NEW YORK — “I don’t expect tens of thousands,” Melody Drnach, National Organization for Women vice president for action told the World, referring to the upcoming April 29 March for Peace, Justice and Democracy demonstration here. “I expect hundreds of thousands.”

On April 29, thousands will converge on New York City to demand an end to the Iraq war, money to rebuild communities, a reversal of destructive U.S. environmental policies and protection of civil liberties and immigrant rights.

To ensure maximum participation, a virtual army of organizers is working on outreach. According to Drnach, NOW has hundreds of organizers building for the event. “We also have volunteers pouring in” to help with the mobilization, she said.

Other sponsors include United for Peace and Justice, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Friends of the Earth, U.S. Labor Against the War, the Climate Crisis Coalition, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, Veterans for Peace, and the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition. Over 900 organizations from over 40 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, have signed on.

On April 4, the anniversary of the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the initiators held a press conference at New York’s Riverside Church, where King had made his famous speech in opposition to the Vietnam War.

“We are together today, this rainbow of organizations, for a common purpose: to raise a clarion call in the nation. To appeal, as Dr. King did at the pulpit of this great church, to the conscience of the nation,” NOW President Kim Gandy said. “The women and men of our military are dying in Iraq, thousands of them, along with countless Iraqis … and for what? The hubris and moral bankruptcy of this administration? This war is about oil and greed. We cannot ask our young service women and men to continue risking their lives for a war based on lies.” Gandy urged a massive turnout to begin to set things right.

Judith Le Blanc, national co-chair of UFPJ, said the day will give millions of people the opportunity to come together to demand a fundamental change in the nation’s politics, towards a clear policy of peace and democracy.

Le Blanc added that those politics were responsible for the major social ills of the country today, including the neglect of Katrina victims, victimization of immigrants, war, environmental devastation and abuse of civil rights.

Drnach agreed that one of the most important things the demonstration would do, aside from showing the force of the pro-democracy and peace majority in the U.S., would be to energize people for the 2006 midterm elections.

“We’re hoping that people will roll out of this march,” Drnach said, just like the immigration and New Orleans hurricane protests, to “get involved in local, state and national elections to make the change that the people want.”

Peace, according to Drnach, has always been a feminist issue, since “the first time someone picked up arms against someone else.” She noted her organization’s fight against the Vietnam War, the draft and other antiwar causes since its founding 40 years ago.

“It’s a historic opportunity to have environmentalists, labor, peace and justice people, feminists, everyone there altogether,” she said.

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