Protestors converge in D.C. as war looms

Posted 5:56 p.m. March 19

by Carolyn Polinsky
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Thousands of demonstrators shouting ‘no war for oil’ and ‘impeach Bush’ marched through the streets of Washington, D.C., on Saturday as part of international protests against the looming war against Iraq.

A diverse group assembled in the nation’s capitol, including parents who pushed their babies in strollers, women who identified themselves as Jewish lesbians against the war, college students looking to protect the arctic refuge and Francophiles who declared a love for cheese.

“I just got tired of sitting around, feeling like feeling like a victim every time I turned on the TV,” said Matt Leclair, who took a 14-hour bus ride from Maine to attend his first demonstration. He said a home-schooled teen-ager organized four busloads of people from his state to attend the march and he heard about it via e-mail and the grapevine.

The protestors met at noon at the Washington Monument where some danced to music and drums. Others passed out pamphlets, “begged for peace” by soliciting donations and sold T-shirts and souvenirs. They listened as activists and leaders such as Jesse Jackson spoke out against the war.

“We feel its Armageddon,” said Monica Andrews, a Fort Meyers, Fla., woman who attends a demonstration every week with 50-60 community members, despite living in a conservative area of her state. Originally from South Africa, she brought her two college-aged children with her and said, “we are a demonstrating family.”

“We wanted to be counted among those who are concerned about the lives of children,” said her friend Nancy Feraldo, a grandmother of two and mother of five.

The march around the White House Justice Department area began at about 2 p.m. and shut down parts of Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue. Protestors yelled at lines of police officers and cheered when they noticed sidewalk supporters who held signs saying that they were innocent bystanders.

“We walked and walked and waked,” said LeClair.

Some stopped and lied down in the streets so that others could draw chalk outlines around their bodies. Vendors sold bottles of water as they marched with the group and one snack salesman garnered cheers when he declared “burritos for peace.”

Protestors held up posters with slogans such as ‘Vive la France,’ ‘If you can read this you’re not our president,’ ‘A drunken frat boy drove our country into a ditch and is trying to cover it up with war,” and “Buck Fush.” One sign pictured a box of french fries, renamed “Fascist Fries.”

“It’s good to see all these people coming out to change things,” said Jenny Todd of Maine.

“This is our last chance to avoid war,” said LeClair. A counter protest was held by the group Free Republics with a permit on a sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue. The group expressing support for war included members who debated the differences between vegetarians and Greenpeace and Americans and Patriots. One nearby man wore a sweatshirt saying “Fry Mumia” and a woman held a sign reading “War Freed the Slaves War Saved the Jews”

Kristinn Taylor said that about 300 people attended the counter rally and they were “citizen volunteers” who “support the war and their allies.” “Our message is no more 9/11s and that’s why we’re here” Taylor said.

Taylor said that if demonstrations took place in Iraq, Saddam Hussein would torture and persecute protestors. He said his group was met with “lots of middle fingers, lots of effin nazis.”

“For peace protestors, they’re very angry,” Taylor said of demonstrators.

However both factions had something in common. “At the end of the day I’m hungry,” said Taylor.

As the protest died down around 5 p.m., sign carrying, bandana clad protestors began looking for places to eat.

“I came because I was promised lots of food and lots of beer,” said Dation Garvey, originally of Trinidad, who was part of a group of international protesters.

His friend Pia Peeters of Belgium said she wanted to lead an effort to rename french fries as “Flemmish Fries” in accordance with the original origin of the food.

“I personally don’t want to pay taxes taken for going to war,” Garvey said as his group scoured Pennsylvania Avenue for restaurants. “You can never win a war unless you annihilate the enemy.”

Three 18-20 year-old women from Montgomery County used the protest as an opportunity to find signers for cards to be sent to Senate protesting the use of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling.

“If we’re going to defend our country we should preserve our country,” said Angie Clubb.

Julie Streep and Michelle Musgrave, who approached people to sign cards along with Clubb, said they noticed many different kinds of people at the protests for various reasons. They said that people are very heartfelt against the war despite being of different ages and social positions.

“Its been good and upbeat,” said Todd. “It’s been a great time.” The march was organized by the coalition A.N.S.W.E.R. and other groups as part of an Emergency Anti-War Convergence. Similar protests were held in San Francisco and throughout the world.

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