March 20th, 2010, 16:21
Thousands rally on anniversary of Iraq invasion
WASHINGTON — Thousands of protesters carried signs reading “Indict Bush Now” and flag-draped cardboard coffins Saturday — the seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq — urging the immediate withdrawal of all troops sent into combat overseas.
Protesters rallied at Lafayette Park across from the White House and then began marching through downtown. Stops on the route include military contractor Halliburton, the Mortgage Bankers Association and The Washington Post offices.
The protest — which calls for the immediate withdrawal of troops sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan — drew a smaller crowd than the tens of thousands who marched in 2006 and 2007. But organizers said many more people have become disenchanted with President Obama, who has pledged to withdraw troops from Iraq, because he ordered more troops into Afghanistan.
Anna Berlinrut of South Orange, N.J., was one of a number of protesters who have children that have served in Iraq, and said her son supports her protests.
“If there were a draft, we’d have a million people out here,” Berlinrut said when asked about the turnout. The exact number of protesters was unclear, as D.C. authorities do not give out crowd estimates.
The protest at Lafayette Park was peaceful, although police closed a portion of the sidewalk in front of the White House fence after protesters tried to use mud and large stencils to spell out “Iraq veterans against the war.”
Once the sidewalk was closed, the protesters stenciled the message on the street using mud they had carried in buckets to the rally.
Longtime activist Cindy Sheehan was among the speakers at the rally and asked whether “the honeymoon was over with that war criminal in the White House” — an apparent reference to Obama — prompting moderate applause. Sheehan also encouraged protesters to join a tent camp near the Washington Monument, saying they need to do more than shake their fists at empty buildings.
She pledged to erect the tents again after the National Park Service forced protesters to take down the tents Monday.
Sheehan has been a vocal critic of the war since her 21-year-old son Casey was killed in Iraq in April 2004. She staged a prolonged demonstration in 2005 outside former President George W. Bush’s ranch near Crawford, Texas.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark also spoke, calling on the Justice Department to investigate the officials who launched the Iraq war.
Later, activist and former U.S. presidential contender Ralph Nader said there has been no real difference in American foreign policy since Obama’s election.
“He’s kept Guantanamo open, he’s continued to use indefinite detention, he refuses to pay for the war,” Nader said.
In New York City, there were far fewer protesters at a similar rally. A few dozen enthusiastic protesters gathered near a military recruiting station in Times Square, although they were far outnumbered by uninterested tourists.
A group of older women calling themselves the Raging Grannies sang, “The country is broke, this war is a joke.” Four demonstrators evoked images of the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by dressing in orange uniforms and wearing black hoods.
Liz Proefriedt, a retired Roman Catholic nun, held up a banner that read, “Bread not bombs.”
“It’s sad that a lot of people did not come out for this protest,” said Kathy Hoang of Manchester, Conn. “People are getting used to the war, and don’t bother even to think about it anymore.”
Associated Press writer Verena Dobnik contributed to this report from New York.
March 20th, 2010 16:21