Anti-War Heat’s Up

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Bearing such signs as “My Son Was Not Born to Kill Other Mothers’ Children,� “Support Our Troops - Impeach Bush,� and “Peace Is a Family Value,� about 300,000 demonstrators descended on the nation’s capital on Saturday to tell the Bush administration, “End the War on Iraq: Bring Our Troops Home NOW!�

In this, the largest anti-war protest held in Washington, DC since the US invaded Iraq, both speakers and marchers alike made it clear they hadn’t forgotten the disgraceful treatment of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Messages like “Build New Orleans Up, Shut the War Down� and “Make Levees, Not War� were everywhere.

“We're here today because the government that left mostly Black and poor people stranded in New Orleans with no food, water or medicine is the same government waging occupationist, militarist policies abroad,� Damu Smith, founder of Black Voices for Peace, declared from the stage. “We've got to bring both of these movements together – the movements for peace and the movement for justice right here in our neighborhoods.�

War veterans and families of servicemen and women were out in force. Howard Williams, a Vietnam veteran from Maryland, said he’s been to all the major marches there in DC against the war on Iraq. “There is nothing on my agenda that's more important than expressing my opinion about this,� he stated. “I've written my members of Congress and made phone calls, so all I can do now is the foot work.� Mary Williams, the “favorite aunt� of Army Sergeant Major Ignatius Williams, stationed in Baghdad, was there from Louisiana on behalf of her nephew. The extended Jennings family came from Orangeburg, South Carolina to honor Darius Jennings, who lost his life in Iraq.
The most renowned family member of a fallen serviceman was Cindy Sheehan, who recently held a 26-day vigil outside Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch. Her 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year. “We need a people's movement to end this war,� she told the crowd. “If no one else will hold this administration accountable, we will. We'll be the checks and balances on this out-of-control, criminal government.�

As the day wore on, protesters continued to stream in from the more than 350 cities and towns across the country that had organized transportation to come to the demonstration. New York City was well represented by individuals such as Michael Fitzgerald who handed out cards and magnets reading “Question Authority,� and “Dissent Is American.� As to why he was there, Fitzgerald said, “I have a 10-year-old daughter. I'm really worried about her future. I’m totally fed up with this administration and what's it’s doing globally and here at home.�

A large contingent of 1199 SEIU union members had come from the Big Apple as well. “We know we have to be here because we must stop Bush,� said Onika Johnson. “We need the troops home. Look at New Orleans.� There was plenty of local representation as well, including a very energetic group of students from Howard University. As one young woman put it, “We do not support George W. Bush, and it's time for him to get up out of all this!� Wearing a T-shirt stating, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,� Jamia Wilson said she was there to “stand in solidarity with the hundreds and thousands of people who came here today looking for peace.�

The protest was a joint effort by United for Peace & Justice and International ANSWER, each of which did a masterful job of organizing this many-facetted event. Just a few of the rally’s varied speakers were California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, British Member of Parliament George Galloway, actress Jessica Lange, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Brenda Stokely of New York City Labor Against the War. The Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered a strong message as well, stating that the war was built on lies, and “America is too great a nation to be trapped this way. We're losing lives, money and honor.�

For the first time in many years, ANSWER was able to secure a permit for the march to pass directly in front of the White House. There were so many protesters that the last marchers hadn’t even left the Ellipse, the grounds where the rally was held, when the lead marchers returned.

There were also more than a dozen large theme tents featuring a vast array of organizing resources. There was, for example, a tent dedicated to the war's impact on the Iraqi people; a tent for veterans, military families, and Gold Star families; and a counter-recruitment tent.

The long but fulfilling day was capped off with Operation: Ceasefire, a free concert held on the Washington Monument grounds. It featured Joan Baez and many other socially conscious musical artists.

For more reports please or call (212) 481-7745 to order the newsstand edition of The Black Star News the world’s favorite Pan African news weekly. Also ask for Vernon Verdree in the advertisement department.

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