By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Hundreds of demonstrators, including students and families, rallied and marched in downtown Washington yesterday to protest the war in Iraq, complaining that the Democratic-controlled Congress has failed to do the public's bidding and bring U.S. troops home.
From an elevated stage in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, a succession of speakers at the "Stop the War" rally urged Congress to stop funding the conflict and prevent more deaths of soldiers and Iraqi civilians.
"On September 11, I witnessed almost 3,000 people killed in New York," said John Graham, a volunteer emergency medical technician from New Jersey who helped treat victims of the World Trade Center attack that day six years ago. "Now we've had more than 3,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq. It's more than enough. It's time to stop the death."
About 3,800 U.S. military personnel have been killed since the March 2003 invasion. A Johns Hopkins University study estimates that 600,000 Iraqis have died due to violence since that time. The Defense Department puts its estimate at 150,000.
Protesters said the billions of dollars being spent on the war by the U.S. government could be used to address social problems that hurt millions of Americans, including failing schools and the lack of health insurance.
"Every time you drop a bomb overseas, you make it harder to take care of your people at home," Jared Ball of the District's Green Party told the crowd.
The rally, organized by the Troops Out Now Coalition, drew protesters from the Washington area, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere. Police in the District generally do not publicly estimate the size of protest gatherings. Yesterday's crowd appeared to number fewer than 1,000.
Near the reflecting pool, a steady stream of tourists and others visited the National Gallery's east wing, which is featuring an Edward Hopper exhibit. Four blocks away on the Mall, thousands were attending the National Book Fair, toting yellow satchels given away at the fair as they got their books signed or heard readings by famous authors.
Several rallygoers acknowledged that the size of the rally illustrated how difficult it is to get people in the United States to become activists, even though a majority of the public opposes the war, according to polls.
"That's the biggest problem we've got in America: apathy," said former Army Sgt. Adam Kokesh, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "And one-third of Americans still think Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attacks on 9/11."
A group of George Washington University antiwar activists said they are trying to motivate their fellow students, but it's a struggle.
"Students should be back on the streets, like they were in the movements of the '60s," Lara Masri said. "But there's so much indifference."
On the stage, the speeches continued at the base of the Capitol.
"We've got to recognize that the president is addicted to this war," said the Rev. Lennox Yeardwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, a progressive get-out-the-vote organization based in the District. "And this Congress is codependent."