100,000 March Against Iraq War in Washington
Yesterday, nearly 100,000 people -- led by anti-war Iraq veterans, military families and others -- marched from the White House to the Capitol in Washington, D.C. to demand an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq. The march concluded with a dramatic "die-in" of 5,000 people surrounding the Capitol. Almost 200 people were arrested when police prevented them taking an anti-war message to Congress.
People marched shoulder-to-shoulder on eight-lane-wide Pennsylvania Avenue, with the densely packed march stretching more than 10 blocks. It was a historic action and a step forward for the anti-war movement.
Protesters surged onto the Capitol's south lawn and up the steps where they were met by a police line. There, Iraq veterans conducted a solemn ceremony to memorialize the U.S. soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war. Over 5,000 people then laid down in a symbolic "die-in" -- one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in recent years.
One hundred ninety-seven people, including dozens of veterans and activists, were arrested when they tried to deliver their anti-war message to Congress and were stopped by the police. Among the arrested were Adam Kokesh, Liam Madden, Jeff Millard, and Garrett Reppenhagen of Iraq Veterans Against the War; Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism); Ann Wright, former U.S. Army Colonel; Michael Prysner, Iraq war veteran and ANSWER activist in Florida; National Committee to Free the Cuban Five National Coordinator Gloria La Riva; and Eugene Puryear, Howard University student and National Coordinator of Youth & Student ANSWER. Police pepper-sprayed demonstrators without provocation.
This mass action came on the heels of the pro-war Petraeus report to Congress and Bush's wholehearted endorsement of the report. Meanwhile, the war rages on, destroying Iraqi society. Nearly 4,000 U.S. solidiers and up to 1 million Iraqis have died since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.
Many organizations and individuals joined together to sponsor the protest in Washington, D.C. timed to coincide with the Petraeus report on the "surge" in Iraq, including the ANSWER Coalition; Ramsey Clark; Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation; Mounzer Sleiman, Vice Chair, National Council of Arab Americans; Cindy Sheehan; Camp Casey Peace Institute; Cynthia McKinney; Veterans for Peace (National); Garett Reppenhagen, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Chair of Board of Directors; Tina Richards, CEO of Grassroots America; Rev. Lenox Yearwood, CEO of Hip Hop Caucus; Code Pink; Father Roy Bourgeois and Eric LeCompte, School of Americas Watch; Al-Awda, The Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Kevin Zeese, Democracy Rising; Navy Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto, co-founder Appeal for Redress; Liam Madden, Pres., Boston Chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War and co-founder of Appeal for Redress; Malik Rahim, founder of Common Ground Collective, New Orleans; Howard Zinn, Author and Historian; Carlos & Melida Arredondo, Gold Star Families for Peace and hundreds of other organizations and individuals.
Thousands March in D.C. War Protest
WASHINGTON (AP) — Several thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown Washington on Saturday, clashing with police at the foot of the Capitol steps where at least 160 protesters were arrested.
The group marched from the White House to the Capitol to demand an end to the Iraq war. Their numbers stretched for blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue, and they held banners and signs and chanted, "What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now."
Army veteran Justin Cliburn, 25, of Lawton, Okla., was among a contingent of Iraq veterans in attendance.
"We're occupying a people who do not want us there," Cliburn said of Iraq. "We're here to show that it isn't just a bunch of old hippies from the 60s who are against this war."
Counterprotesters lined the sidewalks behind metal barricades. There were some heated shouting matches between the two sides.
The arrests came after protesters lay down on the Capitol lawn in what they called a "die in" — with signs on top of their bodies to represent soldiers killed in Iraq. When police took no action, some of the protesters started climbing over a barricade at the foot of the Capitol steps.
Many were arrested without a struggle after they jumped over the waist-high barrier. But some grew angry as police with shields and riot gear attempted to push them back. At least two people were showered with chemical spray. Protesters responded by throwing signs and chanting: "Shame on you."
The number of arrests by Capitol Police on Saturday was much higher than previous anti-war rallies in Washington this year. Five people were arrested at a protest outside the Pentagon in March when they walked onto a bridge that had been closed off to accommodate the demonstration, then refused to leave. And at a rally in January, about 50 demonstrators blocked a street near the Capitol, but they were dispersed without arrests.
The protesters gathered earlier Saturday near the White House in Lafayette Park with signs saying "End the war now" and calling for President Bush's impeachment. The rally was organized by the ANSWER Coalition and other groups.
Organizers estimated that more than 100,000 people attended the rally and march. That number could not be confirmed; police did not give their own estimate. But there appeared to be tens of thousands of people in attendance.
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan told the crowd is was time to be assertive.
"It's time to lay our bodies on the line and say we've had enough," she said. "It's time to shut this city down."
About 13 blocks away, nearly 1,000 counterprotesters gathered near the Washington Monument, frequently erupting in chants of "U-S-A" and waving American flags.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson, speaking from a stage to crowds clad in camouflage, American flag bandanas and Harley Davidson jackets, said he wanted to send three messages.
"Congress, quit playing games with our troops. Terrorists, we will find you and kill you," he said. "And to our troops, we're here for you, and we support you."
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