eKC feature
October 4, 2005

 

Voices of protest
by Rhiannon Ross

For more than one hundred Sundays, activists Patrice Cuddy-Lamoree, David Quinley and Pamela Smith could be found at weekly peace vigils at the corner of JC Nichols Parkway and the Country Club Plaza.

(photo by Pamela Smith)

But on Saturday, Sept. 24, the trio met at a different location: 1600 Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C., where they marched among tens of thousands of other anti-war protestors. (C-SPAN reported half-a-million people attended the march; U.S. Park Police reported marchers “met their 100,000 goal.”)

Traveling a distance of nearly 1,100 miles did not change the Kansas Citians’ message to “Bring Them Home Now!”

“Them” are the 140,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Iraq — a number that soon could grow if President Bush has his way.

But it was the growing number of dead soldiers and Iraqis that motivated teacher and technical writer Cuddy-Lamoree, 56, home remodeler and father of a draft-age daughter, Quinley, 53, and county public health educator and RN, Smith, 46, to make the more than 18-hour drive to the nation’s capitol.

“If you respect life even one life wasted, one life of suffering, is too much,” Cuddy-Lamoree, who wore a peace sign necklace, said.

“I hope this demonstration shows there are enough people against this war that we should be taken seriously. We’re not just a lunatic fringe. There are enough ordinary people who don’t want this to happen and who are against the violence being done in our name.”

When the war began in March 2003, the three peace activists — all members of Howard Dean’s Democracy for America — were among a minority in the nation who opposed the Iraq war — the “preemptive strike” was illegal and the assumption that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction based on false information.

They now comprise the majority — a recent CNN survey showed that 59 percent of Americans say the United States made a mistake sending troops to Iraq.

Smith believes national sentiment has changed, in part, because of the growing death toll and the increase, not decrease, in terrorism in Iraq.

“We’re killing innocent people. The people of Iraq are God’s children, too. We’re breeding terrorists. There was no al-Qaida in Iraq before we attacked their country,” she said.

The Downing Street Memos, minutes from pre-war security briefings in the UK suggesting evidence was fixed to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq may be another reason, Smith said.

“The American people are starting to realize they’ve been lied to,” she said.

Cuddy-Lamoree and Smith organized a group of about 40 Kansas Citians to travel by chartered bus to the march, sponsored by United for Peace and Justice (www.unitedforpeace.org), a coalition of 1,600 national organizations opposed to the war in Iraq. The bus returned to Kansas City following the march on Saturday.

But the two women rented a van for themselves and Quinley so they could lobby Missouri and Kansas legislators on the Monday following the march and witness the planned acts of civil disobedience that same day in front of the White House.

George Bush also went along for the ride to the nation’s capitol or, rather, a life-sized plywood cutout of the president — custom-colored and laminated — created by Quinley.

The cutout received a lot of attention from fellow D.C. marchers — he was the president who wore no clothes, save cowboy boots and tightie-whities bearing a small sign across his crotch that read “Freedumb.”

“People responded to the parody of an aggressive imperialist constantly evoking freedom and the play on the word ‘dumb’,” Quinley said.

Quinley’s cutout was not the only political parody presented at the march.

Someone dressed as a towering devil operated marionette strings attached to someone dressed as a medium-height Vice President Cheney who operated marionette strings attached to someone dressed as a shorter-height Bush.

Women dressed as the “Missile-Dick Chicks” gyrated with strap-on pseudo missiles. Another feminist group, Code Pink, strutted in their trademark flamingo pink tees, feather boas and garden-sized hats. The Raging Grannies sang original anti-war ditties.

Cindy Sheehan — the mother who lost her son in Iraq and camped outside of Bush’s ranch during his summer vacation in hopes of meeting with him — was, of course, there.

She reestablished her campsite — “Camp Casey,” named in honor of her son — near the Lincoln Memorial. The lawn was dotted with hundreds of miniature white crosses — and several Muslim crescent moons and a Star of David — a dozen U.S. flag-draped coffins and row-upon-row of empty soldiers’ boots.

