSWER has since helped to organize many of the largest anti-war demonstrations in the United States, including demonstrations of hundreds of thousands against the Iraq War. The group has also organized activities around a variety of other issues, ranging from Palestinians to immigrant rights to Social Security to the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles.
ANSWER characterizes itself as anti-imperialist, and its steering committee consists of socialists, civil rights advocates, and left-wing or progressive organizations from the Muslim, Arab, Palestinian, Filipino, Haitian, and Latin American communities. ANSWER was formed at the initiative of Ramsey Clark and the International Action Center; many of ANSWER's leaders were members of Workers World Party at the time of ANSWER's founding, and are current members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
ANSWER has faced criticism from other anti-war groups for its affiliations as well as its tactics at demonstrations, and criticism from various sources for its anti-Israel stance and for antisemitic sentiments expressed by some demonstrators at its protests.
Though its national headquarters are in Washington, D.C., where it organizes its national antiwar demonstrations, the coalition's influence is seen as being strongest in San Francisco, and increasingly, in Los Angeles.
ANSWER's next major demonstration took place on April 20, 2002, which according to ANSWER's website, drew 100,000 people to Washington in the largest pro-Palestinian demonstration in U.S. history. On October 26 of that year, ANSWER held a demonstration against Congress' vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq, which according to its website drew 100,000 in San Francisco and 200,000 in Washington, D.C.
ANSWER called for national anti-war, pro-Palestinian, and anti-Haitian coup demonstrations on March 20, 2004, (the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.) The protest in New York, cosponsored by UFPJ, was attended by 100,000 according to the ANSWER website. ANSWER participated in the March for Women's Lives on April 25, and the protests of the 2004 Republican National Convention from August 30 to September 2.
ANSWER and UFPJ jointly sponsored a rally in Washington, D.C. on September 24, 2005, with attendance estimated by police at 150,000 and by organizers at 300,000 people.
ANSWER was involved with demonstrations on May Day, 2006, in support of rights for illegal immigrants, which brought out several million people across the U.S. These protests were organized by a number of groups unrelated to ANSWER as well.
In late June 2006, ANSWER organized and participated in local rallies against the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Shortly after Israel invaded Lebanon two weeks later, ANSWER — along with the National Council of Arab Americans and the Muslim American Society — initiated a call for protests on August 12, 2006, against the "U.S.-Israeli War on the People of Lebanon and Palestine." Organizers estimated that the August 12 demonstrations drew 30,000 protesters in Washington, 10,000 in San Francisco, and 5,000 in Los Angeles.
ANSWER called national antiwar demonstrations in San Francisco and Washington, DC for September 15, 2007. According to the group, the attendance was 100,000.
ANSWER figures for the size of its protests are often higher than corresponding police or media figures. For example, in March 2007, ANSWER engaged in a public dispute with the San Francisco Chronicle about the size of a march. ANSWER Western Regional Coordinator Richard Becker wrote in an op-ed:
WHILE TENS of thousands of spirited anti-war marchers were still entering the San Francisco Civic Center on Sunday, March 18... organizers got word that a Chronicle reporter covering the event had already determined that only 3,000 people were present... Mainstream media undercounting of progressive demonstrations is nothing new, but this one had a magician's touch.
Analyzing the width and pace of the march together with the time required for the march to pass a certain point, Becker argues that the Chronicle's estimate is "impossible.
Some on the left have also accused ANSWER of exaggerating protest attendance. An October 2007 Socialist Worker editorial penned by Todd Chretien and republished on CounterPunch asserted: "Ask anyone who has worked with ANSWER, and they will tell you that its organizers always double the number of people at their marches. More recently, the multiplication factor has increased." Chretien describes this as "disorienting for the movement.
As of December 2006, ANSWER's Steering Committee consists of:
There has been much discussion among U.S. leftist opponents of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions of the degree to which they are or are not willing to work with ANSWER, as well as with Not In Our Name (NION) and, more recently, The World Can't Wait, which have somewhat similar histories, with the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA) having played a significant role in their foundings.
Michael Albert and Stephen R. Shalom writing in Z argue that most people at a "...demonstration will in fact be unaware of exactly who said what and whether any particular speaker omitted this or that point. What they will experience will be a powerful antiwar protest. And most of the public will see it that way too."
