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'What Does Democracy Look Like?'
Protesters turn out in D.C. to oppose the war
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-29 16:24 (KST)   
It was 6:15 a.m. on Saturday morning, Jan. 27. We had gotten up at 4 a.m. to get to the bus to go to Washington for the march against the Iraq War. I was surprised that several people I had spoken to didn't even realize there was a march happening. The anti-war group United for Peace and Justice had called the march for Jan. 27, just after the new Congressional session had gotten underway.

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Several people I spoke with who were going felt that if there was any way to have an impact on what was happening, it was important to do so. The person I sat near in the bus had lived in Germany during WWII, and said that what she saw happening in the U.S. reminded her more and more of what she had seen happening in Germany while she was growing up. She particularly mentioned the ways the government would conceal the truth or lie to the public.

The bus ride was several hours, but not as long as the ride for those who came from other parts of the country. We didn't arrive at the place where the buses were set to park until after 11 a.m. The rally was starting and we still had to take the subway into D.C. We got off the buses and headed to the subway station.

There was a crowd of people from various parts of the country who were at the station, with their signs. It was good to see so many people, ranging in age from students to veterans of the anti-war movement of the 1960s. One of the most unusual signs had a chicken on the back and a caricature of Bush on the front.

Sign with George Bush's face on one side, and a chicken on the other
©2007 R. Hauben

Once on the subway train we waited a while as the train grew more and more crowded. Finally we were jammed in the car. I spoke with someone who had come from Long Island who said he was convinced the war was being made for Iraq's oil and that it was crucial to oppose Exxon to oppose the war. He was urging people to boycott Exxon and to demonstrate against its executives. He wondered what was behind the neo-cons determination to get the U.S. to invade Iraq.

The subway train finally arrived at the D.C. station and we got out. We headed over to the Mall facing the Capitol. Jesse Jackson was still speaking, as one of the last of the speakers.

Jackson was talking about leaders and how there was a need for new leaders. More importantly, he started to speak about the need for the United States to have a vision, a new vision. The vision he spoke about was one where "right makes might" not the opposite. There was a need for new roads and for education and for housing in the U.S., not for more troops in Iraq.

We went around to the area where the march was going to begin. There was a sea of signs. "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people," read one sign. Another sign spoke about the lies that had been spread by the government to justify the attack on Iraq.

A protest sign by a parent of a U.S. soldier in Iraq
©2007 R. Hauben

The march started off. Soon the people where I was standing began to join in. There were chants, "Hey hey, ho ho, George Bush has got to go," or "What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like."

Talking to some of the people marching nearby, one pointed out that for each person here there were at least 50 who hadn't come who were opposed to the war. "War is so last century" read one sign being carried. "War = terrorism with a bigger budget," read another. Someone nearby started to sing, "This Land is Your Land," and others joined in.

Protestors converging on Capitol Hill
©2007 R. Hauben

The weather was warm for the end of January and the sun was shinning. The signs conveyed a variety of anti-war messages: "Hey King George the Decider, Could You Please Spread Some of that Democracy Over Here"; "Purge the right to Surge"; "Congress, stand up to Bush"; "War is tragic, peace is magic."

Demanding action from Congress
©2007 R. Hauben

It was fine to see so many homemade signs. People found their own personal way to say they were opposed to what their government is doing. "When leadership is disgraceful, the people must lead," another sign proclaimed. "Miriam was here, January 27, 2007."

There were banners from different areas of the country, and banners from veterans groups showing their opposition to the war. Banners from churches, several unions sent groups of people. Students from colleges and universities marched. Some protesters dressed up as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Bush and donned prison garb. A baby was carrying a sign that said "Put Bush in his place, in the Hague." A large paper mache dragon spelled out the letters for "Impeachment".

You're never too young to express an opinion...
©2007 R. Hauben

One demonstrator told me that he didn't know anything about the 1960s as he was too young then. This was his first march and he was glad he had come. He had been thinking about how Bush had gotten put into office by the Supreme Court in 2000. He felt there was a constitutional crisis in the U.S. and that it would come to a head.

... Or too old
©2007 R. Hauben

Several of the people I spoke with were part of small anti-war groups that carried out different activities. One group had sponsored a debate between one speaker who said that the troops should get out immediately and another speaker who said they should get out in 90 days. Some other people I spoke with said they had gone to a Wellstone Camp weekend where there was training in grassroots political activity. They believed that the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone had probably been killed. Another person said she was sure Bush would not pay any attention to the protest and was probably out of town. Others were pessimistic that even with the change in its political composition, that Congress would have enough courage to cut off funding for the war.

