The following article originally appears in Volume 9, Issue 3, of the Montgomery Advocate , the student newspaper of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, Tuesday, October 4th, 2005.
On Saturday, September 24 hundreds of thousands of protesters descended upon Washington D.C. for the United for Peace and Justice Mobilization and the Operation Ceasefire concert, the largest anti-war protest since the start of U.S. Occupation in Iraq. The protest drew a number of powerful and influential figures including Rep. Maxine Waters (D) of California, former Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq and leader of the Bring Them Home Now Tour, a traveling protest aimed at bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, which coordinated it’s conclusion to fall on the same weekend.
“All of us have a central responsibility in America,” shouted an excited Nader to sea of thousands, “[George W. Bush] has neglected his responsibility…You are the opposition… It’s time to take that opposition [and] with laser precision, tell [your representatives] how you feel about the war. This is the first war opposed by a majority of the people…Here is a president who plunged our nation into the greatest quagmire in American history. George W. Bush must be held accountable [and impeached] for his crimes under Article 2 – Section 4 of the United States Constitution.”
“I am sick and tired of George W. Bush,” cried California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “We are tired of being lied to,” she continued with a fist raised high in the air, “The U.S. doesn’t deserve a president who left poor people, black people, and white people stranded in New Orleans [to die].”
“Today is a call to action… he has lied over and over again,” Waters went on, “[He] lied when he said he would hold corporate C.E.O’s responsible,” referring to the Enron and Tyco scandals. “On 9/11 he tricked us into believing Saddam Hussein was responsible…I ask you, where are the weapons Mr. President? Then [he] lied again when he said we would be there for 6 months, we want truth Mr. President,” concluded Waters to a roar of applause, whistles and cheers from protesters.
The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke briefly and with a proud assurance, “There’s something wrong with our country when we send folks to help in places that don’t need [help]. We have problems that need [solving] at home…The question isn’t why should we walk out of [the] war, the question is why did we walk in to the war in the first place?”
Operation Ceasefire, a free concert that was held at the Ellipse on the same day sponsored by United for Peace and Justice and Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.), featured such bands as Thievery Corporation, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Le Tigre, and Bouncing Souls.
“I think the fact that they had a concert drew more people out,” said Sarah Owens, President of MC-R’s Philosophy Club, “[but] a lot of people may’ve just come for the concert. When asked if the concert helped the cause, Owens replied, “I think it was good in the sense that it helped people to see the message that a lot of the protesters had, I just think some people didn’t take it seriously.”
D.C. Police quoted the actual number of protesters as upwards of 150,000 people, but protest organizers claimed over 300,000. Some still think that screams and signs of protesters just weren’t loud enough. “I didn’t like the [lack of major media] coverage, Owens says,“With Katrina fresh on peoples minds, they used [hurricane] Rita to overshadow what was going on. There we other protests in other cities all over the world [that day], and [the major news media] kind of just said, ‘Oh, yeah, this happened today too.’ I just think it should’ve been a bigger deal.”
Despite the lack of coverage, many feel that overall goal was accomplished. When asked her opinion about the future of the war Owens replied, I’m really optimistic…I would hope it gets bigger, [but] it seems like people might get pissed off for a little while and then forget about it.”