Tens of thousands march on the Pentagon
50,000 march in Los Angeles, 40,000 in San Francisco
Watch the March on the Pentagon on C-Span's website. Go to www.c-span.org and search videos for "Ramsey Clark" to find it.
Congratulations to everyone who made it through the snow and freezing rain to get to Washington and join together in the tens of thousands and March on the Pentagon!
The protest was led by a contingent of Iraq war veterans, active-duty service-members, Gold Star families, and veterans from other past and present wars. The rally was broadcast live on C-Span and Al-Jazeera. [To read the rest & other reports see www.ANSWERcoalition.org ]
Tens of thousands march to Pentagon
WW photo: G. Dunkel
Tens of thousands of protesters marched against the U.S. war on Iraq March 17 in Washington, D.C., converging on the Pentagon to demand, “Bring the troops home now!”
Scheduled to mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the 40th anniversary of the March on the Pentagon against the Vietnam War, the action was called by the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition.
The march capped a week of anti-war protests in Washington. The Troops Out Now Coalition set up a seven-day tent encampment in front of the U.S. Capitol to demand an end to war funding.
In synch with the TONC theme “From Protest to Resistance,” on March 15 nine encampment participants, including members of TONC, Code Pink and the Green Party, tried to enter the Rayburn Building where congressional hearings on the war were under way—and were arrested for trying to attend the supposedly public hearing.
The next day, March 16, a contingent of 20 members of the youth group FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand Together—stormed through the building lofting banners and chanting demands that the troops be brought home now. Police tried but failed to stop them.
That evening, several thousand people from a coalition of faith-based organizations marched in torrential rain and sleet to the White House. There, police arrested over 200 taking part in civil disobedience.
Over the March 17-18 weekend, protests took place throughout the United States, from coast to coast—and internationally from Spain to Korea. Hundreds more actions, including those coordinated through the group United for Peace and Justice, were planned to take place through March 20, the actual anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In Washington on March 17, anti-war marchers faced a pro-war presence organized by Move America Forward, a right-wing organization with close ties to the Republican Party; the America First Foundation; Free Republic, an “internet activism site for conservatives”; and Veterans for Victory, an entity headed by two retired Army officers who were central to the initial assault on Baghdad and pursuit of Saddam Hussein. (Source Watch) Heavily armed cops and U.S. flags draped from a rope fence encircled the pro-war rally, camouflaging its size, which appeared to be in the hundreds.
A March 9-11 CNN poll showed that only 32 percent of people in the United States say they support the war in Iraq. Support for the war has dropped from 72 percent at the time of the invasion in 2003.
As the anti-war protesters streamed across Memorial Bridge to face the Pentagon, the pro-war protesters lined the route of march, holding signs with racist slogans, shouting anti-gay and anti-woman comments and making threatening and obscene gestures.
Commenting on this moment, Brenda Stokely, a labor organizer and a leader of the Million Worker March Movement, said: “The people that are marching against the war reflect what the U.S. really looks like. These opponents, white men, a few white women—they want to take us back to the period when the lands of Native Americans were seized, when there was kidnapping of African people and lynching of African Americans. Certainly they have no problem with killing Iraqi people. Looking at them, and looking at us, I know I’m on the right side.”
Stokely was part of the vibrant and militant “Stop the War At Home” contingent that demanded freedom for all U.S. political prisoners, an end to police brutality, an end to raids on immigrants, and rights for Hurricane Katrina/Rita survivors.
Marching in that contingent were the Troops Out Now Coalition marchers behind a huge yellow and red sign, together with the May 1st Immigrant Rights Coalition protesters. This latter group called on the crowd to fight the devastating raids on immigrant workers and organize for a national boycott of work on May Day 2007, asking people to contact www.maydaymovement.blogspot.com.
Anti-war labor was also represented by the Million Worker March Movement with a bright orange banner recalling the Oct. 17, 2004, march on Washington to demand jobs and an end to war, and by the progressive Filipino organization BAYAN. A central BAYAN goal in the United States is to organize Filipino immigrant workers, 70 percent of whom are women.
