Mar. 16, 2007 – As the United States ushers in a fourth year in Iraq on Monday, growing shame, anger and grief over the war is prompting some active opponents to "step it up a notch."
Hoping to make this weekend the last wartime anniversary of the invasion, some demonstrators are planning local actions throughout the nation, while others are converging in Washington, DC on Saturday for a march to the Pentagon. Planned actions range from quiet gatherings to more confrontational activities, with several groups encouraging non-violent civil disobedience as a protest tactic.
The march on Saturday, organized by the coalition Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), also commemorates the 40th anniversary of the historic October 1967 March on the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Large protests in the coming days are also planned for Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago.
While encouraging attendance at the march in Washington, United for Peace and Justice, another antiwar coalition, is also urging people to be "vocal and visible" in their own communities with the "loudest and widest demonstrations for peace that [they] can muster." More than 500 events have been posted on the organizationsâ€™ site.
On top of their basic anti-war message, protesters this weekend will also voice dismay that recently elected Democrats have ignored their constituentsâ€™ calls to oppose the war. The Democratic leadership has been criticized for failing to follow through on campaign promises to oppose the war.
â€œThe momentum is right... for people to take it to the next step, which is, â€˜Iâ€™m going to put myself on the line with peaceful disobedience to show my opposition to the war. And Iâ€™m willing to get arrested to do that.â€™â€
Groups are planning non-violent civil-disobedience actions in cities across the country this weekend.
In Los Angeles, the Quaker activist group American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is planning a march to a US military recruiting center, where fourteen people plan to "sit-in" to disrupt recruitment activities. The group is collaborating with Declaration of Peace, a grassroots anti-war action campaign that is coordinating similar actions of civil disobedience nationwide.
Georgie Noguera of the AFSC in Los Angeles said activists are turning to civil disobedience after exhausting other tactics to stop the war.
"If [lawmakers are] not listening to us when weâ€™re speaking, and theyâ€™re not listening to us when weâ€™re voting," Noguera told The NewStandard, "the next logical step is to force them to hear what weâ€™re saying by making it uncomfortable for them and making it so they canâ€™t ignore us anymore."
"The momentum is right... for people to take it to the next step," she continued "which is, â€˜Iâ€™m going to put myself on the line with peaceful disobedience to show my opposition to the war. And Iâ€™m willing to get arrested to do that.â€™"
Similarly, California organizer Antonia Juhasz said that after four years, theyâ€™re looking to civil disobedience because "we feel the need to step up our resistance to the war." She is planning with other activists to blockade the entrance to the Chevron World Headquarters in San Ramon, California to protest the perceived oil agenda driving the war.
â€œThe time has come for those in the antiwar movement to step outside our normal activist boxes.â€
On the opposite coast, Noguera and Juhaszâ€™s sentiment is shared. In King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, demonstrators intend to block the entrance to the offices of weapons-producer Lockheed-Martin to protest the companyâ€™s alleged war-profiteering. Robert Smith, of the Brandywine Peace Community, the group behind the action, said civil disobedience expresses "a firm, clear, emphatic â€˜no.â€™"
"All of the legal public demonstrations are important," he told TNS. "It is, however, vital that there be people who will resist, who will say the law will not prevent us from declaring peace."
The Christian Peace Witness for Iraq says over 700 people will risk arrest Friday night in a prayer gathering in front of the White House; the group did not obtain a protest permit.
"Millions of people around the world sadly believe that this is a Christian war because our leaders have confused the foreign policy of the United States with the purpose of God," said the Reverend Jim Wallis in a press conference yesterday. "We need to clear up the confusion. Tomorrow night, we begin that."
The Occupation Project is organizing a "sustained" presence at lawmakersâ€™ offices in Illinois on Monday â€“ part of a campaign that began in February in which protesters have occupied about 40 offices of congressional representatives from both parties who refuse to vote against additional war funding, Last week, police arrested twelve activists in Maine for refusing to leave a federal building and Senator Susan Collinsâ€™ (Râ€“Maine) office inside. The Project says 181 activists have been arrested since the campaign began
â€œWe know what weâ€™re doing is right. We know that the cost of human life is unacceptable, so weâ€™re going to step it up.â€
Bruce Gagnon, who has been arrested several times since 2005 for staging occupations of lawmakersâ€™ offices in Maine, is urging others to join the Occupation Project. "The time has come for those in the anti-war movement to step outside our normal activist boxes," Gagnon wrote on the Projectâ€™s website. "If we wish to end the war then we must create positive, non-violent conflict in our communities. We must force the politicians to step outside their comfort zones on the Iraq war issue."
Since Monday, the Encampment to Stop the War has been holding protests across from the Capitol building to oppose increased funding for the war. While the protests are legal, activists are staging civil disobedience as well; ten activists were arrested yesterday for confronting Democrats during a House Appropriations Committee meeting.
Beyond this weekend, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance is organizing a week of non-violent direct action, called "No Business Before the Peopleâ€™s Business" from March 26 to 29. The actions are intended to coincide with the Senateâ€™s consideration of the next supplemental budget for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, activists staged civil disobedience in an attempt to stop military shipments out of the Port of Tacoma this month.
Aside from civil disobedience, protesters are planning less-confrontational actions across the country.
Nancy Moran, of the Tulsa Peace Fellowship in Oklahoma, told TNS that marchers will be wearing burlap sacks and ashes as a "symbol of mourning, sorrow and regret." She said she hopes "a lot of Americans are feeling [that sentiment] â€“ those that favored this war and are starting to have second thoughts."
In St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday, protesters will start a vigil before 3,000 tombstones bearing the names of killed US military and Iraqi civilians. The vigil will end on Monday with an Occupation Project action at Senator Claire McCaskillâ€™s (D-Missouri) office.
A Maine-based campaign called From Every Village Green is bringing together demonstrators on over 100 village greens throughout the state. Ron Greenberg, who started the project, said the effort is a response to the challenges of organizing Mainers against the war when the population is so dispersed.
"I could get a call from somebody in a very small town who says, â€˜I think that Iâ€™m alone here.â€™ And that same week, I might hear from four of five people from that town. So putting them together has energized everybody."
Greenberg said the protests are a reaction to the deaf ear lawmakers in the state have turned to their constituents. "People have been having a hard time making a connection with our senators," Greenberg said. "We seem to be ignored on this issue [of stopping the war]."
Other demonstrations are happening virtually. One Million Blogs for Peace is trying to sign up one million blogs to oppose the war in 30 days. Activists are also asking people to write peace messages in red print on packages and envelopes they mail.
The AFSCâ€™s Noguera said she sees the actions taking place across the country as a sign of "a certain momentum now that we didnâ€™t have before."
"We know what weâ€™re doing is right," she said. "We know that the cost of human life is unacceptable, so weâ€™re going to step it up."