A Saturday demonstration to protest the Iraq war resulted in the arrests of 28 people who attempted to deliver the names of the war dead to the White House. Among those arrested was Michael Berg, the father of Nick Berg, a truck driver who was beheaded by Iraqi militants in May.
Immediately upon crossing a police barricade near the White House at 4 p.m., the protesters, several of whom were parents of dead soldiers, were arrested under the federal offense of closure violation, Metropolitan Police officials said.
The preceding ceremonies at the Ellipse also featured a speech by Lila Lipscomb, mother of Sgt. Michael Pederson and subject of the Michael Moore film “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and Michael Hoffman, co-founder of Iraq War Veterans Against the War, also spoke.
Organizers said the ceremonies were held much further from the White House than originally intended. Speakers delivered their words in front of more than 1,000 simulated coffins that symbolized the deaths of soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Some were covered in roses and draped in American flags. Lipscomb addressed the families of soldiers killed in Iraq.
“I have to apologize,” she said. “As hard as I’ve worked, I haven’t saved your children.? I want to say it’s going to get better.? But it’s been 18 months and it only gets worse … a parent is not supposed to bury their children.”
“There’s a lot of people who are saying I’m the mother of the movement,” she said, referring to her prominent role in Moore’s documentary.? “I didn’t choose this. But if I’m able with the strength of my child to touch the core of this movement, then so be it.”
Celeste Zappala, mother of killed soldier Sgt. Sherwood Baker, spoke about the pain and grief of losing a loved one.
“I would give my life not to be here,” she said. “But on April 26 a man appeared at my door with a notebook. He had come to tell me that my sweet and noble 30-year-old son had died that morning in an explosion. He had become the 720th soldier to die in the colossal miscalculation called the war in Iraq.”
Arun Gandhi said his grandfather, who spent his life engaging in non-violent protest, would be disappointed by the war.
“Wherever my grandfather’s soul is today, I know he is watching us, shedding tears for the violence we have witnessed,” he said.
Michael Berg criticized the media for its coverage of the war. “Our media won’t show us the faces of horror in Iraq,” he said. “The only reason they showed my face was for the voyeuristic value of selling newspapers.”
Unlike some recent war protests, the crowd was somber and composed of adult peace activists, veterans and only a small number of young people. Demonstrators carried banners with slogans such as “Support our Troops, End the War” and “A War Based on Lies.” Other banners listed what they calculated as the human price of war: more than 13,000 Iraqis killed, 1,060 American soldiers killed and 34,000 wounded.
The protest march began at the Pentagon at 9 a.m. and continued at the Arlington National Cemetery, where peace activists and Iraq war veterans opened the ceremony. At 1 p.m., the protesters carried symbolic coffins to the White House.
This article appeared in the October 4, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.