But not everyone attending the march embraced high drama.

The crowd also was comprised of people on canes, walkers and in wheel chairs; men in suits and ties and tee-shirts and ball caps; veterans from several wars; college students and teachers; union workers and homemakers; nuns, priests, rabbis and women in burkas; pregnant women and babies in strollers, and families who could just have easily been attending a picnic in the park instead of protesting a war.

In short, a slice of Mainstream America.

Marchers roared in unison chants such as “End the War” and “Impeach Bush.” Drums played, helicopter wings beat overhead, a Native American group danced, and sharpshooters dressed in black and bearing rifles tread across the roof of the White House.

Along the sidelines of the route, some protestors held a clothesline bearing laminated photos of dead U.S. soldiers.

Protest signs were equally outspoken, proclaiming sarcastic and serious messages alike:

“Hurricane Bush, The Real Disaster,” “Take Your Hate Somewhere Else,” “Money for Education not War,” No More Lies, No More Lives,” Stop the War Business Now,” “Moms for Peace” “Bush Lied, Thousands Died,” “Stand Against War and Racism: Stop the War in Iraq” and simply, “End the War!”

More than a few signs were religious in content:

“Jesus Preached Peace,” “Jews for Justice” and “Whose God Did You Say Authorized War?”

And there were people there to protest the protestors, including street preacher Reverend Frank Zaccaro, 32, Jacksonville, FL.

Touting a “Trust Jesus” sign, he commandeered a sidewalk post near the corner of 1400 Constitution Avenue NW, in front of the Department of Commerce.

“You’re so into politics. You’re in love with yourself. You’re in love with your lifestyle. You choose to ignore God,” Zaccaro announced repeatedly from a megaphone to marchers.


(photo by Marisa McNee)

His words irritated some protestors, who chose to engage in word battles with him.

“Why don’t you enlist?” a woman cried out to him.

WWII veteran Joseph Murphy, 78, Columbus, OH, also took Zaccaro to task, “This is an illegal war. That makes war criminals out of all us. We belong to a country that’s run by a war criminal.”

Murphy, wearing his veteran’s cap, said that World War II was a righteous war and that he is by no means a pacifist.

“I’m all for war when it’s in self-defense. But we — the United States — are engaged in an illegal war. We’re committing mass murder. We’re murdering men, women and children in Iraq, and Afghanistan for that matter, in an unholy war against the people, the poor people of Iraq, mainly.”

Zaccaro said that he was not oblivious to the fact there are Christians who oppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said they are not the targets of his message.

“I believe a lot of the people in this march, it’s almost like they stand against America. It’s almost like America is bad. They’ve got that American flag over there with dirt all over it, from some guy sitting all over it with his heels,” he said.

“It’s like they don’t have any respect for the country itself and anything America is doing they want to stand against it. I’m here to yell at them.”

Zaccaro said he, too, has struggled with the reasons why Bush declared war on Iraq.

“It was hard for me to figure out why (Bush) was going into Iraq. But I believe the reason was because it was his open door to fight against terrorism. You’ve got a lot of terrorists in the Middle East. He couldn’t go into Saudi Arabia, which I think he was going to try and do (country of Bin Laden and most of the 9-11 terrorists) but they kind of like allied with us so his open door was Iraq because (Saddam Hussein) broke the UN sanctions,” he said.

“It’s like we’re trying to do some good. Saddam Hussein was a major terrorist.”

A group of about 400 people marched in support of the war and the President’s policies the following day, Sunday.

Hukamsay Mehta, 82, observed Zaccaro and the crowd interacting with him with quiet interest.

He said he was en route from Canada to Mexico when he heard about the peace march. He is the president of Freedom Fighters in India.

“Our great leader Gandhi fought for peace. So we are peace-loving people and we don’t want war anywhere,” he said.

Mehta recalled that it took Americans “15 years and 50 thousand” dead in Vietnam before “You realized, ‘Oh, it is wrong.’ You are taking two years to realize Iraq war is wrong.”

