Marchers say poor pay for Iraq war

BALTIMORE – About 70 peace activists marched from Baltimore to the White House April 26-28 to protest the war on Iraq and the occupation, which they charged, Bush has forced the poor to pay for both in lives lost and tax dollars squandered.

The 44-mile march, sponsored by the Baltimore Anti-War Coordinating Committee, began with a rally in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon Place on a cold, rainy Saturday.

Aisha Anderson-Oberman, a middle school teacher active in the Baltimore teachers union, told the crowd, “I know that the price of this war is definitely being paid by the poor here in this city and in the urban and rural school system in this country.”

Like many other public school systems, she said, Baltimore is operating with crushing deficits that have forced layoffs of temporary employees, the elimination of academic coaching positions, and the postponement of repairs and school construction. “At the same time that education and other social programs are feeling the crunch, our federal government spends $1 million on a single Tomahawk missile. And I’ve read that at least 20,000 Tomahawks were used on Iraq. Can we afford this type of spending?”

The crowd shouted, “No!”

Anderson-Oberman recited her “wish list” for what could be done with billions in federal aid to education: Fix or rebuild crumbling Baltimore school buildings; restore art, physical education, and music programs in every school; and provide enough teachers and paraprofessionals to reduce class size and insure safe learning environments.

She decried Bush for settling differences through military force. “Is this what we want our future civic leaders to learn? This must be the beginning of a campaign to defeat Bush in the 2004 elections and anyone else who puts war and corporate profits before education and the needs of our communities.”

The protesters marched through South Baltimore behind a banner that read, “Money for Education & Healthcare, not for War” and “The Cost of the War is Paid by the Poor.” Many residents in the impoverished neighborhoods greeted the marchers with shouts of “Right-on!” and “You got that right!”

When the marchers entered Howard County they were joined by the Howard County Peace Action. On a glorious, sunny spring day the marchers streamed down U.S. Route 1 to College Park, home of the University of Maryland.

On Monday, the marchers trekked into Washington, distributing leaflets as they passed through poor African-American and Latino neighborhoods, charging that 47 percent of Bush’s federal budget goes for military spending while only 34 percent goes for human needs. “The Iraq war is estimated to cost the state of Maryland $1.74 billion,” the leaflet said, adding that Maryland is running a $2 billion deficit because of Bush’s economic and military policies.

Tina Wheeler, district organizer of the Maryland Communist Party, marched the entire distance in the vanguard of the march. “It’s going to cost more than $100 billion to occupy Iraq,” she said. “We need that money here, to provide health care for the uninsured. End the occupation! Bring our troops home!”