WASHINGTON -Tens of thousands of Americans from all over the country are expected to descend on Washington this weekend to protest the Bush administration's march toward a possible war with Iraq
Just before Monday's holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., organizers are calling for the kind of peaceful demonstration that the civil rights leader advocated, aiming to show the White House and Congress that the nation does not support war.
The main protest, which is today, will feature politicians, entertainers, union leaders and regular citizens, and will wind from the Capitol to the U.S. Marine Corps barracks to the Washington Navy Yard, where marchers will seek an Iraq-like weapons inspection.
Demonstrators are boarding trains, buses, cars and airplanes to participate in the follow-up to October rallies in Washington and San Francisco that organizers said attracted hundreds of thousands of people. This weekend's rally, which will also have a counterpart in San Francisco, is being coordinated by International A.N.S.W.E.R (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and is supported by a long list of unions, advocacy groups and international peace organizations.
Similar demonstrations are scheduled for this weekend in 18 other countries, including Mexico, Japan, Italy, Spain, Egypt and Argentina, said A.N.S.W.E.R. spokesman Tony Murphy.
"The goal is to stop the war and demand that money that gets used for weapons be spent instead on programs that have to do with things people need, like schools, health care and jobs in the United States," Murphy said.
Americans remain divided on a possible war with Iraq, according to a recent Knight Ridder poll. Eighty-three percent of the 1,204 adults surveyed Jan. 3-6 said they would support a war that was backed by the United Nations and conducted by an international coalition. But without such support, only one-third of those questioned said they favored war. Twenty-seven percent supported quick military action.
In addition to the main rally, which will start on the National Mall at 11 a.m. today, smaller anti-war demonstrations will be conducted tomorrow by a number of groups representing women, students, and religious and ethnic minorities.
"It's our schools that have been underfunded to pay for these weapons," said Peta Lindsay, a Howard University freshman who will lead the student march from the Justice Department to the White House tomorrow.
Organizers said they are particularly offended by President Bush's threat to take pre-emptive strikes against perceived threats.
"George Bush has said he is going to have pre-emptive war, and he is being met with a pre-emptive anti-war movement," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer with Partnership for Civil Justice and a leader of International A.N.S.W.E.R.