Michelle Cottrell, 23, a student majoring in education at George Washington University, D.C., said she also wants peace.

“I’m tired of being lied to by Bush. I want peace in this country and in the world and I don’t think he’s going about it the right way,” she said.

Enis Ellis, 35, Brooklyn, NY, attended the march en masse with fellow Service Employee International Union workers.

“All these purple people out here, we’re all (Local) 1199, from different regions, from Connecticut, Western Ohio, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens,” she said, gesturing to a sea of purple tee-shirt-clad SEIU members.

Ellis said she especially is bothered by an illegal war she believes is being waged over oil.

Her solution?

“Let’s impeach Bush,” she said. “And Cheney.”

Keith Seiler, 72, WI, agreed with her.

“I’m fed up with Bush and what he’s doing all over the world. I’m just tired of all of his activities. I’m for impeachment for war crimes, an illegal war. Or (Bush) should resign, both he and Cheney,” he said.

Betsy Emerson, 67, and Barbara Beaman, 68, traveled from MA to attend the march.

“It’s very important that everybody stand up and be counted so that this administration gets a sense of how much people don’t want (the war) to go on and that they want things to stop because this country is falling apart because of our policies in Iraq,” Emerson said.

(photo by Marisa McNee)

Beaman said the U.S. is killing thousands of people that are not being counted.

“All the troops that are sent home wounded and then die don’t get counted. People who are killed not in combat over there don’t get counted, and nobody is counting the thousands and thousands and thousands of Iraqis who have been killed,” she said.

Orange County, CA, resident Susan Crockett, 57, attended the march with daughter Cailin Crockett, 17, who carried a sign that read: “Proud Friend of a Marine in Iraq Against the War.”

“He joined the military because he wanted to help pay for his college and he aspires to be in the FBI or the CIA so he saw it as a steppingstone,” Cailin Crockett said.

“I admire his courage because even though he’s against the war, he says he’s glad to serve because it means one less American will have to.”

Her mother, Susan, said that for the first time in her 57 years, she is fearful for the future of her country and for her children.

“I have two daughters who are of draft age. As a matter of fact, my oldest daughter is 22 and she just graduated from UCLA in June. Last week an Army recruiter came to our home, knocked on our door, asked for my daughter, and (Cailin) answered the door and she said, ‘She doesn’t live here any longer,’ and he said, ‘How old are you?’”

The recruiter, they said, gave a pitch about how the Army can pay for college and left behind a brochure.

“I’m just glad I wasn’t there,” Susan Crockett said. “I don’t know what I would have said. Probably ‘Get your hands off my children!’”

Nasir and Maria Fareed, a young couple from VA, brought their four children, ages 5 to 12, with them.

“There’s no reason for us to be (in Iraq) whatsoever. There wasn’t any reason for us to go there to begin with,” Nasir Fareed said.

“It’s not benefiting anybody in the world, not the Iraqi people, not the American people. Nobody at all. Our people are getting killed here and there.”

Maria Fareed, dressed in the traditional Muslim headscarf, said she was “pleased with the number of people that care about what is going on in Iraq.”

It was the first march for Mike Belous, 14, Vienna, VA. He said he had one very big reason for being there.

“My brother is in Iraq,” he said.

The highlight of the march for Belous was meeting Cindy Sheehan.

“I said, ‘Thank you for coming so much, you’re my hero’ and she’s like, ‘Thank you for coming.’”

Belous said Sheehan inspires him.

“She has the guts to go and do all of this stuff; she’s so motivational.”

Army officer Joe Thompson, 54, and friend, Nidia Cubiella, 55, watched the march from the comfort of a sidewalk bench.

“I haven’t been to an anti-war protest in 40 years,” Thompson said.

“Back at Rutgers University, in 1970, I went to the SDS rally on the campus. The only thing missing (today) is Abbie Hoffman and the Students for a Democratic Society.”

Thompson said he believes little has changed since 1970.

