Protesters call for end to war
Stars and Stripes March 20, 2008
WASHINGTON — Hundreds of protesters fanned out across the nation’s capital Wednesday to call for an end to military operations in Iraq, but city police reported none of the major civic disruptions organizers had predicted.
The events, scheduled to coincide with the five-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, came a few days after pro-war groups marched on the National Mall in support of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq.
Leslie Cagan, co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, said the goal of dispersed demonstrations was to bring awareness to the “shock and awe, shockingly and awful occupation in Iraq still.”
Small groups of protesters with signs reading “Out of Iraq” and “Bring Them Home” wandered outside lobbyists’ offices on K Street, while about 100 more huddled outside the American Petroleum Institute’s main door accusing the oil industry of perpetuating the war.
Another group of veterans and peace activists marched on the National Mall and the National Archives with upside-down flags and anti-war cadences.
A marching band playing Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” led nearly 200 others down to the Internal Revenue Service Headquarters to protest the use of taxpayer funds in the war. Organizers said 31 protesters were detained there, although city police said only one was charged.
Law enforcement also reported at noon only sporadic, short-lived traffic backups on downtown streets, despite protesters’ plans to snarl traffic and block major roads to highlight their message.
A group of counter protesters stood outside the Armed Forces Recruiting Center downtown, but said police did a good job keeping the two groups apart.
“They didn’t let them down this street at all,” said Kristinn Taylor, head of the D.C. chapter of Free Republic. “[The other protesters] are throwing in their lot with our terrorist enemies overseas, and we just wanted to make sure nothing happened to this center.”
Tarak Kauff, an organizer with Veterans for Peace, said group leaders emphasized nonviolent civil disobedience to Wednesday’s participants. His group carried with them a mock arrest warrant for President Bush to be delivered during their protests outside the White House later in the day.
“This is a horrible war, and we need to stop it and take care of our veterans when they get back,” he said.
A number of the groups involved in Wednesday’s events are planning to return to Washington again next month, to protest expected congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, head of Multi-National Force– Iraq. But groups that support the Iraq mission are also planning major rallies of their own for that testimony.