Tens of thousands of demonstrators from across the country are expected in the District this week protesting a possible war with Iraq.
Organizers said the “National March on Washington,” scheduled for Saturday, will join the anti-war movement with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King’s birthday is Jan. 15, celebrated as a federal holiday this year on Monday, Jan. 20.
“Martin Luther King took a strong stance against the war in Vietnam and fought for the same principles of health care and education that we stand for,” said Eleiza Braun, a campus organizer for the demonstrations.
Braun said the protest will focus on the government’s decision to place military budget allocations ahead of health care and social service needs.
The demonstration is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at the west side of the Capitol Building on the Mall at Constitution and Third streets.
Following the rally, protesters said they plan to march to the Washington Naval Yard in Southeast, where they will call for the elimination of all U.S. weapons of mass destruction.
“We are going to be marching through the neighborhoods (in Southeast) of those most effected by the war,” said Braun. She said working class neighborhoods will be hardest hit if social services are limited by a war.
University security officials said no additional security measures are being taken because the demonstrations are planned for sites away from campus.
“We have been watching this very closely,” said John Petrie, assistant vice president for public safety and emergency management. “The protests should not impact the campus.”
The anti-war movement has yet to generate momentum in the U.S., though demonstrations against a possible war with Iraq have drawn hundreds of thousands to the streets of cities around the world including London and Florence.
Much international criticism has focused on President George W. Bush’s declared option of waging preemptive wars in the interests of national security.
“This is a preemptive protest for a preemptive war,” Braun said. “(The weekend’s demonstrations) will show people in this country that it is okay to be against the war and show that we have a critical mass of people opposed to it.”
The International ANSWER coalition, which is organizing this weekend’s protest, will bring celebrities to the event including actress Jessica Lang, actor and activist Mike Farrell and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, among other leaders of the labor, peace and anti-war movement.
“The American people have very little time left to tell President Bush that they don’t want the U.S. to be an aggressor nation and attack Iraq,” said former Attorney General Ramsey Clark at a press conference last week. “Martin Luther King weekend is a perfect time to say, ‘No War, Mr. President.'”
Organizers said no civil disobedience is planned and the protests will be peaceful.
A counter protest is planned before Saturday’s anti-war march at Constitution Gardens at 9 a.m. Participants will meet at the U.S. Marine Corps barracks at Eighth and I streets in Southeast. The D.C. chapter of MOVE OUT (Marines and Other Veterans Engaging Outrageous Un-American Traitors) is organizing the counter protest events.