Participants in Saturday’s anti-Iraq War march hold signs in protest. The march started at Lafayette Square Park and ended on Capitol Hill.
assistant photo editor
A protest aimed at curbing war in the Middle East was fervent Saturday but only about 189 people were arrested on Capitol Hill, according to media reports.
Organizers estimate that 100,000 people participated in the protest, 150 of whom were GW students and 160 of whom were arrested for breaching barricades set by the Metropolitan Police Department around the steps of the Capitol.
Though the police officers standing guard around this barricade were armed with riot gear, automatic weapons, body armor and tear gas, most of the arrests occurred without much force or violence in response to protesters trying to jump over the barricades.
“(We want) Congress and the Republicans specifically… to wake up and hear that the American people want an end to the war in Iraq now,” said junior Cory Struble, communications director for the GW College Democrats.
The protest was sponsored by anti-war organization A.N.S.W.E.R., though most of the GW student participants were members of GW College Democrats or Students Against War in Iraq. Additionally, members of GW College Republicans participated in a counterprotest staged along Pennsylvania Avenue.
A march to the Capitol began near the White House in Lafayette Square where anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and Iraq Veterans Against the War supporter Adam Kokesh, a graduate student in GW’s School of Public Policy and Public Administration, spoke to participants before beginning the march.
Frustrated with the march’s two-hour-late start, GW student activists led the charge out of Lafayette Square where anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and Iraq Veterans Against the War supporter Adam Kokesh, a graduate student in GW’s School of Public Policy and Public Administration, spoke to participants before beginning the march.
Kokesh and other members of Iraq Veterans Against the War led the marchers down Pennsylvania Avenue. Marchers clashed with counterprotesters, exchanging taunts and abusive language. One marcher screamed “Y’all are a bunch of racists,” at a group of counterprotesters, while a pro-war activist yelled at his counterpart, “You represent everything that should be flushed down the toilet!”
“My husband is on his way over (to Iraq) right now,” yelled one protester named Brianna, who declined to tell The Hatchet her last name. “Well, when he gets there, he’ll understand,” replied the pro-war protester. Brianna shouted back angrily, “No he won’t … I could become a widow because of you (people)!”
GW College Republican Chairman Chris Brooks, a senior, took part in the counterprotest and described the anti-war protesters as an extremely disorganized group of people who were “not very peaceful.”
“We’re just here showing our peaceful support for America and our troops,” Brooks said.
Sophomore Andrew Hunter recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with the Army. He is a member of the GW College Republicans and participated in Saturday’s counterprotest.
“I’m actually out here to support everybody who’s over there, … the cause that we are fighting for right now,” Hunter said. “I don’t believe that people who say they support the troops but don’t support their mission really have a leg to stand on.”
Protesters also staged a “die-in” where participants, including Iraq War veterans, lay flat on the ground to symbolize war casualties. Representatives from A.N.S.W.E.R. said about 5,000 people took part in the “die-in”.