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Protests bloom across U.S. on third anniversary of Iraq war
"Bring them home now"

By Elizabeth Schulte | March 24, 2006 | Page 15

ANTIWAR ACTIVISTS across the country came together on March 18 to protest the three-year anniversary of the war on Iraq.

In the absence of a call for a national antiwar mobilization to mark the milestone, antiwar forces organized their own local events.

In Los Angeles, as many as 10,000 protesters attended a March 18 demonstration called by ANSWER. In San Francisco, about 6,000 demonstrators filled the Civic Center Plaza. A large contingent at the front of the march proudly held Palestinian flags and chanted to demand an end to the occupations in Palestine and Iraq.

More than 8,000 people marched down Chicago's posh Michigan Avenue on the night of March 18. Earlier that day, more than 250 students participated in a march organized by the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) to demand an end to military recruitment in schools.

Chanting "Sí se puede, we can end the war," the march kicked off from the University of Illinois-Chicago, base of the ROTC battalion command, to meet up with several other feeder marches, including labor and community contingents, from all over the city for an afternoon rally in Union Park.

At the rally of more than 1,500 people, Anita Rico, organizer for Centro Sin Fronteras and Zócalo Urbano, linked up the demands of the previous week's protest of 300,000 for immigrant rights to the demands of the antiwar movement. "We're against all U.S. war, especially the war against Mexicans here in the U.S.," Rico said. "They brutalize and criminalize the Mexican population here, but yet they can still send us off to the war.

"While back in this country, they're deporting us, separating our families, building more jails, and putting more recruiters in every school. We need to let our Latino brothers and sisters know there's no place for them in the war. We stand firm--end the war, bring the troops home now."

The message of the day was the need for a unified, antiracist struggle against the war as protesters chanted, "Black, Latino, Arab, Asian and white! No racist war, no more, no more. Defend our civil rights!"

In New York City, a spirited group of 50 picketed the Harlem Army Recruiting Center Saturday morning in an event organized by several groups, including CAN chapters at Columbia and City College of New York, New York City Labor Against the War, the Harlem Tenants Council, La Fuerza de la Revolución and the International Socialist Organization. Afterward, they funneled downtown by subway to join some 1,000 fellow antiwar protesters in Times Square.

Last week, hundreds of veterans, military family members and Katrina survivors marched from Mobile, Ala., to New Orleans to link the carnage of Bush's war with his administration's incompetence dealing with those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. With about 100 people beginning their march on Monday, at least 500 took part in the final rally in New Orleans on Saturday.

"The main accomplishment was that we built relationships with people from local communities and seeing firsthand the destruction on the Gulf Coast, many of us were inspired to return and to help people rebuild and to spread the word that the destruction is still so overwhelming," Kelly Dougherty of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) said in an interview.

"It really helped bring people to together--not just IVAW members, but everyone. In a short amount of time, people made very strong bonds--with other vets, other military family members and community members."

Another important march linking immigrants rights and the war--the Latino March for Peace--came to Los Angeles last week.

On March 15, Pablo Paredes--war resister and central organizer of the peace march from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Francisco, Calif.--addressed 100 people who attended a fundraiser at the University of California-Los Angeles Labor Center. "We are striving to better ourselves, and in flies the military recruiters," Paredes said. "We want to break down borders, because peace has no borders."

The fundraiser also featured Faiza Al-Araji, an Iraqi woman who is touring the U.S. to speak out against the atrocities she has witnessed. As long as American troops are in Iraq, she said, there will be violence. "They divide each to conquer and control," Al-Araji said. "They are pushing the country to civil war."

Two days later, Paredes joined Fernando Suarez del Solar, the father of a slain soldier, and 30 supporters in East Los Angeles' Salazar Park, the site of the historic 1970 Chicano Moratorium protest against the Vietnam War.

The group, which included students from East Los Angeles College, marched in the pouring rain to Roosevelt High School, where they met dozens more protesters who rallied to oppose military recruitment in our schools. Now 150 people-strong, the group marched to a nearby Army and Navy recruitment station chanting "¡Escuelas sí, guerra no!" (Schools yes, war no!)

When Suarez del Solar tried to enter the recruitment station and deliver a message of peace, the door was slammed in his face.

"We are here to demand that no more young people lose their lives in this war as my son did," he told the rally. "And more than 400 people died this year trying to cross the border. So we also must take a stand against these unjust laws that treat all immigrants as terrorists. The only real terrorist is George Bush."

Antiwar protesters also took to the streets in other cities and towns across the country to demand that U.S. troops get out--and get out now. In Seattle, almost 2,000 spilled into the streets, representing a variety of antiwar voices including students, veterans, Arab-Americans, Filipinos and unions.

"We can't just call for troops out now anymore," CAN member Jorge Torres told the crowd. "To Democratic Representative John Murtha, that means out of Iraq and into Kuwait and surrounding countries so that the U.S. can carpet bomb Iraq in a repeat of the Vietnam War. We need to call for troops home now!"

The College Not Combat citywide initiative campaign kicked off its first day of petition gathering at the protest. Some 1,000 came out to a peace festival and rally in San Diego sponsored over 60 activist groups.

In Washington, D.C., about 200 people protested at Vice President Dick Cheney's house before marching to Dupont Circle for a speak-out. In Ventura, Calif., 500 people marched down Main St. after the St. Patrick's Day parade on March 18, the culmination of a week of antiwar events. Some 700 rallied in Olympia, Wash., and 800 in Tacoma.

About 1,000 people marched in Eugene, Ore. Sara Rich, whose daughter has gone AWOL from the Army rather than return for a second tour of duty in Iraq, told the crowd, "Politicians who want to honor the fallen need to show some leadership and bring our troops home now."

About 1,000 people marched through Madison, Wis., stopping at a local army recruiting station. Hundreds gathered to protest and march against the war in Boston. As many as 1,500 turned out in New Haven, Ct., for a protest that demanded troops home now; money for relief, not war; justice for the Palestinian people; no war on Iran; and stop the attacks on Arabs, Muslims and immigrants.

In Rochester, N.Y., more than 400 people took to the streets braving below-freezing temperatures. The march ended at one of Rochester's most neglected schools, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, where community members joined the march as it passed by a local housing project.

Some 400 protesters marched in downtown Providence, R.I. At a speak-out that turned out 85 in Vermont, Jimmy Leas from Burlington Says No to War told the crowd, "We can't rely on the Democrats. We have to build a grassroots movement of students, soldiers and workers to end this war now."

Sam Bernstein, Erika Claich, Alden Eagle, Robin Gee, Danielle Heck, Brian Huseby, Josh Karpoff, Zakiya Khabir, Evan Kornfeld, Kate Johnson, Brian Lenzo, John Osmand, Steve Ramey, Jennifer Ramos, Gillian Russom, Camille White-Avian and Hannah Wolfe contributed to this report.

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