Anti-war protesters march in Denver |

Anti-war protesters march in Denver

Catherine Tsai and Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ron Kovic, center, leads a march after an anti-war concert at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008. Kovic had a film "Born on the 4th of July," made about his life. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

DENVER ” A column of people three blocks long, led by members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, streamed from the Denver Coliseum on Wednesday in an anti-war protest march to the Pepsi Center, where the Democratic National Convention is being staged.

As many as 50 soldiers wearing army fatigues led the noisy but peaceful protest into downtown and toward the Pepsi Center as police and bystanders watched.

“We are the veterans! The Iraq War veterans! The anti-war veterans!” they chanted. “We are soldiers! Anti-war soldiers!”

Crowd estimates, generally around 2,000, were fluid as the group lost and picked up people along the way.

A sit-in was planned at the convention site.

Iraq Veterans Against the War wants Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to agree to an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. They also want full health care benefits for returning troops and veterans, and reparations to the Iraqi people for damage caused by the war.

The group sent a letter to Obama on Monday.

The protest march began after a reunited Rage Against the Machine ended a concert that drew an estimated 9,000 people to the coliseum.

Dozens of veterans, some in uniform, began the march in formation, chanting “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” It is about 4 miles from the coliseum to the Pepsi Center.

People on motorcycles and bicycles joined those on foot. Some people held signs that said “US out of Iraq” with red handprints and “No War on Iran.” A few had the numbers of lawyers written on their bodies in case they were arrested.

Behind the veterans, protesters yelled: “Troops out now!”

Jan Critchfield, 24, of Seattle said he served in Iraq in 2004, and after returning home, came to believe that the war was an “unlawful, immoral occupation.”

He said now that he’s back in the U.S., he thinks about what it’s like for Iraqis living with U.S. forces in their country.

“I just can’t imagine driving through my neighborhood at home and seeing a security checkpoint.”

Critchfield said he joined the Army at 17 without much thought about the implications.

Jonny 5, Brer Rabbit and Andy Guerrero of the Denver group Flobots were with the marchers, as was Raymond “Boots” Riley of poltical hip-hop group The Coup.

Lindsay Mauro, 20, Fort Collins carried a sign that said, “I like Boys, Not Bombs.” She decided to join the march when she heard about it at the concert.

“I definitely support it (the protest), I have a lot of friends in Iraq,” she said.

Employees of businesses along march route watched the protesters.

Vietnam War Navy veteran Sylvester Williams stopped to take a look, “It was scary at first, but they’re just marching. They’re trying to be Americans, I guess,” said Sylvester Williams, a Navy veteran from the Vietnam War. “I was part of Vietnam and that was a hoax. This Iraq (expletive) is even worse.”

Jack Scott watched the marchers quietly. “It’s pretty neat, we can still do this in this country,” he said.

Protest organizers repeatedly urged the crowd to stay peaceful. Anyone willing to be arrested at the Pepsi Center sit-in was directed to find a place near the front of the march line.

Protesters were told by organizers not to react to the police presence or risk getting hit with pepper spray.

Critchfield said the veterans’ group is committed to being nonviolent, but they’ll be arrested if they have to.

With temperatures in the 80s, at least one business along the march route was selling juice, and several people could be seen stepping out of line to get one of the drinks before rejoining the crowd.

About 8,000 free tickets were handed out by lottery for the concert, sponsored by Tent State University and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Rage Against the Machine also plans a concert Sept. 3 in Minneapolis during the Republican National Convention, which takes place just across the Mississippi River in St. Paul.

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