Global Policy Forum

Anti-War Marches Draw Hundreds of Thousands


By Aaron Glantz

Inter Press Service
January 28, 2007

Peace activists from across the United States gathered in Washington Saturday for what they said was the largest demonstration to date against the Iraq war.

"It's time for a new day," the Reverend Jesse Jackson told what organizers estimated as a crowd of 500,000 demonstrators gathered outside the halls of Congress on the National Mall. "We do not need more troops in Iraq, we need more money at home," Jackson said. "We need a vision of hope over fear, of preparing smart children not smart bombs. A vision realising that right makes might; might does not make right."

The demonstration, which was pulled together by an umbrella group called United for Peace and Justice, also featured speeches by a half dozen antiwar Congresspeople. Among them was a founder of Congress' "Out of Iraq Caucus," Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, who pledged not to vote "one dime for this war".

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson also spoke, as did actors Jane Fonda and Sean Penn, members of the National organization for Women and other feminist groups, members of the United States military and veterans groups opposed to the war, and representatives of organized labour.

"The American people spoke loudly in the November election, removing from office many of those who shared President Bush's wrong-headed thinking," Fred Mason, head of the Maryland chapter of the AFL-CIO, a major umbrella trade union, told the crowd. "The new Congress has a responsibility to the American people to end military involvement in Iraq and bring our troops home now."

Like many speakers at the rally, Mason expressed disappointment that so far the Democratic Congress' opposition to George W. Bush's Iraq policy has shown itself mainly in the drafting of non-binding resolutions against his troop surge. For his part, Bush has rebuffed those efforts. "I'm the decision maker," Bush said Friday. "I've picked the plan that I think is most likely to succeed... I know there is scepticism and pessimism and that some are condemning a plan before it's even had a chance to work."

Like other speakers at Saturday's rally, trade unionist Fred Mason said Bush's intransigence means Congress should immediately cut funding for the U.S. occupation of Iraq. "The American people don't want a surge in the violence and the deadly risk to their loved ones associated with this president's wrong-headed approach," he said. "Our democracy provides ourselves with the opportunity to express ourselves in these electoral processes. However, when there is reason to doubt whether the people we elected are heeding the people's will, we have a responsibility to speak with an even louder voice."

Still, the mood amongst demonstrators was optimistic. "I really feel the American people are with us," said Al Johnson, a retired teacher from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. "It's such an important topic," he told IPS. "I haven't been to a demonstration in more than 30 years."

Saturday's demonstration in Washington was just one of more than 50 held around the country this weekend. In San Francisco, a protest against President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq turned out 5,000 demonstrators. In Los Angeles, thousands took to the streets, with many carrying signs that said "Impeach Bush." In Seattle, more than 1,000 people turned out to protest. Among the speakers at that rally was first Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to face prosecution for refusing to serve in Iraq.

Long-time social activist Tom Hayden told IPS President Bush's ability to wage war is increasingly tenuous. "Wars are based on pillars," Hayden said. "You need available soldiers, you need bipartisan support. You need recruitment of more soldiers, you need money, you need your moral reputation to be preserved and you need allies. By any of those measures the pillars are being undermined."

Hayden noted that more than 1,000 active duty U.S. soldiers have signed a petition calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Unhappiness with the war is also growing among veterans, with the group Iraq Veterans Against the War estimating their organization has quadrupled in size over the last year.

"Supporting the troops that have signed these petitions and supporting efforts to stop military recruitment at our high schools and at community colleges are absolutely vital," Hayden added. "But people every day can do something. You want to convince your undecided neighbor to go against, you want to convince your kid not to go, you want to take a picket sign to the military recruiting office. You want to link up with the poor people's and labour organizations and say this war costs 287 million dollars an hour."

"If you put your energies toward a pillar they will eventually tip," he said, "and they cannot fight a war without these resources."

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