NEW YORK – People from all walks of life gathered here March 20 to rally, march and demand the Bush administration return the troops home and end the occupation of Iraq. Anti-Bush sentiments were high among the estimated 100,000 people from up and down the East Coast.

The New York City regional demonstration was part of coordinated worldwide actions under the slogan, “The World Still Says No to War.” More than 2 million people took part in actions in 500 cities and towns throughout the world on the one-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Some 300 of those were in the United States. San Francisco (50,000) and Chicago (5,000) also held regional demonstrations.

Evelyn Maldonado walked down Fifth Avenue with her sister and father, carrying antiwar signs. It was her first time in a demonstration. The group had been on their way to the dentist.

“We didn’t know there was going to be a protest,” she said. “We decided to join because we don’t like Bush and his war. It’s all for oil.”

Rally speakers included antiwar activists from around the country and the world. Tony Benn, a member of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labor Party who himself served in the British Parliament for 50 years, is now a leader of that country’s Stop the War Coalition. He called the invasion of Iraq “an example of armed globalization” intended to take over Iraq’s nationalized oil reserves and privatize them. He also accused Bush and Blair of using fear as a weapon of control to take away civil liberties.

“The credibility of those who argued for war has been destroyed,” Benn said.

Military mom Sue Niederer, who lost her son Seth Dvorin last month in Iraq, told the press at the rally the troops are “sent untrained and ill-equipped.” She criticized the mass media for “not caring enough” to report these issues.

“Families of the deceased are not finding out the truth about how our children … perished over there,” she said, blasting the Bush administration for not allowing either the press or family members to be present when the bodies of fallen soldiers return at Dover, Del.

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said Niederer represents “all mothers who have lost children in this war.” He said the dead soldiers are “a loss to their families, a loss to the nation and the world.”

Kucinich suggested that instead of spending hundreds of billions on Iraq, we should spend money on rebuilding the infrastructure of our cities. He said he is continuing his run for the Democratic presidential nomination to “give voice to those who feel we don’t want to exchange a Republican version of the war in Iraq to a Democratic version of the same.”

Many young people and students participated in various contingents, often with their families. Jessica Marshall, a leader of the Young Communist League, represents the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition in the United for Peace and Justice coalition (UFPJ), a sponsor of the march. She said the youth contingent included about 600 young people.

Young people were energized when they heard about the marches throughout the world, Marshall said. “It gave them a sense of being connected internationally.”

Momentous events in Spain – the bloody terrorist attack and the defeat of the pro-war José María Aznar government – placed that country and its people in the spotlight. Many marchers sported buttons celebrating the Spanish vote, while others held signs calling Bush and Blair the next to defeat.

Eva Pérez de Vega from Madrid, marching in New York, said she, like 90 percent of her people, opposed the war.

“Aznar did not work for the people,” she said. She expected the new Socialist government to implement the people’s will and bring Spanish troops home.

Leslie Cagan, UFPJ national coordinator, called the war a tragedy based on lies.

“The unprovoked war against Iraq was a terrible tragedy for the Iraqi people, thousands of whom were killed during the last year, and for the close to 600 U.S. soldiers who also lost their lives,” she told reporters. “It’s time to hold our government accountable for the chaos it’s created in Iraq – and for the fact that the Bush administration lied about the Iraqi threat to convince the American public of the need for war.”

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