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Passion and Criticism Mark Arlington Protest

Anniversary Enlarges Capitol Vigil

By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page A12

It was not a combustible affair. No thundering battle cries through megaphones to tens of thousands of people. No police officers clad in riot gear, or wall of city buses serving as a barricade.

Instead, in a peaceful and intimate demonstration, about 100 people gathered yesterday afternoon near the Clarendon memorial to the Korean and Vietnam wars to mark the two-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Jon Hiratsuka carries a sign at an antiwar protest along Clarendon Avenue. (Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)

_____Request for Photos_____
Duty In Iraq
We want to give you the opportunity to show firsthand what it is like to live and work in Iraq.

Sponsored by a small group of Arlington County Unitarians -- a religious group that promotes tolerance -- the demonstration was billed as a vigil, but the 45-minute service at Clarendon and Wilson boulevards was filled with singing, and pointed remarks aimed at the Bush administration.

The Arlington event was one of hundreds of demonstrations across the nation yesterday. More than 700 U.S. cities and towns were scheduled to hold antiwar events this weekend, twice the number when protesters marked the war's first anniversary, according to United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella organization of more than 800 antiwar groups.

War protesters also turned out in larger numbers at the weekly vigil on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, said Anne Bridgman, 46, a freelance writer who came to the Clarendon demonstration from the vigil in the District.

At the Clarendon demonstration, the Unitarians brought out a keyboard and two amplifiers and led the audience in upbeat hymns. Members of the D.C. Labor Chorus, wearing orange and green dashikis, delivered rousing folk and gospel songs.

The participants, many wearing peace-sign buttons and proudly labeling themselves each a "Watergate baby," clapped along and snapped photographs. They propped up large signs alongside Clarendon Drive, prompting drivers to pause at signs proclaiming: "20,000+ CHILDREN DEAD" or "SAY THE 'W'-WORD WITHDRAW."

In her opening remarks to the crowd, Kristine Montamat, a freelance writer, criticized the Bush administration for claiming different reasons to attack Iraq and for spending billions of dollars on the war and less money on domestic matters. She said people "have an obligation to ask hard questions and an obligation to [receive] reality-based answers." She added: "We wish to heal the many who have been wounded in body and soul."

The Bush administration has said that the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq has been necessary because of Saddam Hussein's violent rule and because the now-ousted leader illegally possessed weapons of mass destruction.

A 30-year-old Navy officer who passed by the Clarendon demonstration while walking home said that the antiwar protesters focus only on the negative aspects.

"They see a biased media view. There's a lot of good we're doing," said the officer, who would not give his name because of concern that his comments would get him in trouble with his superiors. "They hear about the car bombings, the drive-bys, but we're setting up schools. God, they just had their first democratic election."

Larry Bory, 62, a Republican, said the event made him remember the Vietnam War protests. "Twenty-five college kids stayed at my home [once]. We ate a big pot of oatmeal and drove down to the Mall," Bory said. "This is a different time, different war. Hopefully, we'll close it out soon."

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