News: Pressure for Peace

As war nears, activists again besiege Washington

Vina Parel Ayers

Anti-war protesters again converged on Washington, D.C. March 15, filling the capital's streets and subways with what Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) estimated was a crowd of about 100,000.

After gathering throughout the morning and mid-afternoon at the Washington Monument, marchers surrounded the White House.

"We have reached the Ides of March, the Ides of March and still no war," said former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. "And the Bush administration needs to know we have not yet begun to fight. So your efforts have not been in vain."

Among the protesters were about 100 people from Greater Cincinnati who departed from St. John's Unitarian Church in Clifton.

"It's amazing to see how many new people there are in the movement," said Sayrah Namaste of Cincinnati, founder of the Coalition to Prevent War in Iraq.

She pointed to events such as the weekly "Hold Hands for Peace" in Hyde Park.

"When Hyde Park business owners are protesting, you know we are mainstream," Namaste said. "(The movement is) historical.

We've never had 1,000 cities from all over the world protesting war together."

U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) was among the speakers at the national rally.

"My brothers and sisters, I am so proud to be here," he said.

Conyers accused the Bush administration of disdain for the Constitution. Instead of attacking Iraq, we should arrest Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and try him at the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague, he said.

Peace supporters are in the majority, according to Lina Hashem, a member of the Muslim Student Association and the ANSWER steering committee.

"The minority that has been for the war has charged those of us against the war as being unpatriotic," she said. "Today we the people want to tell them patriotism is alive and well and that the true patriots are those who are out here today rallying against this unjust, unprovoked war."

Gene Brushkin, national convener for U.S. Labor Against the War, said the AFL-CIO — with 13 million members — is just one of many unions that has condemned the U.S. rush to war.

"In February, U.S. Labor Against the War issued an international declaration that has been signed by 250 unions in 55 countries representing over150 million workers — and I just gotta say that's one hell of a focus group," Brushkin said.

France's stand against war in Iraq, received praise from Clark, who was attorney general in the Johnson administration.

"Lafayette must be proud of France today, because this generation of the French has done more to preserve freedom and dignity and honor in this country than Lafayette himself was able to do," he said.

Christian Lawsongatch, 27, of Owensville left her three children with her husband to make the journey to Washington. It was for her children's sake that she made the trip, Lawsongatch said.

"I can't let them grow up in a world I wouldn't want them to live in," she said.

Lawsongatch said she is skeptical of polls that say most Americans support war.

"I understand people are confused because they are not getting enough information," she said. ©

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