Tens of thousands gathered in West Coast cities Sept. 24 to call for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, immediate return of all U.S. troops, and use of resources to meet people’s needs at home. Speakers connected the war to the dismal response to Hurricane Katrina.

In San Francisco, up to 30,000 marched to Jefferson Square Park. Hundreds marched behind the banner of U.S. Labor Against the War.

“It’s not up to Bush if we leave Iraq, it’s up to the unions and the people,” said International Longshore Workers Local 10 President Trent Willis. “The interfaith movement, the labor movement and the peace movement together will make the change.”

“This country is resigning from the cult of war,” declared Kay Lucas of the Crawford (Texas) Peace House.

On Sept. 26, some 200 protesters gathered at the Federal Building to call on San Francisco congresswoman and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to “lead Congress in defunding the war.” Thirty-five demonstrators entered the building for a “die-in.”

In Los Angeles, 15,000 marched to historic Fletcher Bowron Square adjacent to the L.A. Federal Building. Calling the demonstration “the largest action for peace in the city’s history,” Kelly McConnell of U.S. Labor Against the War said, “I have never seen anything like what took place today, with labor and antiwar activists united.” The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor endorsed and actively participated in the action.

Actor Martin Sheen said, “As president of the United States [referring to his role on television’s “West Wing”], I’m here because it is my duty to be here to oppose this war. It is unjust, immoral and illegal.”

California’s San Diego County is considered one of the state’s most conservative, and the city is one of the nation’s biggest military towns. But over 2,000 marched there to demand that the troops be brought home. At Balboa Park, marchers passed a wall on which over 1,900 tiny crosses were painted, each bearing the name of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.

A member of the San Diego Labor Council Executive Board pledged that the council will do all in its power to expose President Bush’s lies and bring the war to an end. It was the first time a Labor Council official had participated in an antiwar rally.

In Seattle, speakers included veterans, military family members and representatives of labor and faith-based organizations. Among them were Congressman Jim McDermott and King County Councilmember Larry Gossett. The most popular sign among the more than 1,000 demonstrators was “Impeach Bush!” Several marchers carried an over-40-foot-long spinal cord — to help the Democrats find their spine.

Armando Ramirez, Todd Tollefson and Marilyn Bechtel contributed to this story.