In the largest demonstration since major hostilities in Iraq ceased, thousands of protesters marched through D.C. Saturday to call for the end of the post-war occupation of Iraq.
The march, organized by ANSWER – Act Now to Stop War and End Racism – and United for Peace and Justice, was preceded by a rally in front of the Washington Monument that featured speeches by Democratic presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
“Don’t give Bush $87 billion, don’t give him 87 cents, give our troops a ride home!” said Sharpton, referring to Bush’s request for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq.
Clark said the George W. Bush administration’s foreign policy is “the greatest threat to peace, security and the well-being of the poor of the planet” and called for Bush’s impeachment.
“There is a clear and present danger to this country,” he said. “Bush destroyed the Constitution and shredded the Bill of Rights … but humanity won’t be intimidated.”
About a dozen GW students from Students for Justice and Peace helped run a table representing the Campus Anti-war Network and handed out flyers and sold buttons that read “End the Occupation.”
After the speeches, demonstrators embarked on a four-hour march that took them past the White House’s Lafayette Park and the FBI and Department of Justice buildings. Protesters marched to the beat of drums and chants of “Hey, Bush, we know you. Your daddy was a killer, too” and “Bush, you liar, we want your ass retired.”
Metropolitan Police Officer Kenneth Bryson, of MPD’s Public Information Office, said no arrests were made during the protest, which started at 11 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m.
MPD officers in riot gear lined the parade route and blocked a small contingent of Bush supporters from clashing with protesters at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Bryson declined to say how many officers were present at the protest.
“We want to make sure that you are able to get your opinion across and your voice heard, and everybody was able to do that pretty peacefully,” said MPD Officer Kelly Collins-McMurry. ”
While organizers said the protest drew 100,000 people, U.S. Park Service officials said no more than 40,000 demonstrators attended the event. Organizers said protesters were bussed in from 135 cities in 40 states.
Many people in the crowd said they had family members and friends serving in Iraq.
Larry Syverson, of Virginia, carried a sign that read, “Iraqi oil isn’t worth my sons’ blood.” His two sons, Brandon and Bryce, are stationed in Iraq and he said they will be abroad in Iraq for at least a year.
More countries need to commit troops to the peacekeeping effort, he said. Of the hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq, only a few thousand are from other countries such as England, Poland and Spain.
– Michael Barnett contributed to this report