Mass marches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago punctuate week of action
On March 19, the fifth anniversary of the war, hundreds of protests took place in cities and towns large and small. In San Francisco, ANSWER organized a night-time march of 7,000 people. Thousands of young people joined the very spirited and densely packed march which stretched for several blocks along Mission St. Chants of "Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine," "No More War," and "El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido" (the People United Will Never Be Defeated) echoed through the Mission District. Among the speakers at the event were Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq; independent presidential candidates Cynthia McKinney and Gloria La Riva; Zeina Zaatari of the Free Palestine Alliance; Iraqi American activist Muhammed Al-Adeeb; and Eugene Puryear, National Co-Coordinator of Youth and Student ANSWER. Throughout the day in San Francisco there were direct actions and civil disobedience, planned by many different organizations.
March 19th protest in San Francisco|
Simultaneously, 4,000 people took to the streets of Chicago. Spirited chants of "Troops Out Now, Iraq for Iraqis" echoed throughout downtown as the march -- made up primarily of young, energetic and militant protesters -- proceeded through the streets. The demonstration was called by a coalition of organizations, and there was a significant turnout of young people from Arab and Muslim communities.
March 19th protest in Chicago|
At the rally in Federal Plaza prior to the march, A.N.S.W.E.R. Chicago Coordinator John Beacham told thousands that "Our enemies are not in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela or China. They're in Washington, The Pentagon, and Wall Street. They want us to fight their wars and fight each other. We must resist their divide and conquer strategies and fight them. Change will come through a united struggle against the banks, corporations and the war machine."
The March 19 actions came four days after a march of 10,000 through downtown Los Angeles. The march filled the six-lane street from sidewalk to sidewalk on Hollywood Blvd. from Vine to Schrader--many blocks away. During the march, people at the front of the march could see the marchers still joining the action 7 blocks behind them. youthful, with students pouring into the march from hundreds of Southern California schools. A large, militant contingent of over 200 young people wore red shirts and marched together. Other students lined the front banners, chanting "Iraq for Iraqis, troops out now!" and "Alto a la guerra, stop the war!"
Once the marchers arrived at the main rally point at Sunset and Cahuenga, at least 10,000 people stood at the CNN building. Protesters chanted "CNN, can't you see? Put the peace march on TV!" Despite strong, cold winds and scattered rain, many thousands stayed at the rally site for hours.
From March 13-16 in Washington DC, Iraq Veterans Against the War sponsored Winter Soldier, an event that showcased testimony from U.S. veterans who served in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The veterans delivered powerful accounts of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground in those countries. Iraq war veteran and ANSWER organizer Michael Prysner spoke at the event, retelling his horrifying responsibilities as an occupation soldier, and denouncing the Army officers who used racism and bigotry in order to justify the oppression of the Iraqi people. Prysner's eloquent and compelling testimony cuts through the Pentagon's propaganda and can be viewed here.
Michael Prysner at Winter Soldier|
Also in Washington DC, several civil disobedience and direct actions took place around the city. Dramatic actions took place in front of prominent government buildings as well as the corporate offices of the principal war profiteers.