Photo credit: ANSWER Coalition
On March 18, the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, thousands of anti-war protesters gathered in Lafayette Park in front of the White House. Protesters demanded an end to the endless U.S. wars of the past 20 years, particularly the proxy conflict in Ukraine.
Just in front of the musicians and speakers, eight coffins were draped in flags of various nations struck by the U.S. war machine, representing those needlessly killed in the past 20 years of war and sanctions. The protesters marched to the White House front fence carrying the coffins to confront President Biden for his responsibility for the many deaths at the hands of U.S. aggression.
After half the marchers entered the area near the White House fence, the Secret Service closed the area to the public, expelling tourists and demonstrators alike. Tourists looked on as a Secret Service officer explained that this was the largest protest in some time.
The march then proceeded to the headquarters of the Washington Post. Speakers accused the Post of responsibility for the past 20 years of war as well, calling the Post “the stenographers of empire.” Brian Becker, national director of the ANSWER Coalition, denounced this warmongering publication from the rally’s stage, “We know who you are. You’re not journalists. You’re an echo chamber for the war machine, and you too are guilty for the deaths of all these people.” This sentiment was reinforced by the banner at the front of the march: “Remember Iraq: No more wars based on lies.”
The march continued to the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Speakers from the pulpit closed out the afternoon with calls for the end of U.S. intervention against Eritrea, Ethiopia, Syria, Palestine, and many other nations around the globe. Speakers highlighted the need to end military pollution, such as the mass poisoning of water caused by the U.S. base at Red Hill in Hawaii.
Nearly 300 organizations, including peace groups, socialist organizations, antiwar veterans’ groups, organizations fighting for Black liberation and many others supported the demonstration that was initiated by the ANSWER Coalition, The People’s Forum and Code Pink. Protesters traveled from all over the country, many after all-night drives with little sleep. Associated actions also took place in over a dozen additional cities as part of this powerful day of action.
U.S. government seeks global control at any cost
Eugene Puryear of the ANSWER Coalition, framed the protest to the crowd. “They want you to somehow think that it’s progressive, that it’s good, that it’s morally right, to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to fight to the last Ukrainian. For what? Just for the ability of the United States government to control the whole globe!”
Puryear continued, “They are giving themselves the right to tell every single other person what to do, and if you don’t, they’ll sanction you, they’ll bomb you, they’ll destroy your country, they’ll cripple your people, they’ll end people’s dreams and hopes of a better future and a better life. But we’re here to say NO, NO, NO. NO to the war machine, NO to imperialist wars, and certainly NO to the proxy war going on right now in Europe!”
Jill Stein of the Green Party warned about the nuclear threat posed by escalation between nuclear powers: “These are not like the Hiroshima bombs of decades ago. These are a thousand times stronger. It only takes a handful to basically create nuclear winter that will starve billions of people. Anyone who thinks that the nuclear war happens ‘over there, don’t worry about it,’ you’ve got another thing to learn. The nuclear war happens to all of us.”
Jorge Rocha from Democratic Socialists of America concurred: “If this war continues to escalate, then I fear, as everyone else has been bringing up, that we are headed right towards nuclear confrontation. Mr. President, we are here in front of the White House today to make sure you can hear us loud and clear. End this war!”
As the U.S. government hurdles head first down this indescribably dangerous road, more and more people are joining the movement to demand peace. Becker noted in his speech: “What we’re doing today, I believe, will be remembered as something quite historic, something very profound — a commitment, a determination on our part to build a new antiwar movement at a moment when the forces within the military-industrial complex and the leadership of both the Republican and the Democratic parties have without debate adopted as a consensus position that the U.S. should be prepared for and prioritize major power conflict.”
Fund people’s needs, not the war machine
Speakers highlighted what could be done with the military budget to meet needs domestically. Afeni Evans of Life after Release, also an antiwar Army veteran, said: “America is a country where one in five children under the age of five are [food] insecure. And they’re cutting food stamps because ‘we can’t afford it.’ Yet, on March 9, the Biden Administration proposed a fiscal year 2024 budget that asked Congress to give the military-industrial complex $842 billion. They sell us a false dream that they’re protecting women in other countries, while the bodily autonomy of women in this country is being stripped from us. They say that one of the reasons why we have to beat Russia, why we have to unseat Vladimir Putin, is to protect trans and queer people in Russia. And there are over 350 bills criminalizing trans youth in this country.”
Gabriel Shipton, brother of imprisoned journalist Julian Assange, gave the protesters some words from Julian. “If war can be started by lies, then peace can be started by truth.” He told the crowd how Julian “published the truth — the truth about 15,000 undocumented civilian deaths in Iraq, a lie that was hidden from us so we would believe the war was going better than it was. He published the truth about two Reuters journalists who were killed by a helicopter gunship in Iraq, and then two good Samaritans who came to save them, were also gunned down. He published the truth about a cable from the State Department that detailed the murder of an entire Iraqi family, including five children, and after they were murdered, the soldiers called in an air strike to obliterate that family from the face of the Earth to hide their crime.”
Protesters left the demonstration with a deep sense of commitment to build a new chapter in the antiwar movement. Their determination was summed up by Claudia De La Cruz of The People’s Forum, “Our fight for life, for humanity, for the safety of the planet, is the one that is on the right side of history, which is not the side of the Democrats and it’s not the side of the Republicans. It’s not the side of the forces that want to take over, not only this country, but this world … we won’t let them and we will win!”