With them advanced the Jericho Movement with a red dragon banner representing freedom for political prisoners after prison walls are torn down. Ashanti Alston, national coordinator for the Jericho Movement, said: “We are here to free political prisoners who have been languishing in jail for four decades—freedom fighters from the wars of liberation here, wars against women, against workers. We are here so people will make the connection between the war at home and the one abroad. The empire may still be in power in this country and around the world, but people here have not given up!”
Other marchers carried signs calling for the release of the Cuban Five, pro-revolutionary political prisoners falsely accused and convicted of terrorism in the United States for defending their homeland against U.S.-engineered attacks.
Snapping in the frigid wind were more banners of the Stop the War At Home contingent, including: “Stop U.S./Israeli Terror, No Occupation in Palestine and Iraq,” the Pakistan/ U.S. Freedom Forum, and a Workers World Party sign reading “Globalize the Workers’ Struggle.”
The Women’s Fightback Network of the International Action Center carried the message: “Stop the War on Women from New Orleans to New Bedford to Iraq.” This referred to not only U.S. military war but also recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting mostly women workers in Massachusetts, as well as Washington’s deliberate mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina/Rita crisis, devastating a vulnerable population that was perhaps 80 percent women of color. Representatives from the Solidarity Coalition for Katrina/Rita Survivors marched with the contingent.
There was strong participation by young people in the Stop the War At Home contingent. For example, members of “Rosa 7053,” the youth group of the Boston Rosa Parks Human Rights Day Committee, were present. They have been working actively for Katrina/Rita survivors, immigrant rights, HIV/AIDS issues, and “against injustice at home and abroad.”
Members of FIST—including a brand-new chapter from Baldwin-Wallace College near Cleveland as well as young people from New York and Raleigh, N.C.—also marched. Lauren Wilczynski said, “I’m here because if you say you care about a cause, you are lying if you don’t do something about it.”
FIST members led the entire Stop the War at Home group in spirited chanting through the line of march, including a crowd-rocking rendition of “War—what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”Confronting the Pentagon
The march crested Memorial Bridge and spilled onto the abutments around the Pentagon. There were signs from Pittsburgh and Louisville, from New Jersey and Iowa. The rainbow flags of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement flew high. People flowed into a freezing wind-swept parking lot where a program of activist leaders addressed the crowd.
Ramsey Clark, founder of the International Action Center and former U.S. attorney general, warned of current dangers to the Bill of Rights, and of the escalation of U.S. military action, as did Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice.
Cynthia McKinney, former Democratic representative from Georgia, gave a rousing speech calling for a living wage for workers, the right of return for Katrina survivors, and opposition to the Military Tribunal Act and the PATRIOT Act.
A wide array of U.S. military veterans and members of their families spoke. They included Michael Berg, Melida Arredondo and Carlos Arredondo of Gold Star Families for Peace, and Anita Dennis of Courage to Resist—all of whom had sons killed in Iraq.
Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of GSFP, whose son Casey died in Iraq, declared, “This is an illegal, immoral war—a war for the corporations,” and added, “Bush and Cheney are war criminals.” Other speakers called for impeaching the president and vice-president.
Elliott Adams, national president of Veterans for Peace, also spoke. Garrett Reppenhagen of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Darrell Anderson, an Iraq war resister also from IVAW, said there is active GI resistance to the war, fueled by the growing understanding that veterans are not getting care and support from the U.S. government when they return from combat.
Active-duty members of the military have the right to state concerns about the war and ask for the withdrawal of the troops. Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto and former Marine Sgt. Liam Madden spoke about their founding of Appeal for Redress, to encourage organizing against the war within the armed services. (appealforredress.org)
Hutto specifically called for money to go to jobs, schools and the relief of Katrina/Rita survivors, not to war. Madden stressed, “Only our resistance will end this war.” Michael Letwin of New York Council of Labor Against the War repeated this sentiment in his remarks.
The connection between the war abroad and the war against people inside the United States was made by Malik Rahim, co-founder of Common Ground Relief, which fights for rebuilding and reparations for the displaced people of New Orleans.
Larry Holmes of the Troops Out Now Coalition electrified the crowd with his call for unity. He said: “We are not only fighting against imperialism but against the war at home—against racism and police brutality, for the release of all political prisoners including Mumia Abu Jamal, for justice for the survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We want an immediate end to the raids against immigrant workers. On May Day a year ago millions of immigrants came out against the war being waged against them. This year they will come out again on May Day. They need you with them in the streets so they won’t be standing alone against the raids and deportations. The people united will never be defeated!