ANSWER responded by saying that "UFPJ has publicly proclaimed its intention to split the movement," and accused UFPJ of "a false and ugly attack on the ANSWER Coalition," and of doing so for "embarrassingly petty and astonishingly trivial" reasons. Besides giving their own version of the events surrounding September 24, ANSWER's statement indicates some less trivial differences between the groups: they criticize UFPJ for its willingness to support the ideas of moderate politicians, such as John Murtha, who are disaffected with the war, while ANSWER "considers it harmful to try to tailor the message of the progressive movement to please the long-awaited but fictional support from the politicians." ANSWER asks, "Why is it that UFPJ's leadership can build a gushing "united front" with imperialist politicians but not the ANSWER Coalition, which has organized hundreds of thousands of people to promote genuine peace and self-determination?"
At considerable length, ANSWER argued that the current split has historical roots, dating back to "the first Iraq war of 1990–1991, [when] some of the same leadership forces now in UFPJ chose to create a second antiwar coalition and insisted on marching under the banner "Economic Sanctions Not War" while some of those who are today in the leadership of ANSWER argued that economic sanctions were war — and a weapon of mass destruction at that. We contended that economic sanctions against Iraq would result in a form of genocide against the Iraqi people and that the only correct position for the U.S. antiwar movement was to demand, 'No war against Iraq.'… The economic sanctions ultimately took the lives of more than one million Iraqis, most of them children under the age of five, according to the UN's own statistics… The question for the antiwar movement is this: are we building a movement that comprehensively challenges imperialism or are we opposed only to certain tactics employed by imperialism such as overt, unilateral military invasion?"
Regarding the prospects of working again with UFPJ, ANSWER wrote, "[we regard] the united front that was formed at [our] initiative to have been remarkably successful," and later, "Different groups may have different slogans on their banners, but they should try to overcome the forces of division so as to march shoulder to shoulder against the real enemy."
Although the language of the UFPJ Steering Committee statement makes the break appear definitive, they have published similar statements (rejecting future work with ANSWER) in the past, only to later agree to united demonstrations. A May 2005 decision to the same effect — announcing a September 24 demonstration separate from the one initiated by ANSWER — was reversed when UFPJ agreed to a united antiwar demonstration. Previous united demonstrations between the two groups took place on October 25, 2003, and March 20, 2004.
The Anti-Defamation League has accused ANSWER of supporting organizations frequently characterized as terrorist organizations, such has Hezbollah and Hamas. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency "Several anti-war protests in San Francisco organized by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) featured imagery and slogans some considered anti-Semitic, including the burning of the Israeli flag, chants of support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Nazi-like arm salutes. Similarly, the Stephen Roth Institute has noted "Anti-Israel and antisemitic content has marked some ANSWER events.
According to ANSWER, "We strongly abhor all forms of racism and bigotry, including anti-Semitism. At the same time, we don't believe that criticism of Israeli government policies should be labeled as anti-Semitism any more than criticism of U.S. government policy should be labeled as anti-American."
Lerner is founder and editor of Tikkun magazine and the Tikkun Community that grew out of it. The Tikkun Community was (and as of 2008 is) a member of UFPJ. According to Tikkun, "many Jews report that they were encountering what they perceived to be anti-Semitism at anti-war demonstrations organized by International A.N.S.W.E.R." Tikkun described the perceptions of anti-Semitism as based on Israel being singled out for criticism and ANSWER's failure to "acknowledge or support the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination."
The story received mainstream media coverage, but when Lerner later indicated he had not asked to speak at the rally, the L.A. Weekly concluded, "the Lerner brouhaha was less hot-buttoned than advertised.
ANSWER has also been involved in the much larger demonstrations in opposition to the Sensenbrenner Bill and support of legalization for illegal immigrants that have occurred across the United States since March 2006. ANSWER was not the primary organizer of the initial large protests in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas in late March and early April, but endorsed them. ANSWER was more prominent in the promotion of a May Day "Day Without An Immigrant" strike and boycott, because this call was controversial within the immigrant rights movement, contributing to a growing division between its left-wing advocates and moderates who believed a strike and boycott would be counterproductive.
ANSWER's position on the left side of this issue led to criticism; Jaime Contreras, president of the National Capital Immigrant Coalition and chairman of the local Service Employees International Union in Washington, D.C., told the Washington Post regarding ANSWER that, "Groups... that have done nothing on immigration have no reason to stick their nose where it doesn't belong... They have no business saying, 'Let's do a strike' when it will create a humongous burden on immigrant groups. They need to stay in their box." Brian Becker, ANSWER's national coordinator, responded that ANSWER has in fact been involved in immigration in the long term, and that "We are just part of the coalition; we are not spearheading it at all... Whatever the immigrant rights community calls for is what we support.