From statehouse to village green, Americans stand for peace

More than 1,000 local peace actions marked the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war. Below is a sampling from our correspondents.

Arizona: Four days of vigils and marches marked the war’s fourth anniversary in Tucson. About 200 picketed Davis-Monthan Air Force Base during the annual Air Show March 17. Protests also took place in Phoenix, Green Valley, Bisbee, Flagstaff and elsewhere.

Fayetteville, Ark.: Hundreds marched downtown March 11 in a demonstration called by the Fayetteville OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology.

The crowd included students, union members, longtime peace activists and church groups. Joining them were Judith Le Blanc, United for Peace and Justice co-chair, and Adam Tenney of the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition. Le Blanc, the keynote speaker, said small towns and cities like Fayetteville have a big role to play in pressing their congressional delegation to oppose Bush’s escalation and support a withdrawal timetable. Noting that 21 state legislatures have passed antiwar resolutions, she urged the demonstrators to add Arkansas to the list.

California: In Walnut Creek’s Civic Park March 17, a demonstration with the theme “Starve War, Feed Peace” heard Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, military families and others. In San Francisco March 18, thousands marched down Market Street to a rally at Civic Center Plaza, where speakers included the Rev. Amos Brown, head of the San Francisco NAACP. Other actions included vigils and a “die-in.” Antiwar activities were also held in San Rafael, Palo Alto, Fremont, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Cruz and other northern California communities.

Several hundred rallied in conservative Orange County. Speakers included Iraq veterans and military families. Son Del Centro, playing traditional music of Mexico, led a march to Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s office, where withdrawal slips were left to symbolize bringing troops home.

Hartford, Conn.: After a 12-hour snow and sleet storm, 1,500 Connecticut residents dug themselves out for the Connecticut Opposes the War rally at the Old Statehouse March 17. Buses, vans and carpools left from campuses, union halls, churches, suburban towns and cities, reflecting months of grassroots organizing.

Speakers included U.S. Reps. John Larson and Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut House Majority Leader Chris Donovan and Connecticut AFL-CIO President John Olsen. Participants vowed to go after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) and Rep. Chris Shays (R) “until they change their minds about this war.”

DeLauro, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, called the war “a mistake of historic proportions,” saying “Congress must take up its own constitutional responsibility.” She said, “This week Congress took the first step to get the troops out. I’m going to work my heart out to get this passed.”

A bill prohibiting the president from invading Iran without approval will be taken up next week, said Larson, declaring, “We will end the policies of unilateral and pre-emptive war.” He urged the crowd to keep sending letters and phone calls.

March 19 vigils across Connecticut marked the war’s anniversary. The largest was in front of Lieberman’s Hartford office.

Florida: More then 1,000 turned out March 17 in St. Petersburg’s Williams Park. Five local bands were the main feature, with brief speeches interspersed. Mike Fox, regional director, noted that the event had attracted hundreds of youth. Also involved were St. Pete for Peace, Code Pink, a homeless outreach center called The Refuge, Veterans for Peace, Cuba Vive and others.

A small group gathered near the U.S. Southern Command in Doral (outside Miami), brought together by Miami for Peace, with Code Pink Miami and the South Florida Peace and Justice Coalition. Participants drove as far as 50 miles in rush-hour traffic to be heard. Signs reminded passersby of the human cost of the war. Some military personnel driving by nodded in agreement.

Bloomingdale, Ill.: Over 150 protestors demonstrated for an end to the war at the office of GOP Rep. Peter Roskam, March 17. The office is in the heart of DuPage County, the bastion of the state Republican Party. Support for the war has steeply eroded here. Nearly every passing automobile honked its support of demonstrators.

South Paris, Maine: Despite 12 inches of snow, sleet, freezing rain and wind, 67 hearty souls from Maine’s western hills gathered for a candlelight vigil at Moore Park. It was part of the “From Every Village Green” observances of the war’s anniversary across the state. Participants expressed the growing frustration of local citizens. Hilary Ware said, “Letters to the White House seem to be falling on deaf ears.”

Cleveland: Organized labor is actively fighting to end the war, Dallas Sells, Unite Here Ohio State Council director, told a March 15 rally in Cleveland’s Public Square.

Sells read a resolution adopted unanimously the previous night by the North Shore (formerly Cleveland) AFL-CIO, reaffirming its opposition to the war and demanding no additional war funding and a firm timetable for disengagement. Other speakers included leaders of the American Friends Service Committee and Iraq veterans.

Texas: There were more peace activities March 16-19 than could be enumerated. Around 2,000 people marched through Austin March 17. Houston had a march in suburban The Woodlands, a vigil and three religious services. A March 24 march for economic justice will also feature the economic ruin caused by the war. Fort Worth and Arlington also had rallies.

Dallas peace activists organized a blood donation benefiting the Veterans Hospital. Donors were given a symbolic pint of motor oil. There was a March 19 vigil downtown at the Kennedy Memorial and, that evening, a major march and rally that ended next to the Southern Methodist University football stadium. The site is said to be the location for the controversial proposed George W. Bush library, museum, and right-wing think tank.

Seattle: On March 19 the City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for an end to the war and a safe return for American troops. A broad coalition of labor, community, religious and peace groups held rallies that drew at least 2,000 participants. They converged in a march through downtown Seattle.

Wisconsin: Twenty-two cities and small towns demonstrated against the war, including Wausau and Oshkosh. Peace Action coordinated the protests. In Milwaukee, over 900 folks, young and old, demanding “Bring our troops home” flooded the rotunda rally area. Rep. Gwen Moore, the first African American ever elected to Congress from Milwaukee, was the featured speaker. “Congress is divided on the question of cutting off the funding of the surge,” but she added, “I guess I have to vote for the supplement to bring the troops home.”

C.J. Atkins, John Bachtell, Marilyn Bechtel, Joe Bernick, Rossana Cambron, Suzanne Dunham, Jesus Eligio, Joelle Fishman, Annie Fox, John Gilman, Jim Lane, Rick Nagin and Todd Tollefson contributed to this roundup.