Several speakers addressed links between the war on Iraq and other parts of the world. Ben Dupuy, leader of the National Popular Party of Haiti, noted that the United States has 700 military bases around the world. Maria Magallanes of the Mexico Solidarity Network called for U.S. troops to get out of Iraq now, and for no U.S. wars in Latin America.
Chuck Kaufman of the Nicaragua Network said, “If Bush were not busy now in Iraq, he would probably be invading Venezuela now.” He urged the crowd, “Go from protest to resistance.” Eric LeCompte of the School of the Americas Watch testified to the protests at Fort Benning, Ga., to shut down the international U.S. training school for torture there.
Leah Obias of the Alliance for Justice and Peace in the Philippines connected U.S. imperialism to “anti-terror” legislation against dissent and the detention and murders of activists in her country.
Mounzer Sleiman, vice-chair of the National Council of Arab-Americans, spoke of the increased detentions and discrimination Muslims and Arabs face within the United States. Esam Omesh, president of the Muslim-American Society, decried the billions of dollars going to illegal war in Iraq and Palestine.
Imam Mahdi Bray, director of the Muslim American Society, said: “End the war today. Politicians won’t end it. The people will end it. We need to fight a war against poverty; this war left people on rooftops in Katrina. There are millions without health care. Don’t say, ‘We are fighting for democracy.’ There is no democracy here.”
Gloria La Riva of the National Committee to Free the Cuban 5 called on marchers to join the worldwide movement to free these revolutionary Cuban patriots.
Efia Nwangaza of Not in Our Name and Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait stressed that U.S. troops must withdraw from Iraq immediately, and called for all to move “from protest to resistance.”
K. Durkin contributed to this article.
Article in Charlotte Observer:
BUSLOAD FROM CHARLOTTE JOINS DEMONSTRATION
Thousands rally against Iraq war
Marchers to Pentagon encounter smaller group of war supporters
LARRY MARGASAK AND MATTHEW BARAKAT
Posted on Sun, Mar. 18, 2007
Denouncing a conflict entering its fifth year, protesters across the country raised their voices Saturday against U.S. policy in Iraq and marched by the thousands to the Pentagon in the footsteps of an epic demonstration four decades ago against another divisive war.
A counterprotest was staged, too, on a day of dueling signs and sentiments such as "Illegal Combat" and "Peace Through Strength" and songs such as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "War (What Is It Good For?)."
Thousands crossed the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial to rally loudly but peacefully near the Pentagon. A busload of protesters from Charlotte joined the group.
"We just feel that it's time to step it up," said Charlotte peace activist Jibril Hough. "We can't rely on the Democrats or Republicans to stop the war. It's up to the people to say no."
Smaller protests were held in other U.S. cities and abroad, stretching to the four-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq this week.
Overseas, tens of thousands marched in Madrid as Spaniards called not only for the U.S. to get out of Iraq but to close the prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Smaller protests were staged in Greece and Turkey.
Speakers at the Pentagon rally criticized the Bush administration at every turn but blamed congressional Democrats, too, for refusing to cut off money for the war.
"This is a bipartisan war," New York labor activist Michael Letwin told the crowd. "The Democratic Party cannot be trusted to end it."
Letwin said the key to ending the war soon is to bring more troops and their families into the protest movement.
President Bush was at Camp David in Maryland for the weekend.
Police on horseback and foot separated the two groups of demonstrators, who shouted at each other from opposite sides of Constitution Avenue in view of the Lincoln Memorial before the anti-war group marched. Barriers also kept them apart.
Police no longer give official estimates but said privately that perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 anti-war demonstrators marched, with a smaller but still sizable number of counterprotesters also out in force.
An hour into the three-hour rally, with the temperature near freezing, protesters had peeled away to a point where fewer than 1,000 were left.
-- staff writer michelle crouch contributed
Local Protest Today
In Charlotte, groups will hold a rally at 2 p.m. today at Independence Park, Hawthorne Lane and Seventh Street. Sponsoring organizations include the Action Center for Justice, the Islamic Political Party of America, and the Coalition for Peace and Justice. Details: 704-258-0304.
-- staff writer michelle crouch
Action Center For Justice