WASHINGTON – In wake of escalating talks of preemptive military strikes, an estimated 200,000 activists, including dozens of University students, gathered at the Capitol Saturday to protest a future war in Iraq.
International advocacy coalition Act Now to Stop War & End Racism orchestrated the March on Washington, which began with a collection of speakers in front of the Capitol and ended with a march to the Navy Yard – a military harbor for warships – in the afternoon.
While thousands marched to the Navy Yard, protests occurred in 30 other countries, including England, Japan and Brazil. In San Francisco, another 200,000 protesters marched against the war.
protesters expressed several different motives for their opposition to a war, but many agreed that a war would cripple the U.S. economy and kill thousands of innocent civilians – American and Iraqi.
“Civil liberties are slowly getting repressed,” said Anti-War Coalition Member Faried Ibrahim. “It’s vastly becoming un-American.”
Ibrahim joined several hundred students in a separate march from John Marshall Park earlier that morning, along with University students from the Anti-War Action! and performing arts group, Watchdog.
“We have chosen to come here to let our opposition to the war be known to leaders in D.C. and to the general population,” said AWA! organizer Yochi Zakai, a sophomore in the School of Natural Resources. “This is not just a couple of radicals, but a mainstream movement of thousands of people,” he added, as group members assisted him in inflating a large missile that read “False Security” on one side, and “This Is Not The Answer” on the other.
Before marching southeast down Pennsylvania Avenue, protesters assembled with signs to hear popular speakers declare motions for peace.
“Let’s choose minds over missiles and negotiation over confrontation,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson in his speech on the Mall. “We must stop mindless foreign policy and give peace a chance.”
U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) said billions of dollars would be squandered on a war that could otherwise be used to shore up the economy.
“Risking all this makes no sense when there is no imminent threat,” he said. “It was Dr. King who spoke out against the Vietnamese war, and like the Vietnamese war, Iraq would be a major error.”
In addition to marching at the rally, student protesters collaborated at The George Washington University to set long-term goals for resisting war. During a Friday night conference, AWA! members joined students from across the country to form the Campus Anti-War Network – a nation-wide coalition of over 59 colleges, including the University.