Students Protest U.S. Involvement in Iraq
Thousands of people converged at the intersection of Olympic and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles to protest the American-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, the crowd was led up Broadway, and later Main Street, toward the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse by a Penske flatbed truck weighed down with activists. On the bed were stacks of speakers broadcasting the voices of the organizers, chanting, ‘What do we want?’ The crowd followed, bellowing ‘Out of Iraq now!’ over and over, slowly shuffling behind banners reading ‘Iraq Veterans Against the War,’ ‘US Out of Iraq!’ and ‘Alto A La Guerra!’
The towering skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles provided a stunning backdrop for a man paralyzed from the chest down from wounds he received during the Vietnam War.
He held an American flag from his wheelchair as a friend pushed him along the route, and his words echoed off the walls of City Hall, ‘This is my 40th year in a wheelchair, and the same government that put me in this wheelchair is putting other young men and women in wheelchairs for a war that makes no sense.’ The surrounding concrete amplified the cheers of the crowd for blocks around at his last words: ‘We will create a beautiful, beautiful country someday.’
Organized by the Los Angeles chapter of the national organization Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, the march was intended to coincide with the five-year anniversary of Congress’s resolution to allow President George W. Bush the authority of military action against Iraq. When the march reached the Roybal Building, it was met with a stage set up to play the likes of Conspiracy of Thought, the Philistines, Rebels to the Grain and the cast of the musical Hair.
After a few performances, the ‘die-in’ phase of the protest commenced with the broadcast of the sounds of war. Amid whistling bombs, deafening explosions and screaming people, marchers lay on the ground to symbolize the almost 4,000 American troops and one million Iraqis who have perished in the conflict.
The participants covered the entire political left spectrum, from the mainstream American Democrat walking his dog to the militant mohawked Communist. In between tents selling Socialist literature were countless petition pushers asking for help to impeach Bush or legalize marijuana. Finally, the event included some original apolitical American capitalism when some keen local residents showed up with a barbecue, two coolers of soda and a cash register.
Nancy Kent brought over a life-size cardboard cutout of the president dressed in prison stripes from Glendale. ‘I participated in the Glendale peace vigil, and I’m here to just be another demonstrator on the street to try to end the war,’ Kent said. ‘And hopefully not attack Iran.’ Other attendees spared little expense on their displays; one demonstrator made his rounds with an elaborate puppet perched on his shoulders, a grotesque papier-m