In what was one of the larger anti-war rallies to date, thousands of protestors marched on the National Mall and the Capitol Saturday to show their opposition to President Bush’s planned troop increase and the Iraq war.”I came all the way from Kansas just do take part,” said Kelly Desrocher from Shawnee, Kan., who took a bus for more than 20 hours just to get to the march. “It was a long ride, but it was worth it to see all these people fighting for the same thing.”
Speakers from Rev. Jesse Jackson and Tim Robbins to Sen. Dennis Kucinich and Jane Fonda addressed the massive crowd through Woodstock-like speaker towers.
“Peace is controversial,” said Jackson, who addressed the crowd in the early afternoon sun, his back to the Capitol. “But so is war. And the fruit of peace is so much sweeter.”
Dozens of different groups were there, ranging from Veterans for Peace and 9-11 Truth, to the Communist newspaper Challenger and conservative groups who picketed the rally and speakers like Jane Fonda with signs that read “Hanoi Jane. Wrong then, wrong now.”
The ages of the protestors varied almost as widely as their messages, with newborns to veterans of the peace rallies of the 1960s present.
The prevailing message many protestors came to voice, though, was one of peace. Mike Warren, of New Hampshire, came with a photo of his grandfather, who served World War II, safety-pinned to the back of his jacket.
“He was a soldier,” said Warren, clutching a sign that read ‘Out of Iraq,’ which was being given out free to many of the protestors. “But he wouldn’t have wanted this. I don’t think many people do.”
A cold winter-like morning quickly warmed to near-spring temperatures, and the amount of protestors rose along with the temperature. What started out as a few rag-tag groupings of protestors at 10 a.m. ballooned to tens of thousands for the march by 1 p.m. After a rousing speech by Robbins, who called multiple times for the impeachment of President Bush, the crowd began at the Mall, marching down Constitution Ave. to the Capitol and wrapping back around to the Mall.
“I’ve never been to anything this huge before,” said Nicole Douglas, 17, a student from a nearby high school who stood on a hill overlooking the Capitol to watch the march. “One of my teachers told us there was some sort of protest going on so we came down, but I didn’t think there’d be this many people here. It’s pretty exciting.”
The protest was led chiefly by the organization United for Peace and Justice, whose Web site describes the group as a “coalition of more than 1,300 local and national groups throughout the United States,” including Green Party of the U.S., Iraq Veterans Against the War, Greenpeace, Veterans for Peace, and the National Organization for women.
Smaller groups of protestors gathered in other places near the mall, including in front of the White House, the Washington Monument, and the United States Navy Memorial.
According to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a Web site which tracks numbers from the Department of Defense, at least 3,065 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and 22, 834 have been wounded.
Lining the streets and sides of the mall, protestors wore t-shirts with dozens of different messages, including “War? WTF?” and bold signs showing George W. Bush in a noose and the words “Impeach Now” emblazoned on over the image.
Two other students held a banner which read “Bombing for Peace is like F**king for Virginity.”
Protestors from Vermont were in abundance and seemed to be the most numerous of organized state-representing groups.
Other protestors took a more elaborate approach to speaking out, using enormous puppets, controlled by four people each, of the Devil and the Virgin Mary, which were raised high above the crowd. Four others walked around in elaborate clay heads depicting Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld in prison stripes.
“If the best thing we can do is hold some of these people accountable for what they’ve done, I think we’ve been successful,” said Greg Steward, a 44-year old from Amherst, Mass. “I don’t see how, with this many people pushing for it, it hasn’t already happened.