September 30, 2005

National day of protest against the Iraq war in San Diego

Photos and text by Luis Alonso Pérez

While World Bank and International Monetary Fund executives were celebrating their annual meetings in Washington D. C. last Saturday 24th, over 100 thousand protestors marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, until they reached the White House, demanding the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

But demonstrators in the capital weren’t alone. Thousands of Americans from Los Angeles to Milwaukee and from Seattle to New Mexico, organized rallies to protest against the military occupation as a part of a national mobilization called the National Day of Protest.

Youthful Chicanos/as gathered at City College in preparation of Peace March to Balboa Park.

In San Diego, over two thousand people met peacefully in Balboa Park, after most of the participants marched from City College and the Santa Fe train Station. Before the march, rallies were held at both places.

At 1 pm the participants extended their banners, raised their signs and took the streets of San Diego. It was a very diverse group, not only activists and college students, but families with kids, couples and individuals from every ethic group: Asians, Latinos, Africans, Caucasians, and Middle Eastern. Age didn’t matter, you could see children holding their parents hands and grandparents in their wheelchairs being pushed by their sons. Some people where walking with their bicycles, others with their dogs.

Both groups met half way through the march. The applauses and screams enlivened the protestor’s spirit. Their signs expressed the growing inconformity to their leader’s decisions, a clear signal that every day, more and more people feel that their tax money, and most importantly, their countryman’s lives are being wasted with the same ease, to maintain an unjustified war, since no weapons of mass destructions where found in Iraq or any link between their government and Al-Qaeda.

Dan Connor, at Balboa Park rally, addresses the 2,000 peace marchers last Saturday.

Phrases like “Bring our troops home”; “How many lives per gallon?”; “This is what our democracy looks like”; “Finance people’s needs, not war”; “Books, not bombs” showed the protestors disapproval the war and the deception they feel towards their leaders. Some of them where even demanding George Bush’s impeachment from the presidential chair.

One of the main reasons opposition to war has grown and President Bush’s popularity decreased, is because during the last years media has reported the atrocities of war, as well as the economic interests linked between the government and powerful corporations, who have awarded no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton, to which vice-president Richard Cheney used to serve as head CEO.

But what infuriated people the most was Bush’s interest in the Iraq war over the relief of the victims from hurricane Katrina, his late reaction to the problem and the budget cuts to repair the levees to maintain the occupation’s excessive costs. Some banners showed the great differences between the war and the relief budgets “War budget: 96 billion; FEMA budget: 7.3 billion”.

People looked out their windows or walked out of their houses or businesses to look at protestors pass by. Most of them cheered and applauded, a few looked annoyed and expressed their anger with insults.

When they arrived to Balboa Park a large crowd received them with a heartwarming applause. After that, an event was held, with the participation of members from pacifist organizations, anti-drafting groups and veterans, to name a few. Some talked about the present situation in Iraq, the historical roots of the conflict, and the domestic impacts of war.

The event looked like an image taken from the 60’s anti-Vietnam war rallies, but 40 years later.

Time may have passed, but the people’s pacifist spirits remains.

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