Protestors dressed as Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld as prisoners in chains
©2007 R. Hauben

Some of those I spoke with were hopeful that an increasing activism on the part of more people would have an impact; others felt there would need to be a new political party for there to be any change in the continuation and escalation of the Iraq War. Also people spoke about how little media coverage the march would probably receive, and the numbers given by the press for how many people had marched would probably be estimated as 1/10th of the actual size. As they predicted, organizers said that they estimated the size of the demonstration at 400,000 while the media reported that "tens of thousands" had marched.

The march took a long route and people were kept spread out as the march wound its way through the streets of the capitol. But the march went on for hours, with new groups coming for more than three hours.

Even Bush wants to impeach Bush
©2007 R. Hauben

By 4 p.m. the police began to move behind the march. Police on motorcycles, on bicycles and on horses began to appear. We had to head back to our bus, so we found our way back to the subway and took the long ride back to where the buses had parked.

We arrived back in Manhattan around 11 p.m. A question raised by the events of the day was, would this march help to give spirit to a developing anti-war movement?

It was striking that the people who came were not the people who in general have any power in U.S. society. They were people from the ranks of the public, trying to speak out against what they see as harmful actions of their government. If the U.S. were a democracy, the government would be expected to pay attention to such a protest, to reconsider its policy of expanding the number of troops in Iraq and instead begin to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. Democracy, one sign carried in the demonstration said, "is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people."

Puppet carrying protest sign
©2007 R. Hauben

I often have heard people in other countries say they believe that the U.S. is a democracy and I wonder why they believe that. It was clear that a great number of the people who had brought their bodies and many of them their signs to the demonstration in Washington had little hope that few, if any, in the current U.S. government would feel any reason to change their support for continuing the war based on knowing that there is great anti-war sentiment among the people of the U.S.

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The reason that people had come was not, it seemed, that they believed their government functioned democratically and would heed their protests. Instead, the reason people came seemed more that they wanted to let each other know that they opposed the Iraq War and would do what they could to stop it.

Signs at the demonstration

Signs appeared randomly throughout the rally at the Mall facing the Capital Building and on the march around the Capital Building, symbolically targeting the users of that building, the U.S. Congress.

Prominent among the mass produced signs was the call to the Congress, "Stand Up to Bush" and "Iraq Escalation, Wrong Way." Other signs carried demands like, "Cut the Funding for War and Torture," "Another Mother Against Escalation," "Silence is Complicity." Many of the home made signs went further and demanded that the Congress impeach Bush.

For example one sign said, "Take the Escalator out of service," Other signs said "The World can't Wait, Drive out the Bush Regime," "Impeach Bush for War Crimes, Crimes Against Peace and Crimes Against Humanity." But one sign recognizing that impeachment of Bush would put Cheney into the presidency, said "Impeach Cheney First, Then Bush."

One protester said not the Democrats or the Republicans will end this war. The U.S. needs a third party. "The people have to break the habit of 쁳he less of two evils.'"

There were signs identifying where people had come from: "Oklahoma", "Texas", "West Virginia Patriots for Peace," "Delaware Valley Vets against the War." Some signs were personal, "My son, Cpl Nicholas Ziolowski, born Feb 21, 1982, Baltimore, KIA [Killed in Action] Nov 14, 2004 Fullujah"

One sign called attention to another failure of the U.S. government. Referring to New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina it said, "Make Levees, Not War." One sign had a political message, "McCain, From POW to War Monger," referring to potential Republican candidate for President in 2008, U.S. Senator John McCain.

Besides signs and banners, protesters during the three hour march around the Capital Building chanted slogans which broadened the spectrum of messages that people came to Washington to send to the U.S. government and to the world. Some included:

"Out of Afghanistan, out of Iraq.
Out of the White House and don't come back"

"Give Iraq their nation,
End the occupation."

"Occupation is a crime
in Iraq and Palestine"

"Not my President, not my war.
This whole System is rotten to the core."


The march was lead by veterans of America's many wars. One banner listed Veterans For Peace: WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf I." Marching with the anti-war veterans were families of service people killed in this war, some Iraq War veterans and some active duty service people who were not in uniform, to avoid court martial. The crowd behind them carried many signs opposing war and advocating peace, e.g., "War is Mass Terrorism." / Jay Hauben
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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