Small towns join big cities in antiwar actions

In smaller cities and towns across the nation, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in solidarity with those who marched in Washington on Jan. 27 to bring the troops home. They marched in towns like Denton, Texas, and Ellsworth, Maine. They marched in Albuquerque, N.M., Grand Junction, Colo., and Algoma, Wis. Below is a small sampling.



OKLAHOMA CITY: President Bush’s increase of troops in Iraq is “a misguided expansion of a failed policy,” state Sen. Connie Johnson told the large rally. State Sen. Andrew Price and state Rep. Al McAffrey joined her on the platform.

Iraq veteran Brendan Jackson said when he joined the Army he believed in the cause, fighting terrorism in the wake of 9/11. Now, after serving, he said, “This war is more about oil than defense.”

Porter Davis, who was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2004, read off the names of 49 Oklahomans killed in the Iraq war.



ALGOMA, Wis.: Mary Blake spoke for marchers here and in Sturgeon Bay, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison when she told the rally, “We want a timetable for withdrawal and a cut off of funds for the troop increase.”

This was the first peace action for Algoma, a community of 3,300 along Lake Michigan in the northeast corner of the state.



SEATTLE: Led by Veterans for Peace, over 1,000 marched here. Demonstrations were also held in Olympia and nearby Vancouver, British Columbia.

Stepping off from Seattle’s Capitol Hill, marchers paused at a Navy recruitment office where the recruiters had locked their doors and placed a “Closed” sign in the window.

The march ended at the Langston Hughes Cultural Center, where Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada addressed a packed auditorium. Watada is the first officer to refuse to fight in Iraq and faces a military tribunal on Feb. 5 for disobeying orders.

Watada charged that the Iraq war is unconstitutional and that soldiers had a right to refuse to obey immoral orders. “It is not only our right but our constitutional and moral duty,” he said.

Many marchers around the state were fresh from a Citizen’s Hearing on War Crimes in Tacoma, where 600 called for the indictment of the Bush administration for high crimes.



SAN FRANCISCO: While 1st Lt. Watada spoke in Seattle, his mother Carolyn Ho took the mike before thousands jamming downtown. She joined the march to Pier 33 where peace activists joined Alcatraz ferry workers who had been fired when the National Park Service awarded the ferry contract to a scab firm, Hornblower Yachts.

The connection between peace and justice for workers is significant, said Michael Eisencher, coordinator of the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and national coordinator of U.S. Labor Against the War: “The connection made by the demonstrators between the war at home and the war abroad, and in particular the solidarity the protesters showed with the Alcatraz ferry workers, is an important sign for both the labor and antiwar movements.”



CARBONDALE, Colo.: Marchers gathered in front of the post office, the only federal facility in town, carrying hand-printed signs saying, “Stop him before he decides again” and “Join the surge for peace.”

Nancy Smith told reporters, “Our efforts will show Congress that this is a big deal, and we want them to do something.” Roe Mead told the crowd, “This war has been about oil, not terrorism.”

Residents also rallied in Grand Junction, Greeley and Fort Collins. Former GOP Rep. Jim Johnson told the Fort Collins rally, “We created this ungodly mess by sending more kids over there and we’re not going to solve it [with more troops].”



NEW ORLEANS: “Make levees, not war,” was the battle cry here as hundreds lined the streets demanding “Money for housing, not for war” and the re-opening of public housing 18 months after Hurricane Katrina.

Residents, some of whom have been able to return to their homes and others who are still displaced as a result of federal inaction, took to the streets in solidarity with the Washington march.

They also prepared for a Homeland Security hearing on Jan. 29. At the hearing, residents called for an investigation of FEMA and charged the Bush administration with corruption. They also challenged the decision to demolish public housing and replace apartments with single-family homes beyond the reach of low-income workers.



ELLSWORTH, Maine: Wrapped in mittens, scarves, boots and heavy winter coats, neighbors came from everywhere, said peace activist Pat Wheeler, a resident of this town of 6,500 located near Acadia National Park.

“A lot of people underestimate the amount of people that are lining up against this war,” said Wheeler, who has been a regular at the weekly peace vigil since March 2003 when the war began. “When I started protesting this war, a lot of cars that drove by were hostile. Now, you can really see a shift in people’s attitudes.”

Deb Marshall said it was time for local action: “We need to bring our focus home, our money home, our soldiers home.” She spoke as residents lined the Route 1 bridge over the Union River, holding peace-symbol flags and signs like “Impeach Bush” and “Support our troops.”



National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @ aol.com).