Thousands of protesters marched to the Pentagon Saturday afternoon to oppose the Iraq War and mark the fourth anniversary of the country’s invasion, which was Tuesday.
The demonstration began at the Lincoln Memorial, crossed the Memorial Bridge and ended at the Pentagon’s north wall. It followed the path of the historic Oct. 21, 1967 Vietnam War protest march to the Pentagon, in which nearly 700 protesters were arrested. Five protesters were arrested on Saturday, according to the Washington Post.
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition, a mass action political resistance organization made up of hundreds of smaller organizations, coordinated the activity.
The protesters, ranging from veterans to local high school students, were met at several points by counter-protesters. Though minor scuffles occurred between the two sides, no major fights were reported.
While many speakers and participants called on Congress to impeach President George W. Bush, the activists were also angry at the newly-elected Democratic majority for not coming to a decision on the Iraq War. Prominent speakers at the event included anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.).
“We are shocked that the Democratic majority in Congress chose war over us as we say, ‘bring our troops home now,'” McKinney said. She has spoken at several anti-war events and previously introduced articles of impeachment against President Bush and other administration officials in the House of Representatives.
The march left the Lincoln Memorial at 1 p.m. and reached the Pentagon by 2 p.m. Protesters continued to stream into both the Pentagon area and the Lincoln Memorial into the late afternoon, but the cold and windy weather cut short several activities.
An informal group of veteran’s organizations called the Gathering of Eagles brought veterans to D.C. to show support for Bush and the troops and to protect the war memorials from vandalism. Police officers set up metal detectors to screen visitors to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial to ensure it did not suffer any damage during the march.
The counter-protesters lined Constitution Avenue near the Lincoln Memorial staging area, chanting “USA” taunting the anti-war demonstrators.
While there were students participating in the protest, some speakers singled out today’s youth for being apathetic compared to that of the Vietnam era. John Ferguson, a student studying in D.C. this semester from Furman University in South Carolina, said he thought the mix of generations was a positive aspect to the event.
“I thought it was going to be only students here, but I think it’s better to see the diversity of age groups,” he said.
Freshman Graham Ellis, of Johns Hopkins University, said the passion of the counter-protesters was one of the more poignant parts of the day.
“I thought it was interesting to see those who were protesting … just seeing the juxtaposition of the two groups fighting for their causes,” Ellis said.
Like many students attending the march, Ellis was able to travel into D.C. from his school in Baltimore because the protest occurred during his spring break. For his companion Rebecca Baird, who paid her own way from the University of Illinois, the reasoning was much simpler.
Baird said, “I’m a student. It’s my duty to be here.”