Crowds pack Out of Iraq meetings across nation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Five hundred people turned out to hear antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, actor Sean Penn and other speakers at the Out of Iraq Town Hall Forum here Jan. 7, one of over 130 similar meetings held nationwide in partnership with AfterDowningStreet.org.

Nearly 200 could not enter the crowded Health Care Workers Union hall and had to listen via a loudspeaker on the sidewalk outside.

Speakers urged the clapping and cheering audience to call their senators and representatives in support of several resolutions before Congress calling for Iraq withdrawal timetables, cutting war funding, amending the military recruitment part of the No Child Left Behind Act and censuring the president and vice president for lying to Congress.

Sheehan, from nearby Vacaville, and heroine of the Camp Casey vigil in Crawford, Texas, got a standing ovation. “We have to all get so fed up that we all sit down — or stand up,” she said. “We the people have all the power. They only take away the power when we allow them to.”

“Do a Camp Casey at Doris Matsui’s office,” she advised the crowd. “Sit down and say you’re not going to leave until she calls for withdrawal from Iraq.” Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D) is not yet a co-sponsor of any congressional antiwar resolution.

Laurie Loving, organizer of the Davis chapter of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), urged participants to join antiwar vigils every Saturday afternoon at Broadway and 16th Street, and Sacramento Veterans for Peace daily 4:30 a.m. demonstrations at the Military Entrance Processing Station, both in Sacramento. She also called for support for MFSO’s campaign to get the Davis City Council to pass a resolution for withdrawal from Iraq.

Other speakers included David Dionisi, author of “American Hiroshima,” Charles Brown, candidate for the 4th Congressional District now represented by the far-right John Doolittle, and Norman Solomon, author of “War Made Easy,” who warned the audience not to concentrate too much on just getting the troops home.

“Increased bombing is the game plan for 2006,” said Solomon. “Even if the troops come home, if we allow our tax dollars to be used to slaughter people in Iraq the war will not be over.”

Among other town hall meetings:

Arlington, Va.: The crowd packed an overflow room and another 500 were turned away from a Jan. 5 meeting hosted by Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va.) and featuring Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.). Both strongly supported ending the war as soon as possible and withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq.

“It’s time to let Iraqis take over this effort,” Murtha said. “Let them solve their own problems, as we did in the revolutionary war.”

Northbrook, Ill.: Another overflow crowd gathered at the Northbrook Library, without Chicago-area 10th District Congressman Mark Kirk, a Republican, who refused to attend. Speaking were Ron Miller, chair of Lake Forest College’s religion department; David Cortright of Notre Dame University’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies; and retired General Robert Gard.

Lincoln, Neb.: Some 50 protesters drew more support than disagreement as they stood for two hours holding signs at Woods Park. Tim Rinne, coordinator of rally sponsor Nebraskans for Peace, said while antiwar events after Sept. 11 drew hostile responses, support for the antiwar movement is growing because the nation’s political mood is changing.

Seattle: A packed house at the Seattle Labor Temple heard speakers including Democratic Congressmen Jim McDermott and Jay Inslee call for bringing the troops home now and removing from office those responsible for the war. Participants discussed how to monitor media war coverage, direct and legislative action against the war, and how to meet the needs of returning veterans.