Thousands to march for peace Oct. 27

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‘This war is draining our communities’

United for Peace and Justice, the largest antiwar coalition in America, has announced plans for 11 peace marches to take place around the nation on Oct. 27.

“Never before have we seen anything like this,” declared Leslie Cagan, national coordinator for UFPJ, commenting on the response to the regional demonstrations.

“This war,” she said, “with its senseless death and destruction in Iraq, is draining our communities as resources we need here at home are squandered every day. It is time to bring our troops home.”

Hundreds of thousands are expected to join in the coordinated day of opposition to the war. Organizers say the protests will take place in New York, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Jonesborough, Tenn., Seattle, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Orlando. Several other cities are conducting smaller gatherings for those unable to travel to the regional centers.

The demonstrations come as polls indicate that 70 percent of the U.S. population disapproves of the increasingly unpopular war, and there are signs that the marches could turn out to be a platform for tens of thousands who have so far remained silent about the war.

Participants include labor unions, veterans and military families as well as hundreds of national and local peace groups.

Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, said, “In the coming weeks, Congress will decide whether or not to continue funding the war in Iraq for another year. Military families and Iraq veterans will participate in the regional demonstrations on Oct. 27 to remind Congress that funding this war is killing our troops.”

Organizers point out that each month, 100 servicemen and women, thousands of Iraqis and $12 billion in U.S. tax dollars are spent as the death and destruction continue. Cagan said, “Communities throughout the nation bear the brunt of the administration’s neglect, whether it be cuts to education or health care.”

Recent news about Bush administration advocacy and use of torture is seen as fueling support for the Oct. 27 marches, especially among first-time demonstrators.

On Oct. 4, The New York Times uncovered still another barrage of secret government memos supporting torture. The only response from the president was his usual mantra, “This government does not torture people.”

Frank Rich wrote in an Oct. 14 column in the Times that “by any legal standards except those rubber stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago.”

Another issue fueling support for the marches is the war crimes committed by U.S. contractors in Iraq.

Rich pointed out that while the president’s wife, Laura Bush, spoke earlier in October about atrocities in Burma, two women, both Armenian Christians, were gunned down in Baghdad by contractors paid with American tax dollars.

That incident followed the Sept. 16 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, where 17 Iraqis were killed by security forces from Blackwater USA. Blackwater had already been implicated in 200 other shootings since 2005.

Ralph Wipfly, a Brookings Institution scholar who writes about military contracting, told the World in September, “It’s like the military contractors are on steroids — this is unprecedented in the history of our country. They are taking the taxpayers for many billions of dollars.”

The Oct. 27 marches, in response, are picking up support from a wide variety of organizations.

The Chicago march has the backing of the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Cleveland’s labor federation and the union representing all of Chicago’s mass transit workers. Iraqi veterans and Gold Star mothers will speak at the rally, and radio and cable television ads in support of the march have been taken out by three congressional representatives from the area.

In New York, the organized labor movement, college and high school students and community groups are mobilizing for the march and rally. (See related story, page 9.) The plan is to march down Broadway and to wind up with a Peace and Justice Fair in Manhattan’s Foley Square, where participants can learn about further actions against the war.

In Los Angeles, the second annual Latino Congreso, held Oct. 5-9, passed a resolution against the war in Iraq and backing the Oct. 27 march in that city. The group represents thousands of Latino organizations, elected officials and activists.

Even in Utah, a state where Bush was re-elected with one of his largest margins, the peace movement is mobilizing. Peace activists from Idaho, Colorado, Montana and Utah will converge on the State Capitol in Salt Lake City at a rally opened by an Iraq war veteran.

jwojcik @pww.org