“War is still good business, for some people. It depends on what side of the business fence you’re on. If you got to go fight it, it might not be good for you but if you’re financing it, it’s very good for you.”

Thompson declined to give his opinion on the Iraq war.

“What I think is not important because I swore to protect to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, and as long as I made that oath, I have to support the government. I don’t have to agree with it but I have to support it.”

Cubiella, however, did not squelch her opinion on the war.

“At this time, there is not a legitimate reason to be in Iraq. Americans and innocent Iraqis are still being killed. And the fact that we don’t have to account for the number of people that we kill (in Iraq), that’s absolutely sickening,” she said.

Detroit resident and United Auto Worker Rich Feldman, author of End of the Line: Auto Workers and the American Dream, said he hoped marchers returned to their homes with two goals in mind.

“The first, is that people go back and build community-based organizations for peace that talk to neighbors. Talk to people that don’t agree with them and engage in the conversation and dialogue, which is what democracy and peace has to be about,” he said.

“The second is, we have to learn from what Martin Luther King said in one of his last speeches, which was we needed to struggle against racism, materialism and militarism. That we needed a revolution in values in America — a Cultural Revolution. Because until we transform what we’re thinking and how we understand the world, we won’t challenge our government.”

Challenging the government to end the Iraq war does not appear to be difficult for Kansas Citians Cuddy-Lamoree, Quinley and Smith.

They said they would continue to meet at their usual place on the Plaza on Sundays, touting signs to bring the U.S. soldiers home.

But even Sunday was too far away for Quinley.

Upon their return home Tuesday evening from D.C., after a nearly 20-hour drive, he asked to be dropped off at another peace vigil the three attend at 63rd & Ward Parkway.


 

For ‘peace’ sake! Arrest me!
by Rhiannon Ross

Cindy Sheehan was not the only anti-war protester arrested in front of the White House on Monday, Sept. 26. Nearly 400 anti-war protesters were arrested in a show of nonviolent, civil disobedience. She was just the first.

There were 383 others arrested — or 32 dozen, counting Sheehan — according to reports from the U.S. Park Police. The mass nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience day was organized by United for Peace and Justice (www.unitedforpeace.org).

Sheehan’s son was killed in Iraq last year. She gained worldwide attention when she camped outside President Bush’s Texas ranch this summer in a failed attempt to meet with him.

Those arrested with Sheehan included:

The Rev. Jamie Washam, Underwood Baptist Church, Wauwatosa, WI, and other members of Clergy and Laity Concerned;

Princeton University Professor of Religion, Dr. Cornel West, getting arrested in front of the White House on Sept. 26.
(photo by Marisa McNee)

Princeton University Professor of Religion and author of bestsellers Race
Matters
and Democracy Matters, Dr. Cornel West;

Previous Deputy Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia Ann Wright, who resigned in opposition to the U.S. declaring war on Iraq without authorization of the United Nations Security Council;

UTNE magazine editor-in-chief Nina Utne;

Founder of Global Exchange and co-founder of the women’s peace group, "Code Pink," Medea Benjamin;

Members of Goldstar Families for Peace (families who have lost loved ones in the Iraq war);

Two U.S. veterans from Afghanistan, one from Viet Nam, and one from the Persian Gulf and Bosnia;

And hundreds of others.

They all shared one thing in common: They chose to be arrested to draw worldwide attention to what they believe is an illegal U.S.-declared war and occupation in Iraq.

‘This is the most graphic demonstration that the American public can see of the increasing resistance, literally as well as metaphorically, that people are giving to this war," said Gordon S. Clark, Coordinator for Iraq Pledge of Resistance, Silver Springs, MD.

"That folks are now willing to go beyond protest. They’re willing to go beyond lobbying. They’re willing to put their bodies on the line to say this war cannot continue. When morally motivated individuals come together in common cause, and are willing to risk their liberty, their reputation, their treasure, to stop an injustice, I think that is something that is generally understood and respected by the American public."

On the frontline of the protest, religious leaders — many who spoke the night before at an interfaith peace and justice service — linked arms in a show of solidarity.

