Anti-War Protesters March Against Iraq Policy

Crowds of protesters gathered Saturday on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to declare their opposition to the war in Iraq. Celebrities and a half-dozen lawmakers joined people from across the country to gather in front of the Capitol building for speeches against U.S. involvement in Iraq.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden. Debbie Elliott is on assignment.

The National Mall in Washington was the scene of mass protest today. Demonstrators demanded a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. NPR's Andrea Hsu has the first of two reports.

(Soundbite of crowd)

ANDREA HSU: The crowd stretched for blocks and blocks as far as the eye could see. There were all types: older folks in tie-dyed skirts, union members in dark jackets, and the women's peace group Code Pink decked out in pink feather boas.

Member Dara Lindenbaum(ph) said her group's message is simple.

Ms. DARA LINDENBAUM (Activist, Code Pink): Peace. Get these troops out. Women say pull out. Get them out now. Get them home back with their families where they belong.

HSU: With Dara, was her mom, Leslie(ph), who said she was sad to be here, so many years after she protested the Vietnam war. But at the same time:

Ms. LESLIE LINDENBAUM (War protestor) It's so great to hear that so many people have mobilized, just like we did in the 60s, and I believe that we really can stop this war - cause we need to do it right now.

HSU: And on stage, in front of the Capitol, others who would remember Vietnam. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Democratic Congressman John Conyers, and actors Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and Jane Fonda; who said she hadn't spoken at an anti-war rally in more than 34 years.

Ms. JANE FONDA (Actress): Because I've been afraid that because of the lies that have and continue to be spread about me and that war, that they would be used to hurt this new anti-war movement. But silence is no longer an option.

HSU: Back in the crowd, a handmade sign: I lost my dad in Iraq.

That sign was made by 10-year-old Brooke Niren(ph) who said she came out for one reason:

Ms. BROOKE NIREN (War Protestor): Making our troops come home.

HSU: Brooke's dad, Nathaniel Jay Niren(ph) died in Iraq on December 28, 2004. Brooke's mom, Courtney Niren, was standing by her daughter's side.

Ms. COURTNEY NIREN (War Protestor): Our troops need to come home. No more children need to lose their parents. No more parents need to lose their children.

HSU: Still she said, coming today was difficult.

Ms. NIREN: Because coming out here people think, you know, that we're not supporting our troops, that we think our troops are in the wrong. They're doing their job.

HSU: That sentiment was echoed by members of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. They took their place near the front of the protestors as they marched toward the Capitol.

Mr. PAUL ABERNATHY (Iraq Veterans Against the War): I served in Iraq. One month in Baghdad, six months in al-Anbar, three months in Balad.

HSU: That's Paul Abernathy who served with the 3rd Infantry Division. He's now out of the military.

Mr. ABERNATHY: This is an illegal unjust war. The things that we experienced have done nothing but solidify what we thought about the war. It has become a war on the Iraqi people.

(Soundbite of crowd)

CROWD: Support our troops...bring them home now.

HSU: As the protestors made their way back to the National Mall, their message was loud and clear: end the war now.

Unidentified Man: Bush's ratings are underground.

CROWD: Bush's ratings are underground.

HSU: Andrea Hsu, NPR News. Washington.

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