US war protesters hope to bring troops home

Saturday demonstration draws tens of thousands to nation's capital.

iraq war protest 88 (photo credit: )
iraq war protest 88
(photo credit: )
Protesters energized by fresh congressional skepticism about the Iraq war demanded a withdrawal of US troops in a demonstration Saturday that drew tens of thousands and brought actress Jane Fonda, who famously opposed the Vietnam War, back to the streets. On the National Mall stage rested a coffin covered with a US flag and a pair of military boots, symbolizing the American war dead. On the Mall stood a large bin filled with tags bearing the names of Iraqis who have died. Fonda, who was known in the Vietnam era for her outspoken opposition to that war, has avoided anti-Iraq war appearances until now. "I'm so sad we still have to do this," she said. A small group of counter-protesters set up a fake Fonda doll hanging from a noose and taped a sign to it that read "Jane Fonda American Traitor." United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, said there has been intense interest in the rally since US President George W. Bush announced this month he was sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq. The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative John Conyers, threatened to use congressional spending power to try to stop the war. "George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing," he said, looking out at the masses. "He can't fire you. He can't fire us." The rally unfolded peacefully, although about 300 protesters tried to rush the Capitol, running up the grassy lawn to the front of the building. Police wrestled with some and set up barricades along the front steps. Protesters chanted "Our Congress." Several dozen shouted "We want a tour" and tried to get into a side door. Also speaking were actors Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. "Is impeachment still off the table? Let's get him out of office," Robbins said. The crowd responded, "Impeach Bush, impeach Bush, impeach Bush!" Standing on her toes to reach the microphone, 12-year-old Moriah Arnold told the crowd: "Now we know our leaders either lied to us or hid the truth. Because of our actions, the rest of the world sees us as a bully and a liar." The sixth-grader, the youngest speaker on the stage, organized a petition drive at her school against the war. "I encourage the youth of America to rise up and tell our government, 'Changes have to be made,"' she said. The rally was scheduled as congressional opposition to the war is building. The US Senate is considering non-binding resolutions that would state opposition to Bush sending the extra forces to Iraq. As protesters streamed to the Mall, Bush reaffirmed his commitment to the troop increase in a phone conversation Saturday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. A small group of active-duty service members attended the rally, wearing civilian clothes because military rules forbid them from protesting in uniform. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tassi McKee, 26, an intelligence specialist, said she joined the Air Force because of patriotism, travel and money for college. "After we went to Iraq, I began to see through the lies," she said. About 40 people staged a counter-protest, including military family members.