Hundreds of Thousands March Against the Iraq War in Nation's Capital
Movement for peace attacks Bush program from New Orleans to the Middle-East
By Abayomi Azikiwe,
Editor Pan-African News Wire
WASHINGTON, 24 September, 2005 (PANW)--They came from as far away as Alaska and California, from Europe to the nation's capital itself, to make a clear statement that United States military forces should withdraw immediately from Iraq. Honest crowd estimates of the demonstration ranged from 500,000- 600,000 (some even thought there were more) making it the largest demonstration in the capital since the winter of 2003.
With President Bush's approval rating falling every week, the American peace movement is expanding its focus to include the domestic crisis engendered by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and across the Gulf coast. Many marchers carried signs deploring the administration's failure to respond to a domestic disaster which had been predicted. At the opening rally near the White House, speaker after speaker blasted the foreign and domestic policies of what they described as a nefarious and out of touch political leadership.
The speakers list included: Cindy Sheehan, the military mother whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year and the driving force behind the peace encampment established outside President Bush's vacation ranch in Crawford, Texas; Rev. Jesse Jackson, longtime civil rights activists and head of the Rainbow/Push Coalition; former Attorney General Ramsey Clark; Curtis Muhammad, veteran civil rights activists advocating on behalf of his fellow community members in New Orleans, and many more.
"If you are against the war you must be against the war against blacks, poor black uneducated people," said Curtis Muhammad.
"We want to say to you that we thank you for all the food and water and clothes that you've sent. But the time has arrived to honor those people, to honor their voices, to honor their genius, to honor their desires and their hopes for self-determination. It is your job now to find out what they are asking you. And I am going to give you the three things here today."
Muhammad continued by saying that: "One we wanna go and find our people, they are hidding them from us. They have scattered them all over the country. We have 250,000 of them in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We want to knock every one of those doors, talk to them about all this activity, see if they want the space that they left. And if they build a condo on it, its yours. And if they build a hotel on it, its yours. What ever they build on that spot of land that we had to leave, we want it." "We are asking that what ever town you are living in to find our people to put it on our web page: [check the following] http://www.communitylaborunited.net . Let us know where our people are. If you are a teacher, tell us where the children come from. If you are a social worker, tell us where they come from. If you work with FEMA, Red Cross, tell us if you know where they are. They say they don't know where our people are. You know how to knock doors. We need volunteers to knock doors."
"Number 2, we want the labor movement to pay for those door knocking processes. Help us train volunteers to knock those doors. We are going to use the month of October we think to knock on every door in Baton Rouge."
"Number 3, we want the unions, the skill craft unions, to pay for and to assist in the apprenticeships of learning how to rebuild their houses and put their lives back together. But you must understand that nobody has ever respected the voices of these people. So our number one program is to hear the voices of these people. Thank you, thank you. Stop the war against black and poor people in America," Muhammad concluded.
A representative of the Iraqi-Americans for Peaceful Alternatives, Anan Shalal, spoke on the current situation. "No more war, bring the troops home now," he said.
"2,000 U.S. soldiers and over 100,000 Iraqis are dead and counting. We were told that we went into Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction which they knew there were none. We were told that we would conduct this war on the cheap. We have already spent $200 billion and there is no end in sight. We were told that it would take a handful of forces to conduct this war. We have over a 140,000 troops and more needed, many of whom are desparately needed on our own soil in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. "
"We were told that the mission was accomplished," Shalal continued, "31 months later the war rages on. This administration has not only missed the bull's eye on this one, they have missed the bull all together. But obviously this administration knows a lot about bull. How many more lives will it take before this administration stops the bull and levels with the Iraqis and American people. How many more Caseys, Sherwoods, and Joses, and Ahmeds, and Muhammads, how many more Katrinas and Ritas will it take before the administration stops the bull and lies."
"With each passing day, with each seige of an Iraqi city, the insurgency is growing, hatred towards our military is growing, anger towards Americans is growing. Iraqis are telling us that they have had enough of this bull. Why, because when you kill innocent people, when you destroy someone's home, when you create conditions that make it not worth living, like cutting off water and electricity or access to hospitals, you leave people little option but to join some kind of resistance," the Iraqi-American pointed out.
"Those of us who are gathered here today are the true patriots. We stand in solidarity with all peace loving people throughout the world. We stand together to tell this administration we are tired of their lies and we demand an end to this war and to bring the troops home now," he concluded.
Other speakers then came on from the American Friend's Service Committee and the United for Peace and Justice. The AFSC stated its policy of calling for the troops to be brought home immediately. Leslie Cagan of the UFPJ expressed her satisfaction about the huge crowds spread out across the areas surrounding Constitution avenue.
"As far as you can see the people have come to Washington and we are angry. The president, that dangerous man who pretends to be the leader of this country, he won't come to talk to us, so we come to talk to him. We are here because its not only the White House where the problem is but those people, besides a handful, aside from the Cynthia McKinneys, Lyn Woolseys and the Dennis Kucinichs, aside from them, the co-conspirators up their on Capital Hill need to hear from us."
