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War Makes Terrorists

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Issue: 31 Section: Accounts Geography: USA Washington DC Topics: social movements

November 1, 2005

War Makes Terrorists

Hundreds of thousands march for peace in D.C.

by Carey Jernigan

Protesters argued that resources going to Iraq would be better spent in New Orleans photo: Carey Jernigan
Between two and three hundred thousand people descended on the streets of Washington, D.C. on September 24th to protest the war in Iraq — to demand an end to violence overseas and to demand resources for the impoverished at home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Hundreds of others, traveling to the capital on Amtrak trains from New York, were delayed or prevented from coming because of "electrical problems."

The march kicked off a festival at the Washington monument with live music (from Joan Baez to the Thievery Corporation) and speakers (including Rev. Jesse Jackson, basketball player Etan Thomas, and Cindy Sheehan — the mother who set up camp outside of Bush's Texas ranch after her son was killed in Iraq). The next day, a small counter-demonstration was held by those in support of the war. There were also workshops on non-violent civil disobedience in preparation for Monday when three hundred and seventy people were arrested after refusing to back off the sidewalk in front of the White House where they were asking to present President Bush with one million reasons to end the war in Iraq — reasons assembled by people around the world. Participants were given a $50 fine. There were also protests outside of the World Bank and IMF meetings.

I travelled to Vienna, Virginia from my home in Ontario, then took the metro into D.C. to attend the march. Sitting beside me on the subway were two young men. One wore a t-shirt that said "innocent bystander" and a hat reading "Veteran — U.S. Marine Corps." His friend wore a beer shirt. They were joking around: "We should have made signs saying: 'I'M ANGRY AT … SOMETHING.'"

"Yeah, or 'DAMN WHATEVER.'"

The train was packed. We squeezed our way up the escalator to get out of the station and onto the Mall, past the National Book Fair, and on to the grounds of the Washington Monument where thousands had already gathered. We passed a silent standoff between a line of protestors and police on horseback, and then followed a throng of people up 15th Street to begin the march. We would eventually pass the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Bank of America, the F.B.I. Building, the Department of Justice, the I.R.S., and the National Museum of American History — building after grand building, colossal columns and marble bricks. Several people carried signs that were provided by protest organizers: 'TROOPS OUT NOW,' for example, or 'THE WORLD CAN'T WAIT; DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME.' Perhaps most interesting, though, were the thousands of home-made signs:


'BOO BUSH.' (This in a five-year-old's scrawling hand).

'SOMEBODY LIED.' (This carried by a veteran well into his eighties).



'BREASTS NOT BOMBS.' (Four women posing as examples.)






In a few spots along the way, groups of large men with bibles shouted 'Fear God' photo: Carey Jernigan
Some people carried signs saying that they had been here to protest the war in Vietnam, and now again for Iraq. At that earlier protest, people carried candles and shouted the names of those who had died in Vietnam as they passed the White House.

At one point we decided to work our way up to the front. We never made it — people had been marching for hours already and continued to fill the streets into the night.

There was some street theatre — a dance troop with perhaps fifty paper-mâché people moving to the beat of a drum, facing off with well-dressed women in tiaras carrying shopping bags, getting shot down, getting back up.

In a few spots along the way, groups of large men with bibles shouted 'Fear God' or 'You're marching with communists!,' calling the passers-by traitors. One had a sign featuring an automatic rifle: 'GOD BLESS AMERICA. CURSE OUR ENEMIES.' Other war supporters lined a sidewalk behind police in front of the F.B.I. building. They held signs saying 'SUPPORT OUR TROOPS' and 'FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.'

There were some harsh words on both sides of the barricade, but for the most part, the march of thousands was quiet — line after line of protesters of all ages and upbringings, walking with dedication and silent anger, or sometimes sadness. Perhaps, as my neighbours on the metro had joked, they were "ANGRY AT SOMETHING" perhaps too disturbing or too difficult to shape into the words of brief protest rhymes.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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