Rev. Washam said she chose to be arrested because she could no longer remain silent about an unjust war being committed in her name.

"We have been lied to and lied to and lied to," she said.

A crowd that appeared to be at least double the number of those arrested chanted "Thank you, clergy!"

Professor West joined the clergy on the frontline.

"Bear witness to love of justice, brother," he said. "The only place to be right now to bear witness to love of justice."

Protesters led the crowd in a chant of "Stop the War!" to the beat of a drum. Other prevalent chants included "Arrest Bush!", "Stop the killing, stop the war!" and "Our house!"

Photos of soldiers killed in the Iraq war hung on the White House fence. One sign read, "Remember the dead. Resist the war." A white banner held by a group of women read, "Troops home now. No blood for oil." Four black-hooded men in orange jumpsuits, an obvious reference to the abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, stood against the White House fence.

U.S. Park Police issued protesters three warnings before beginning arrests. When Sheehan was arrested, the crowd chanted "The whole world is watching."

Utne passed cookies and bottled water to her Code Pink comrades over the yellow tape that separated protesters from the press.

"Someone has to be on this side of the fence," she said. "I thought being behind the scenes was as least as helpful as being in front."

Utne said Code Pink was present to take a stand.

"We’re in a completely insane war. We’re destroying the environment and it’s time to stand up and say a thing or two about that."

Code Pink began chanting for her.

"Nina! Nina! They said.

Utne dipped beneath the yellow tape and joined them. Police swooped down on her.

The women of Code Pink surrounded Utne, now on the ground, in a futile attempt to protect her. She was arrested.

An unknown man scaled the White House fence and was also promptly arrested. A SWAT team positioned themselves across the White House lawn, billy clubs prominently displayed.

Police brought in two city buses that they used over a period of several hours to ferry the war protesters to a local processing station. They each were charged with demonstrating without a permit and fined $50 plus $25 for court costs. They have 90 days to pay the fine or appear in court.

One of the youngest protesters arrested was 14-year-old River Donaghey, Eugene, OR..

"It’s for him that he’s doing this," Jan Becker, his grandmother, also of Eugene, said.

"He’s got the debt; he’s looking at a potential draft at 14. It’s an illegal war. I don’t want him involved in it and he doesn’t want to be involved in it."

Also arrested were Afghanistan veteran Michael Cuzzort, New Orleans, LA, Viet Nam veteran Frank Corcoran, Philadelphia, PA, Persian Gulf veteran Dave Bills, Austin, TX, and Afghanistan and Persian Gulf veteran Nick Przybyla, Phoenix, AZ.

Cuzzort, 24, said he voted for Bush and initially supported the war in Afghanistan. But that changed.

"I was standing on a mountain in Afghanistan when I realized I’d been lied to," he said.

"I was happy to die if the war would have been a success and we’d been given enough resources and found Bin Laden. But the only place we didn’t invade was where Bin Laden was, in Tora Bora. We had no bases there. (The government is) protecting Bin Laden. They have business dealings with Bin Laden’s family."

Cuzzort, now a member of the Independent Ready Reserves, said he was scared to speak out against the government while actively serving in the military. But this also has changed.

One of nearly 400 arrested on Sept. 26.
(photo by Marisa McNee)

"If I was willing to die in Afghanistan for lies, I’ll die here for the truth," he said.

Cuzzort is enrolled in his final year at the University of New Orleans majoring in sociology. Hurricane Katrina, however, has placed his education on hold.

"It scares me that we’re fighting a war with an over-stretched military and we can’t react to a hurricane that were sitting there watching on TV," he said.

Something else bothers Cuzzort, too.

He said that about 10 Iraq veterans had planned to join him in front of the White House to be arrested.

"I’m kind of disappointed," he said. "They all backed out."

Rhiannon Ross is an associate editor with eKC online. She may be contacted at rhiannonrosskc@yahoo.com or at managingeditor@kcactive.com.

 


              
              
                 

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