‘It just has to stop’
WASHINGTON – In a movement that is increasingly angry and insistent, an estimated 250,000 people gathered here over the weekend to protest the war in Iraq.About 80 Coloradans, including at least two from the Roaring Fork Valley, were in D.C. as part of the Peace and Justice Festival and Operation Ceasefire concerts. ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice, two of the nation’s largest peace coalitions, organized the event.”It just seems like with all the people we are killing in Iraq, it just has to stop, and people need to get out of their comfort zone, make a little effort and stand up for what they believe in,” said Missouri Heights resident Cathleen Krahe.”Washington is really the heart of the nation, where all the major decisions are made, so I felt this is the place to come and make a statement.”Today, about 1,000 people from all over the nation, including Krahe and Ann McCloud of Basalt, plan to meet with members of Congress as part of a day of lobbying and peaceful resistance.”I doubt I’ll get arrested,” said McCloud, who is more than 60 years old. “I’m a little nervous about it.”She described herself as a generally shy person but willing to speak out when it’s important.
“I’m going to gather my courage and say what I can about my opinion and the opinion of my friends,” McCloud said. Many of her friends “are older women like myself and may have supported the war at some time, but now see it as a quagmire.”Almost every ethnic or political group was represented at the rally, which marched to the White House. Palestinians, blacks, Hispanics, lesbians, Haitians, Iranians, students, the elderly, war veterans and others who defied categorization clogged the streets of the capital. It was the first major protest to make it to the White House in nearly 10 years.”This is best use I can make of this uniform,” said Telluride resident Phil Miller, wearing his World War II uniform and standing out as one of the older protesters.”If you’ve seen the horrors of war on the front lines, starving civilians, bombed-out homes, you can’t be for war,” said Miller, who with his wife, has been to 10 protests since the war .”Thank you,” said a woman who stopped to take his picture. “My father was in [World War II], and he wouldn’t have supported this war.”Protester Cindy Sheehan, who some say has jump-started the anti-war movement by protesting outside President Bush’s ranch in Texas, was on hand with hundreds of others whose family members were killed or wounded in Iraq. She screamed to the crowd, “Bring them home now!” Sheehan lost her son, Casey, in Iraq.”We mean business, George Bush. We’re going to Congress and were going to ask them, how many more of other people’s children are you willing to sacrifice for the lies?” Sheehan said. “We’re going to say shame on you. Shame on you for giving Bush the authority to invade Iraq. Not one person should have died for that, not one more person should die.”
Jessie Tischler used to live in Durango and showed up to the protest with his mother from Baltimore. “We’ve always been a really active family,” he said.Steve Sach from Boston was flanked by his parents, Joseph and Phillis, who used to take him along to protests when he was a child.The Keeley family from the Washington, D.C., area represented four generations of anti-war protesters.Hannah Pahl, 10, was the “E” in a group of five peace potatoes from the Idaho Peace Coalition. Her mom, the coalition’s founder, was the “P.” Three of the spuds, “A,” “C” and another “E,” were missing, reportedly stuck on the Metro.”I’ve been to lots of protests,” Hannah said.This was her first protest for 11-year-old Marina Black from Telluride, and it was part of her homeschooling. “We believe in life experience for education,” her mother, Carol, said.”My dad was here for a protest with his parents a long time ago, and he told me he got tear-gassed when he was 12,” Marina said.
The protest in Washington was the largest in coordinated anti-war demonstrations across the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.”Does anybody believe they are liberating the Iraqi people?” asked a woman named Zorea from Iranians for Peace. “They turned a secular country into an Islamic country, ending up in civil war. I feel for the American families that have to send their children to this immoral war.”Ken Hofgesang from Orange County, N.Y., served three combat tours in the Middle East. He said he used to be a staunch Republican.”There’s only so much bullshit I can take,” Hofgesang said.He recently helped bury a good friend who was killed in Iraq. “I have a real aversion to seeing 19-year-old kids coming home in body bags.”As the disaster along the Gulf Coast overshadowed the rally, Hurricane Katrina victims joined anti-war demonstrators with slogans that included, “Make levees, not war.”Bush didn’t come out on the South Lawn and listen to the voice of what a USA Today/CNN poll called the majority of Americans who want U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq. Organizers of the rally urged protesters to stay the course.”We stopped the Vietnam War, and we can stop this war!” one said.
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