"We come to Washington at a moment when our nation is at a crossroads", said Cagan. Will we continue to pour billions of dollars and endless lives into a war based on greed and empire building or will we turn this country around and start by rebuilding the Gulf coast? Our choice is clear. You know what needs to be done. The problem is the policy makers don't know. So we're here not only today in massive numbers but today and tomorrow and Monday in every way possible by marching and rallying and by civil disobedience on Monday at the White House and a day of lobbying on Monday on Capital Hill, we say end the war, bring the troops home now," Cagan said.
Cagan then introduced the Rev. Jesse Jackson who took the stage. He began by acknowledging the role of Cindy Sheehan in raising the profile of the anti-war movement. "Cindy Sheehan we thank you for being a witness in the great tradition of Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hammer, Helen Keller and Harriet Tubman. Thank you for being a witness without guns and bombs, armed only with integrity. Your light challenges the darkness. Your light is being seen and heat is being felt around the world. Thank you Cindy Sheehan."
Rev. Jackson continued by saying that "America, the whole world is watching. National security begins in New Orleans. Homeland security at home. Emergency preparedness was not prepared for the emergency. The Gulf states policy at home and abroad has failed. We must go another way. In our quest to make this a more perfect world, a world of peace, there is a time for war and peace. There's a time for war. Some forces of evil are so intractable and entrenched there must be wars of conscience to break down the walls to rescue the innocent. The walls of fascism, anti-semitism, racism are bounding threads of oppression."
"There is a time for war. Fighting a war to preserve the union and end slavery, a war worth fighting. Fighting World War II to fight fascism, anti-semitism, racism and religious bigotry, a war worth fighting..... Wars based on natonal interests. Invading Grenada was not such a war. Bombing Panama was not such a war. A war fought in Iraq is not such a war. An Iraq war built up on lies. A house built on sands. 2,100 Americans dead, tens of thousands of Iraqis dead.
$200 billion later we deserve peace and justice," Rev. Jackson continued. "We deserve another way and a better leadership. Cindy we thank you for your shining light in darkness. In our quest for peace I know its dark but morning cometh. Don't let them break our spirit. Keep marching its a long road, but keep marching. When we march things happen. We'll change the Congress in 2006. We'll take back the White House in 2008. Its dark but the morning cometh. So march on, fight on, forward by hope, not backwards by fear. End the war, bring the troops home now," Rev. Jackson concluded.
Cindy Sheehan was then introduced as representing the Gold Star Families for Peace and Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour. "This is amazing, you are part of history," Sheehan began. Pat yourselves on the back for being here. We need a people's movement to end this war."
"My good friends in the media are not doing there jobs. Most of our friends in Congress aren't doing there jobs. George Bush certainly isn't doing his job. So you know what, we have to do our jobs as Americans. We will do our jobs by being the checks and balances for this out of control criminal government. This government which condones torture. We don't torture, we're human beings. We don't torture other human beings. We have to reclaim our humanity. We have to show the world Americans don't torture and its not ok for anybody to torture another human being," Sheehan said.
"Americans don't invade countries and occupy countries preemptively that are no threat to our country. It is not ok for other countries to do that either. We are here in massive amounts of people to show our government, to show our media, to show America that we mean business and that we are not going home until the last one of our troops are home."
Sheehan said that she could not believe that so many people were walking up to her and "saying thank you for being here. Thank you for being here. If there were not thousands of people who came to join us in Camp Casey and the millions who supported us, I would still be sitting in that ditch. You guys got us out of that ditch and you got us to our nation's capital and we mean business George Bush. And we are going to Congress and we are going to ask them: how many more of other people's children that you are willing to sacrifice for the lies? And we are going to say shame on you."
"We are going to tell Congress that you should be a shame for allowing him to do this. Not one person should have died. Not one more should die. "
She then led the vast crowd in a chant: "Not one more, not one more. Thank you I love you," Sheehan concluded after telling the crowd.
March Around the White House
The crowds were so large at the time that all persons were not able to leave the park. In all the streets surrounding the White House inlcuding Constitution ave., 15th Street and Pennsylvania, there were people lining the streets from sidewalk to sidewalk. There were hundreds of banners and homemade signs. These banners and slogans read: "Bring the Troops Home Now", "Money for Jobs Not War", "Michigan Says No to War," etc. The march began to have people break off and head towards the Congress as well as other areas.
It took several hours for the march to wind back up at the area across from the initial rally. At three o'clock in the afternoon a concert began. It featured Joan Baez, Jello Biafra, the Coup and others.
Much emphasis was placed on the need for people to take action in their own communities. This demonstration in the capital was a clear representation of what the majority of people in the United States really feel about the war and the Bush administration in general.