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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

DC Anti War Rally Draws Veterans and Students

DC Anti War Rally Draws Veterans and Students

On Saturday, October 25, tens of thousands of protesters from across the eastern seaboard and elsewhere rallied and marched in Washington, D.C. Police estimated the crowd to be around 50,000. The demonstration was sponsored by a number of peace and civil rights groups and included former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark’s International A.N.S.W.E.R. (“Act Now to Stop War and End Racism”). The purpose of the march was to “stop the war in Iraq and to bring the troops home now!” As one marcher stated, “we need to stop spending on misguided and needless military projects such as the war in Iraq and fund crucial services as education, health care, libraries, childcare, and firehouses.”

During the rally at the foot of the Washington Monument preceding the march, speakers addressed a crowd including presidential candidate Al Sharpton. Sharpton, a long time critic of the Iraqi war, urged that President Bush not be given an additional $87 billion for the war. “Don’t, he implored the cheering crowd, “give him 87 cents!”

The marchers included veterans from U.S. wars from World War II through the first Iraqi war, some wearing their military medals and insignia. Numerous families of military personnel now serving in Iraq were also present. Trade unionists were well represented, as were professional groups such as “Doctors and Nurses Against the War.” Groups of teachers as well as individual attorneys, engineers, and others were evident.

Dan Bransen of New York represented Speak Out, an organization of military families against the war. His stepson is currently stationed in Baghdad. Bransen said, “A coalition of us has been part of the Bring Them Home Now campaign, which has been active in trying to help the American people understand this will be a failed military venture, and a failed occupation, if it comes to that.”

It was students, both undergraduate and graduate, and a sprinkling of younger ones that formed the marchers’ vital core. Julie Fry, a third year student at Rutgers University Law School and an organizer for the event, noted that though law school is demanding, she “gave a priority,” to her activism. Amy L. Clark, a graduate student from Emerson College and a veteran of many marches, characterized the rally as being bigger and better attended than she’d expected.

Signs and banners carried by the marchers demanded a withdrawal from Iraq and questioned the administration’s justification for the war. Many signs also included sentiments such as “Re-defeat Bush in 2004;” “Thanks for the tax dollars. Sorry about the kids. Signed, Halliburton;” and “When Bill Lied, Nobody Died.”

One of the controversial topics present throughout the day was depleted uranium, a waste product of the process that produces enriched uranium for use in atomic weapons and nuclear power plants. It is used in armor-piercing ammunition. However, it has two dangerous side effects, radiation and toxicity. Troops in the former Gulf War were often exposed to it during the course of fighting and it is thought to be one of several factors responsible for Gulf War Syndrome. John Abadon of Albany, New York, a former Vietnam veteran representing Veterans for Peace, states “NL Industries left a toxic waste dump in Albany that’s been [the] subject of millions of dollars of cleanup.” He also said, “There is no protection from depleted uranium. Even [with] gas masks there’s small particles that go right through the filters and get themselves in the lungs.”

Despite the importance of the issue, many at the protest were unaware of it, and many pro-war demonstrators were at a loss to respond. Said Dean Morris of South Carolina, representing a local patriot group in favor of the war, “I don’t understand that much about the depleted uranium. I’m preaching the bible of Jesus Christ. I don’t get much chance to watch the news.”

A number of religious groups were present. There were numerous Jewish and Muslim contingents. A striking squadron of saffron-robed Buddhist drummers added color and diversity. Signs and symbols worn by others identified them as Roman Catholic, Quaker, Unitarian-Universalists, United Church of Christ, and others.

Mounted U.S. Park Service and Washington, D.C. police officers separated counter-protestors from the marchers. The group’s leader berated the protesters through a bullhorn, advising them that they were hell-bound for not praying for President Bush and supporting his policies as the Bible demanded. Cohorts carried mega-banners such as one decorated with pictures of rifles, sub-machine guns, fighter planes, and exploding ordinance that read, “SUPPORT PRESIDENT BUSH.” Companion banners read, “GOD IS ANGRY WITH THE WICKED EVERY DAY, Psalm 7:11” and, in red, white, and blue, “GOD HATES YOU NOW: Sodomites, Abortionists, Drunkards, Just The Way You Are.”

Whatever the wrath of the God held in store for counter-protestors last Saturday, the sun beamed down over Pennsylvania Avenue from a sky pillowed by only a few puffy clouds. The cops were reportedly decent and helpful and the D.C. air was cool and heady as wine as the marchers tramped, danced, and sang their way on by.

Information on future demonstrations can be found on A.N.S.W.E.R.’s website, www.answer.com.