War protesters rally in Washington

Thousands denounce Bush and his Iraq policy

October 26, 2003|By Janet Hook and Ken Silverstein | Janet Hook and Ken Silverstein,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Thousands of anti-war demonstrators descended on Washington yesterday to protest U.S. policy in Iraq, demanding that President Bush immediately withdraw all U.S. troops and end the occupation of the war-torn country.

Carrying signs with messages such as "Money for Jobs Not War" and "Bush Lied, 1000s Died," protesters also called on Congress to reject the $87 billion that Bush requested to finance military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Don't give Bush $87 billion," said Al Sharpton, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, who addressed the crowd assembled at the Washington Monument under clear, crisp autumn skies. "Don't give him 87 cents. Give our troops a ride home."

Susan Shuman, spokeswoman for a group called Military Families Speak Out, said of U.S. troops in Iraq: "Don't extend them. Don't redeploy them. Don't replace them. Bring them home now."

Organizers said that 100,000 people were present at the protest's peak. But police at the scene thought the numbers were far lower.

While anti-war protesters were calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops, polls show that a majority of Americans still support a U.S. military presence in Iraq, although in dwindling numbers. A survey this month by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 58 percent of people surveyed wanted to keep U.S. troops in Iraq. But that is down from 64 percent a month earlier.

Yesterday's protest was organized by two anti-war groups - by Act Now to Stop War and End Racism and by United for Peace and Justice. Organizers said the rally drew participants from 140 cities around the country.

They said companion protests were held in 40 cities around the world, including San Francisco.

In the capital, the protest drew a crowd diverse in age, race and social class, but participants shared an intense antipathy toward Bush and many claimed that he had misled the public about the rationale for going to war.

"I'm upset with the lies and deceit during the buildup to war," said Alan Bennett, an unemployed computer programmer from Northern Virginia. "I had an open mind before the war. They seemed to have it all documented."

Susan Boyan, a Connecticut lawyer, drove with two friends to Washington to protest a war she has opposed from the outset. "I was opposed to going to war, and I am opposed to us staying in a country where we are not wanted," Boyan said.

Although most of the criticism from the podium was addressed to Bush and his administration, speakers also had harsh words for Congress and members of the Democratic Party who supported the war.

Even many Democrats who are critical of Bush's Iraq policy are expected to join in approving the $87 billion when it comes to a vote because they are loath to deny needed money to U.S. troops who are deployed there.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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