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Thousands Protest Bush Policy
Among the celebrities who appeared was Jane Fonda, the 69-year-old actress and activist who was criticized for sympathizing with the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. She told the crowd that this was the first time she had spoken at an antiwar rally in 34 years.
"I've been afraid that because of the lies that have been and continue to be spread about me and that war, that they would be used to hurt this new antiwar movement," she told the crowd. "But silence is no longer an option."
Fonda said she was attending with her daughter and two grandchildren. "I'm very proud that they're here, but I'm so sad that we still have to do this, that we did not learn the lessons from the Vietnam War," she said.
She concluded by saying, "God bless." And someone in the crowd yelled: "All right, Janey!"
But Fonda's presence drew counter protesters. Members of the Free Republic group picketed an antiwar rally at the Navy Memorial where Fonda spoke earlier in the day. "Hanoi Jane," one of the conservative group's signs read. "Wrong then, wrong now."
The day's events unfolded peacefully. And after a cold morning with temperatures in the mid-20s, the day quickly warmed, and protesters were unzipping jackets as the mercury topped 50 degrees.
The crowd, while exuberant, seemed significantly smaller than the half-million people organizers said were present and may not have matched similar protests in September 2005 and January 2003. The throng filled much of the Mall between Third and Fourth streets NW but thinned toward Seventh Street.
It was big enough, though, that the march that followed the rallies stretched the length of the route from the Mall, up Constitution Avenue to the east front of the Capitol and back to the Mall.
The day's events were organized chiefly by United for Peace and Justice, which 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, Farms Not Arms, CODEPINK, MoveOn.org and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
The day began with a 10 a.m. rally at the Navy Memorial sponsored by the peace group CODEPINK. There, several thousand activists heard speeches by actor Sean Penn, presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), and Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Lynne Woolsey (D-Calif.), and a brief greeting from Fonda.
But the most moving words were Futrell's.
"My husband deployed last June to Iraq," she said. "He is an Army infantry officer currently patrolling the streets of Baghdad. And I just have to say I'm sick of attending the funerals of my friends. I have seen the weeping majors. I have seen the weeping colonels. I am sick of the death."