On Saturday, nearly 300,000 protestors flooded the streets of Washington, D.C. with one message: troops must come home from Iraq now.The massive rally was overall peaceful, and the march illustrated the fact that many people of different races, creeds, ages and political views are turning against the war together. Instead of only featuring protest veterans or bearded idealists, the rally contained mothers and fathers with their children, Vietnam veterans, high school and college students and several others.
Jews, Muslims, Catholics and Quakers marched side by side. Punk rockers with black leather coats and tattered pants marched next to ordinary middleclass parents who lost a child in Iraq. There was no way to label people who attended the march because the war has affected so many people from across the country who have different lifestyles and beliefs. One sign even read, “Conservatives against the war.”
Though several politicians, such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, spoke at the rally, many of the speakers were not celebrities or Washington regulars. Several of the speakers at the march were parents who lost a child in Iraq.
One of the grieving parents who spoke was Cindy Sheehan, the heartbroken mother who camped in protest outside President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas through the month of August because her son was killed in Iraq. “Not one more should die,” Cindy said to the roaring crowd.
Organizers of the march, which included the anti-war groups International A.N.S.W.E.R and United for Peace and Justice, realized that speeches by parents of fallen soldiers are far more honest and genuine than most speeches from politicians. People like Cindy Sheehan humanize the war and stress the fact that people’s children are dying in Iraq daily.
Though the rally focused on peace and the war in Iraq, otherissues were visible, including the inadequate recovery effort after Hurricane Katrina. “Make levees, not war,” said many signs. “Rita, Katrina, we need a new leader,” protestors chanted. Other signsacknowledged that war drains the economy and takes away from other priorities, like rebuilding schools.
Despite the various issues addressed at the rally, it was clear that all of the protestors believed the Bush administration has acted irresponsible and reckless. TheBush administration has no plan to quell the bloodshed inIraq, nor doesthe administration have aclear plan to rebuild the Gulf Coast.
On Saturday, a varietyof people descended on the streets of the nation’s capital to make a clear statement: the Bush administration should be held accountable for their actions. Therally reflected that all kinds of Americans are not satisfied with the war and the actions of the administration.
As the war worsens, protests will grow. Citizens will write letters to newspapers, spark conversations with their peers, and make their voices heard. In a democracy, every citizen has the right to hold their leaders accountable and voice their opinion.
Brian Fanelli is a senior majoring in comparative literature with minors in creative writing and journalism