Diverse Voices To Denounce Iraq Troop Plan

Midge Potts, left, from Springfield, Ohio, and Tighe Barry from Los Angeles prepare a display of shoes to symbolize civilians who have died in the Iraq war.
Midge Potts, left, from Springfield, Ohio, and Tighe Barry from Los Angeles prepare a display of shoes to symbolize civilians who have died in the Iraq war. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tens of thousands of demonstrators from across the country are expected to converge in Washington today to urge the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq as President Bush is proposing to send more troops in an effort to stabilize the country.

They plan to rally on the Mall, march around the north side of the Capitol and send a strong message to the government.

The event, which authorities said could draw 100,000 people, starts with a rally at 11 a.m. Among those expected to address the crowd are Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon and Jesse Jackson.

The march, organized by the group United for Peace and Justice, is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

It will proceed eastward toward the Capitol along Constitution Avenue, head south on First Street NE, then make a U-turn and retrace the route before passing the western front of the Capitol and returning to the Mall along Fourth Street SW.

Police and protesters said there will probably be "feeder" marches to the Mall before the rally, from Dupont Circle and McPherson Square. Metro said that its normal Saturday schedule will be in place but that eight-car trains would be put in service if necessary.

U.S. Capitol Police officers said that road closures will go into effect around the Capitol during the march.

The event is expected to draw groups of many stripes. The chart for the assembly site shows sections reserved for veterans and labor, gay and peace organizations, in addition to others dedicated to opposing global warming, nuclear arms and torture and a group called End Israeli Occupation of Palestine. In addition, at least one group is protesting the protest.

Some of the demonstrators began gearing up yesterday.

Amid frigid temperatures and a biting wind, the women-run peace organization CodePink and the group Iraqi Voices for Peace held a rally at noon on the Mall in front of the Capitol.

With songs and speeches, the groups unveiled an installation of several thousand shoes in and around a clear plastic bin, which they said symbolize Iraqi civilians who have died since the war began. The shoes bear tags with names that the protesters said are those of Iraqis killed in the war, along with a few details of their deaths.

"We don't talk enough about the suffering and the pain that the Iraqis are experiencing," Jodie Evans, co-founder of CodePink, said on the Mall yesterday. "We do a lot of talking. But when you visually see a pair of shoes with a tag on it that says, 'So and so, aged 3, died in a bombing in Fallujah,' it becomes very real for you, the cost of this war."

Evans said the shoe installation, which she said the group used during last year's election campaign, was inspired by the display of concentration camp victims' shoes at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "I remembered how powerfully it affected me," she said.

In Arab culture, shoes can be a sensitive issue, said Aseel Albanna, a District architect, Baghdad native and co-founder of Iraqi Voices for Peace. The improper display of the bottoms of shoes can be impolite, and shoes are traditionally left at the threshold of a house upon entering.

But in this case, she said on the Mall yesterday, symbolism is more important than tradition.

The groups cited a study by Johns Hopkins University last year that estimated that almost 655,000 civilian deaths in Iraq have occurred as a result of the war. President Bush had placed that number at 30,000, and a British-based group research group at about 50,000.

"We were surprised" at the study's findings, said Shannon C. Doocy, a Hopkins research associate who co-authored the study. "I don't think anyone intended the war to have this large of a consequence."

Fifty to 100 members of the Washington chapter of the conservative organization FreeRepublic.com plan to rally near the U.S. Navy Memorial to oppose the march and the participation of Jane Fonda, the chapter said. The actress has long been the object of conservative ire for her support of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

"These groups are the ones that are acting as the political arm of the terrorists overseas to help bring about America's defeat in the war on terror," said Kristinn Taylor of FreeRepublic.com.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company