Sep 26, 2005
A rally and march called by several anti-war organizations drew at least 100,000 people to Washington D.C. on Saturday, Sept. 24. The organizers said that the crowd exceeded 200,000. Even the DC police chief agreed that the march probably exceeded the organizers' original goal of 100,000.
Whichever figure, this was the largest demonstration against the Iraq war since it began in March 2003.
The crowd that gathered in Washington was diverse. Activists were joined by people of all ages and occupations, as well as relatives of troops stationed in Iraq and some soldiers in uniform. Many protesters said that this was the first time they were participating in a demonstration like this.
The rising number of U.S. deaths was a prominent concern expressed by protesters. A woman from New Hampshire brought a 700-yard banner – a long rope carried by 80 people, holding the pictures of 1,900 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Many protesters questioned the priorities of the government. "Make Levees Not War," proclaimed one T-shirt; signs demanded, "Healthcare Not Warfare." Some protesters carried a 25-foot-tall effigy of Bush, sporting a military flight suit and a growing Pinocchio nose.
A second rally with more than 10,000 people took place in Los Angeles, and other smaller ones in other cities. In San Diego, which has a large naval base, 2,000 protesters showed up for a rally called by "Veterans for Peace." Two signs there read, "War Is Terrorism With a Bigger Budget," and "Bush is a Category 5 Disaster."These rallies were able to gather large crowds despite the Bush administration's open efforts to intimidate would-be protesters. Two days before, Bush had said: "Some Americans want us to withdraw our troops so that we can escape the violence. I recognize their good intentions, but they are wrong. ... Withdrawing our troops would make the world more dangerous and America less safe." The administration's efforts to encourage counter-demonstrations in support of the war also failed, as no more than 200 showed up to oppose the anti-war rally.
Ironically, the significance of these protests was perhaps best summarized by one of the organizers of the pro-war rally, who said that it was not protests that stopped the Viet Nam war but the fact that they "demoralized" the troops.
Demoralized? No, to the contrary, large anti-war protests during the Viet Nam war encouraged soldiers to do what they wanted to do anyway: refuse to "sacrifice" their lives – or, for that matter, limbs – for a war they didn't see the point of.
That was also the sentiment expressed by Army Sgt. Frank Cookinham: "I've never done this before, but here I am, in uniform, figuring this is the only way I can shove it to Bush," said the veteran who just returned from a second tour in Iraq, "This war makes no sense."