WASHINGTON – In the first major antiwar protest since Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq on May 1, tens of thousands marched near the White House Oct. 25 carrying placards reading, “Bush lied, thousands died” and chanting, “End the occupation now – Bring the troops home!”
The crowd came on chartered buses from 145 cities and rallied near the Washington Monument on a glorious fall day, holding signs that said, “Impeach Bush now” and “Money for jobs, not for war.” There were similar protests in San Francisco and other towns across the nation, including Salt Lake City; Boise, Idaho; Peoria, Ill.; Huntsville, Ala.; and Honolulu.
Fernando Suarez del Solar, father of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq March 27, told the Washington crowd, “George W. Bush is not the owner of the lives of our children. He’s not the owner of America. We don’t want one more drop of our children’s blood shed in Iraq!”
Susan Shuman, spokeswoman for Military Families Speak Out, denounced Bush for attempting to enlist Japanese or Turkish soldiers to join the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, candidate for president, echoed the sentiment, denouncing Bush for demanding that Congress appropriate $87 billion for the occupation while slashing funds for health care and education at home. “Don’t give Bush $87 billion dollars,” he thundered. “Don’t give him 87 cents. Give our troops a ride home!”
Sharpton pointed out that it was the second anniversary of passage of the USA Patriot Act. “What kind of ‘patriot’ would send money for health care in Iraq when we can’t get health care for children in the United States?” he demanded.
The Rev. John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, told the crowd he was in Berlin on Sept. 11, 2001. “I took part in an enormous solidarity memorial service for the victims of the 9/11 attack,” he said. “They expressed compassion and caring and sang ‘We Shall Overcome.’ I am angered at the way we have squandered that good will in this immoral, unjust, and racist war.” Thomas said the Axis of Evil “runs the length and breadth of Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Jessica Marshall, a leader of the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, said, “We are the future of our country. We will no longer be pawns in this global monopoly.”
As the rally ended, the crowd surged up 17th Street, circled the White House and poured up Pennsylvania Avenue past the Justice Department before returning to the rally site. In the crowd were contingents of District Council 1707 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, and Service Employees Local 1199 from New York City. Students marched behind their college banners. Thousands wore stickers and pins identifying them as backers of Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaign and others as backers of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
Suarez del Solar, speaking through an interpreter, told the World the official papers say his only son, Lance Cpl. Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar Navarro, died from a bullet wound to the head. Born in Mexico, he was a legal resident with his home in San Diego. Married with an infant son, Jesus hoped to become a firefighter after he left the Marines.
“In my opinion, this war is illegal,” Suarez del Solar told the World. “This war is only for the political and economic control of that region.” He pointed out that 40 percent of the U.S. Marines are Latinos “because they concentrate their recruiting on Hispanics and African Americans. The government always tries to use our communities. We need some way to prevent them from having to go into the army. The money wasted on the military should be used to pay for schools and education.”
The Rev. Graylan Hagler, pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington, told the World, “This war is costing us in lives lost and budgetary expenditures that could be better spent here at home. Iraq has become a quagmire.”
Melanie Dianne Gnosa of Columbus, Ohio, told the World she came on a bus with 45 others, mostly students at Ohio State University. Asked her views on the protest, she handed a PWW reporter a poem she had written titled “Free America” with the ending line, “My voice, it will echo and the image linger on, for this image isn’t mine and my words will not end, for Hell is war, and this war can’t be won.”
The rally and march were cosponsored by the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and International ANSWER coalitions.
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