IRAQ WAR PROTEST

Large Rally Planned Saturday on Mall

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By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tens of thousands of peace advocates from across the country are expected in Washington on Saturday for an anti-war rally that could be among the biggest since the war in Iraq began, organizers said yesterday.

They said the rally on the Mall, followed by a march near the Capitol, will target President Bush's intention to send more troops to the Iraq war.

The president's policy is "fight, war, occupation, death, destruction, spend our tax dollars," Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, the umbrella group that is one of the main organizers of Saturday's events, said at a media briefing.

Citing what she called "this devastating debacle of lies and horror," Cagan said: "The people of this country have had it. This Saturday, January 27, on the heels of the Bush administration's decision to send another 21,000 U.S. troops into Iraq, hundreds of thousands of people from all across this country will come to this capital city to make it clear."

The marchers are calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq and the beginning of "an orderly, speedy and safe" withdrawal of troops, said Hani Khalil, a spokesman for the group. They want dates announced for the start of troop withdrawal as well as a specific deadline for its completion, he added.

United for Peace and Justice describes itself as a coalition of 1,400 local and national organizations. Among them are the National Organization for Women, United Church of Christ, the American Friends Service Committee, True Majority, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, CodePink, MoveOn.org, and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

Among the featured speakers will be Vietnam War-era protester Jane Fonda, according to the organizers. Others include actors Danny Glover, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, and Carlos Arredondo, who in 2004 set himself on fire after learning of the death in Iraq of his Marine Corps son, Alexander.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at the east end of the Mall, at Third Street and Madison Drive NW, the organizers said. The march is to kick off at 1 p.m.

The route and march permits were being finalized yesterday, the National Park Service said. Cagan said organizers want to march from the Mall north on Louisiana Avenue to Union Station, then south on Delaware Avenue to the Capitol.

The march comes after several large Iraq war protests, which date to before the March 2003 invasion. One of the biggest was held Sept. 25, 2005, and was billed as the largest since the war's start. Organizers at the time claimed a turnout of 300,000, while police pegged the number at about half that.

Cagan declined yesterday to predict a Saturday turnout. "We learned a long time ago not to put out numbers," she said. "There are many variables, especially in the winter."

An anti-war protest described as the largest since the Vietnam War drew several hundred thousand Jan. 18, 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, in subfreezing Washington weather. The high temperature reported that day was in the mid-20s.


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