DETROIT – Several hundred dissatisfied protesters marched through downtown Saturday to voice their dissent against the war on Iraq and the Bush administration’s domestic policies.
The crowd, though considerably smaller than the 5,000 people organizers expected, was vocally defiant – waving signs, shouting chants, and in some cases, dressing up as “cheerleaders for peace” as they made their way from Tiger Stadium to Hart Plaza on the city’s riverfront.
U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) and his staff organized the four-hour event, in which the congressman was one of several speakers at the culminating rally in Hart Plaza. Conyers has been staunchly anti-war and anti-Bush over the past months and was harsh in his criticism of the administration as he addressed the crowd.
“The war is not only unnecessary, it is immoral,” Conyers said. “We need to indicate to our leaders, alleged and actual, that the majority of people in this country is still opposed to this war.”
Conyers accused the president of being responsible for high unemployment rates and corporate corruption, and said that Bush was guilty of constitutional violations in seeking the war with Iraq. Conyers’ previous suggestions for seeking impeachment against Bush were also revived, drawing an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
“President Bush, on November 2nd, 2004, there will be the biggest regime change you have ever seen. And that’s what we’re preparing for – unless it happens before then,” Conyers said. “Presidents have been impeached before.”
Other speakers included leaders of the local Christian and Muslim communities who called for peace and relief for Americans in need.
“Spending $74 billion on this war while people are starving and killing half a million children in Iraq is wrong,” the Rev. Edward Rome said.
Sizable constituencies of the area’s Iraqi and Arab populations were present at the protest, some carrying flags and wearing Iraqi colors.
“We came to support humanity and to express our dissent on the war,” Ali Ali of Canton Township said. “I don’t think (the protest) will change anything, but at least it will give a message.”
The date of the rally coincided with the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, and speakers called on those present to represent King’s philosophy of non-violence in the face of war. Conyers said King’s opposition to U.S. military endeavors in Vietnam was similar to the position of protesters of the current war.
Opposing viewpoints were noticeably absent from the rally as no signs of a counter-protest were evident. However, a rally to support the troops in combat took place in Pontiac shortly after the event in Detroit had ended.