A Sept. 23 Metro article about people coming to Washington for the Sept. 24 demonstration against the war in Iraq described Patrice Cuddy, 56, of Olathe, Kan., as a novice protester. Cuddy had participated in three other large rallies against the war, two in Washington and one in New York. (Published 10/6/2005)
The seasoned protesters who organized tomorrow's antiwar demonstration are well-versed in many other causes. They have marched and rallied against police brutality, racism, colonialism and the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
But their message on the Mall tomorrow will be singular: "End the war in Iraq."
Because of that sharp focus, they will be joined by novice protesters such as Patrice Cuddy, 56. Interviewed by phone yesterday, the former public school teacher in Olathe, Kan., said she had to pull off her gardening gloves each time a neighbor interrupted her yardwork to ask about getting on the bus she had chartered to go to the nation's capital.
"It's small and it's quiet here in Johnson County, but more and more people are becoming part of the group that doesn't agree with this war," said Cuddy, who was planning to load about 45 people onto the bus in a Home Depot parking lot this morning for the 20-hour ride to Washington.
Organizers say that similar busloads of teachers, nurses, homemakers and others with little experience in mass protest are coming from Wisconsin, New Mexico, Illinois, Iowa, Georgia, Ohio and many other states.
"This demonstration will reflect, by far, the most diverse group of antiwar protesters since before the war began," said Brian Becker, national coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition, one of the event's sponsors. "We have people coming from all political persuasions, including a very large number of people who have never before been part of the antiwar movement or protest activity."
Officials with ANSWER and other sponsoring groups say they expect more than 100,000 people at the protest, which will include speeches at the Ellipse, a march around the White House and an 11-hour concert featuring Joan Baez, Steve Earle, Thievery Corporation and the Coup, among other acts. More antiwar activities will take place Sunday and Monday.
A coalition of counterprotesters has mobilized in the past two weeks to plan its own series of events, including rallies, a concert, a cross-country caravan and news conferences to support the war.
Although the antiwar demonstrators will be speaking mostly with one voice tomorrow, they represent a variety of ideologies and causes.
The two primary organizers of the march, for which planning began in May, are ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice. Both groups have sponsored other major demonstrations against the war in Iraq but also protested U.S. foreign policy in places ranging from Haiti to the Gaza Strip.
Another sponsor is Code Pink, a women's antiwar group that is widely criticized by war supporters for undertaking a humanitarian mission on behalf of refugees from the Iraqi city of Fallujah, an action that some said was helping the Iraqi insurgency.
Other sponsors include Black Voices for Peace, a network of blacks who argue that the war has diverted spending on domestic housing, education and social services; the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, which has complained about U.S. law enforcement treatment of Arabs and Muslims in this country; and the Mobilization for Global Justice, which has led protests against the World Bank and IMF in U.S. and European cities that featured masked anarchists, civil disobedience and street theater.
Then there are the organizations that have focused solely on the Iraq conflict: Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Gold Star Families for Peace, the latter group co-founded by Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq and camped this summer outside President Bush's Texas ranch.
The Mobilization for Global Justice plans a small protest against the IMF and World Bank, which are holding meetings this weekend in the District. But for the most part, all the groups taking part in the antiwar events have put the rest of their agendas on hold this weekend.
The events are being planned as the number of U.S. deaths in Iraq mounts and support for Bush's Iraq policies slips in polls.
In a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken last month, one out of 10 respondents reported attending a rally or meeting to express an opinion for or against the war in Iraq. "That's a lot. Without the presence of a draft, that's a big number," said Christian Appy, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst history professor who has studied the Vietnam War era.
In recent weeks, Bill Dobbs, media coordinator for United for Peace and Justice, has sometimes cut off speakers at news conferences when they began a passionate discussion of how war is connected to global and local oppression.
Spreading out his long arms, he speaks the message he wants everyone to repeat: "End the war in Iraq. Bring them home now."
"That is the really important message at the moment," he said. "To turn out the maximum number of people, we need the simplest and clearest message."