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This Is WhatDemocracy Looks Like: Report from DC

Pro-peace demonstrators flocked to the Mall in Washington DC from every state in the Union for a massive March for Peace on Saturday, January 27. The event began late morning as the crowd was led in prayer by inter-faith ministers and rabbis. Ohio Senator Dennis Kucinich, the 2008 presidential candidate, called for peace. Activists Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon delivered anti-war speeches. Jane Fonda spoke eloquently about “learning from our mistakes.”  An impassioned Sean Penn stoked the crowd’s emotions as the march to Capitol Hill kicked off.

United for Justice and Peace had, by far, the largest group. MoveOn sponsored travel for four hundred of its activist organizers to ensure representation from all 50 states.

Santa Monica activists who took part in the MoveOn-sponsored anti-war demonstration on January 11 walked with local mothers of teenagers who will imminently be of draft age. A twelve-year-old girl from Lincoln Middle School proudly marched with her mom.

Smaller gatherings, such as Women in Black and Hip Hop for Peace, were represented. A contingent of four animated Punk Rockers drove in from New Orleans. Green groups drove to the Capitol in hybrids and even took the train to demonstrate responsible energy-efficient ways to travel.

Parents of children deployed to Iraq, service men and women between tours, soldiers still on active duty and Vietnam vets with Veterans for Peace were also represented. People with physical handicaps, in wheelchairs, folks of all ages, gathered to deliver one resounding message – to end the war in Iraq.

Bands of spirited college students, a group normally under-represented at the polls, led the crowd with chants such as, “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!”

All marched side by side – to send a message to the White House that the people do not want to fund escalation and want to bring the troops home.

Many of the demonstrators were urging impeachment; one organized group advocated to impeach Cheney first, and then Bush. Comparisons to Clinton’s impeachment for lying about “not having sex with that woman” vis-à-vis Bush’s lies about WMD’s were repeatedly made. One demonstrator mentioned, “Our Constitution isn’t worth the paper it’s written on” if something isn’t done to impeach Bush and Cheney.

The March for Peace concluded without incident in the late afternoon. Many participants dined together in DC’s many eateries to further discuss de-escalation and plans to carry on advocating for Peace.

On Sunday, United For Peace volunteers met at Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland to “go to school” and prepare delegations from each state to lobby Senators and Representatives the following Monday, January 29.

On Monday, delegations met for breakfast at the historic Rayburn building to prepare for the day’s lobbying appointments. California had 16 delegates at Representative Henry Waxman’s office. Four first-hand personal stories were delivered to Waxman’s Legislative Assistant Zahava Goldman. Perhaps the most poignant tale was that of Los Angeles residents Mr. and Mrs. Rezani. The Iranian-born couple relayed their experience of losing their son, a medic, during a second tour in Iraq. The soft-spoken Mr. Rezani told of having family in Shiraz, Iran and his concern that the war is escalating to include Iran, where his family will face further danger and loss.

From the Rayburn’s congressional offices the California contingent walked to the other side of the Capitol, to the Hart building, for appointments with legislative assistants to Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

The passionate ladies of Code Pink, led by Green Party Senate hopeful Medea Benjamin, displayed a collection of girls’ shoes tagged with the names of children lost in the violence. People were encouraged to pick up a pair and read the child’s name, date of death and a description of how they died. This reporter picked up a pair of a twelve-year-old girl, the age of my daughter, who had died as the result of a cluster bomb. The moment was pregnant with many emotions.

Code Pink activists unfurled shocking pink banners with anti-war messages from the upper elevations of the Hart building atrium, all the while Capitol Police politely but firmly pulled the banners down. Benjamin led the group chanting anti-war epithets. As the police tried to contain the protesters within a circle, Benjamin creatively turned the circle into a line dance chanting all the while, committing civil disobedience to call attention to the group’s purpose in the building, to end the war in Iraq now.

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