Friday, March 20, 2009

Iraq War Started Six Years Ago

I was one of millions who was busy protesting the Iraq War six years ago before it started, so now thinking back all those memories came back. We started the protests in January, 2003, when the federal government rounded up thousands of Muslim men because of alleged violations of immigration rules. Immediately a protest was called at the West Los Angeles federal building the day it rained. The protest was held despite the heavy rain. When I got there hundreds were lined up on Wilshire Building holding up umbrellas, trying to shield each other from the pelting rain. It was an extremely friendly picket line as we all suffered in the rain, all tried to help one another keep dry.

People around Los Angeles neighborhoods were holding Friday evening picket lines, so I joined mine in Silverlake/Los Felix where Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards meet Virgil Avenue. When I got there around six about 50 people stood at the intersection holding up picket signs, and some of the bus drivers saluted as they drove by. I started photographing the anti-war movement that evening. A mother and father brought their two young children--about four and six--gave them picket signs, so all four lined up along Wilshire Boulevard. I returned again to picket the next week.

Then just before the war started millions marched against the Iraq War. Our big march in Los Angeles was through Hollywood, starting at the subway station at Hollywood and Vine. I went with a friend, and by the time we got to Hollywood and Vine we had to wind our way through a big crowd. My friend who spoke Spanish picked up a sign "No mas guerra" no more war. When this huge march of 30,000 started down Hollywood Boulevard it was just amazing as this was the largest march I had even been on and we took over the whole large boulevard for blocks on blocks. The hit of the march was the Butoh dance troup "Corpus delecti" all in white rags and white power who came at the end dancing the corpse or showing in their dance the sufferings of the dyinng in this war we hoped to stop. We believed for a moment with all those millions marching we really could stop the tide of war.

Bush kept on his juggernaut for war, so then with war only days way I participated in the candlelight vigils held around the world. Our candlelight vigil was at Echo Park Lake and about 200 showed up at 7:00 holding candles as we marched around the dark lake. Still I guess we hoped upon hope we could still despite all the evidence stop this war if kept marching if we kept marching. After we finished circling the small lake, we milled around . Pastor David Farley from the Echo Park Methodist Church was there with his flock. Some left their candles on the stop to burn through the night.

Bush started bombing on March 19, 2003, so I went with my camera to the West Los Angeles federal building for the protest . In big events it is inevitable that there will be a protest at the federal bulding. Sure enough, hundreds were there on all sides of the huge intersection holding up anti-war picket signs along with hundreds of police. I was on the northwest corner with my camera watching UCLA students march into the middle of the intersection and sit down against the war. I didn't have a telephoto lens, couldn't get a good shot in the dusk so I just watch the police march up to the sitting students and arrest them. US planes were bombing Iraq. We had failed to stop this war. All I had left was a lot of photos, a lot of memories, a lot of sadness.


Lyle Daggett said...

Six years ago, in mid-February, when millions around the world were in demonstrations against the impending war, the demonstration here in Minneapolis had about 8,000 or 10,000 people, depending on whose estimate.

We walked from a busy intersection in the neighborhood where I live, north about a mile and a half, to a park at the south edge of downtown, then gathered in the park for about an hour listening to speakers. Speakers included people from the Anti-War Committee, Code Pink, an organization of teachers against the war, and Vernon Bellacourt of the American Indian Movement.

This was not long after Tom Ridge (the "Homeland Security" director) had suggested that people could protect themselves from biological weapons attack by using plastic wrap and duct tape.

(At the park, I ran into a couple of friends who are biochemists. I asked them if plastic wrap and duct tape would actually protect against biological attack, and one of them said, "Well, yeah... if you seal them tightly enough." So I said, "Okay, so you're saying, you can protect yourself against biological attack if you seal yourself in your house so tightly that you suffocate." They both found that amusing.)

Vernon Bellacourt got a big laugh and cheers from the crowd when he ended his speech by leading the people in a chant, "Duct tape Bush! Duct tape Bush!"

There's a large church cathedral across from the park where we gathered, and as we approached the park coming up the street, the church bells sounded clear and bright, and as we started to disperse after all the speakers were done, the bells rang again.

The demonstration here wasn't as huge as in a number of cities around the country and around the world, though considering that the temperature that day was around 15 or 20 degrees with stiff north wind, 8,000 to 10,000 people wasn't a bad turnout.

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