Saturday, September 24, 2005

March On, Protestors!

March On! They have my full support!

Anti-War Protesters March in D.C., London

WASHINGTON (AP) - Opponents of the war in Iraq rallied by the thousands Saturday to demand the return of U.S. troops, staging a day of protest, song and remembrance of the dead in marches through Washington and other cities in the U.S. and Europe.

More than 2,000 people gathered on the Ellipse hours before the showcase demonstration past the White House, the first wave of what organizers said would be the largest Washington rally since the war began. President Bush himself was out of town, monitoring hurricane recovery efforts from Colorado and Texas.

"We have to get involved," said Erika McCroskey, 27, who came from Des Moines, Iowa, with her younger sister and mother for her first demonstration, traveling in just one of the buses that poured into the capital from far-flung places.

"Bush Lied, Thousands Died," said one sign. "End the Occupation," said another.

While united against the war, political beliefs varied in the Washington crowd. Paul Rutherford, 60, of Vandalia, Mich., said he is a Republican who supported Bush in the last election and still does - except for the war.

"President Bush needs to admit he made a mistake in the war and bring the troops home, and let's move on," he said. His wife, Judy, 58, called the removal of Saddam Hussein "a noble mission" but said U.S. troops should have left when claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.

"We found that there were none and yet we still stay there and innocent people are dying daily," she said.

Arthur Pollock, 47, of Cecil County, Md., said he was against the war from the beginning. He wants the soldiers out, but not all at once.

"They've got to leave slowly," said Pollock, attending his first protest. "It will be utter chaos in that country if we pull them out all at once."

A crowd in London, estimated by police at 10,000, marched in support of withdrawing British troops from Iraq. Violent clashes between insurgents and British troops in the southern Iraq city of Basra in recent days highlighted the need to get out, protesters said.

"Enough is enough," said Lindsey German, an official of the Stop the War Coalition, which organized the march. "It is now time, once again, for the British people to step forward into the streets and insist that this time we will not be ignored."

Rallies were planned, too, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Florence, Rome, Paris and Madrid.

In a hitch for some coming to the protest, 13 Amtrak trains running between New York and Washington were delayed for up to three hours Saturday morning for repair of overhead electrical lines. Protest organizers said that held up thousands coming to the rally.

"We believe we are at a tipping point whereby the anti-war sentiment has now become the majority sentiment," said Brian Becker, national coordinator for ANSWER, one of the main anti-war organizers.

Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who drew thousands of demonstrators to her 26-day vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch last month, joined the protest. Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in an ambush in Sadr City, Iraq, last year.

Supporters of President Bush's policy in Iraq assembled in smaller numbers to get their voice heard in the day's anti-war din.

Gary Qualls, 48, of Temple, Texas, whose Marine reservist son, Louis, died last year in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, spoke in support of continued U.S. involvement.

"If you bring them home now, who's going to be responsible for all the atrocities that are fixing to happen over there?" he asked. "Cindy Sheehan?

The protest route runs to the front of the White House, down to the Justice Department and then back to the Washington Monument, site of an 11-hour concert and rally featuring folk singer Joan Baez and stretching well into the night.

Sheehan and other mothers against the war held a small rally near the Washington Monument on Friday. They spoke just a few feet from 1,000 white wooden crosses tucked into the grass to symbolize the more than 1,900 members of the U.S. armed forces who have died since the beginning of the war in March 2003.

At a rally at the U.S. Navy Memorial put on by Protest Warrior and other groups supporting Bush's policy, demonstrators denounced Sheehan as a mother exploiting her son's death.

"If I were to die in Iraq, I wouldn't want my parents to be like Cindy Sheehan," said Army National Guard Spc. Julie McManus, 20, of Drexel Hill, Pa., who was among more than 100 people holding signs. "I'd be ashamed of them."

McManus said she drove to Washington with her boyfriend; she wore a white tank top with the words "American Solider" in black marker.

Associated Press writer Elizabeth White contributed to this report.

On the Net:

ANSWER Coalition:

Gold Star Families for Peace:

Families United for our Troops:

09/24/05 11:57 EDT

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.