WASHINGTON — Antiwar groups are using a $1 million ad campaign and a demonstration they say will attract 100,000 people to try to re-energize their movement and pressure the Bush administration to bring troops home from Iraq.
Organizers of Saturday’s protest, which will take marchers past the White House, say it will be the largest since the war began more than two years ago.
Cindy Sheehan, the woman who drew thousands of protesters to her 26-day vigil outside President Bush’s Texas ranch last month, is among those planning to participate.
“We want to show Congress, the president and the administration that this peace movement is thriving,” said Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed last year in Iraq. “We mean business, and we’re not going to go away until our troops come home.”
On Thursday, Bush said withdrawing troops right now would make the world more dangerous.
“The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission,” he said. “For the safety and security of the American people, that’s not going to happen on my watch.”
Bush did not plan to be in Washington on Saturday, but he will have support on the streets. The groups FreeRepublic.com and Protest Warrior plan their own demonstration on Saturday, with hundreds expected to join in.
“We made a vow after Sept. 11 that we would not allow the anti-American left to do to us this time what they did during Vietnam, which was wear down the morale of the American,” FreeRepublic spokesman Kristinn Taylor said.
Taylor said a larger rally Sunday on the National Mall would honor military families.
Public’s gale force winds
The public has grown uneasy with the war throughout the summer, and the financial pressures of recovering from Hurricane Katrina, and possibly Rita, could add to that.
Almost two-thirds of those surveyed said they thought the United States was spending too much in Iraq, according to an AP-Ipsos poll taken after Katrina. About the same number of respondents said they were not confident how the money would be spent. Almost six in 10 said the U.S. made a mistake in invading Iraq, but less than half wanted to withdraw all forces immediately.
The anti-war effort gained notice last month with Sheehan’s protest in Crawford, Texas. But the devastation caused by Katrina, and the government’s slow response, have dominated the news the past several weeks.
Still, Brian Becker, national coordinator for ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), says people have not forgotten about the war. “People are very angry at the Bush administration,” Becker said.
The antiwar groups began an advertising campaign Thursday with an advertisement in The Washington Post and other papers and a television spot on Fox News and local cable TV.
The left side of the double-page print ad pictures Bush and administration officials and quotes about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq under the headline “They Lied.” The right side lists the names of American military personnel killed in Iraq and the headline: “They died.”
The TV ad features Cindy Sheehan and other relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq.
Police are prepared for a large demonstration, said Sgt. Scott Fear of the U.S. Park Police.
Days off have been canceled for officers. Reinforcements are coming from New York. Fear said the full force would be on hand, but he would not provide the number of officers.
Police don’t expect trouble
Police do not anticipate any trouble on Saturday, he said. “We meet with these organizers over and over again,” Fear said. “We don’t expect problems. We expect it to be a peaceful demonstration.”
The war protests will coincide with planned demonstrations against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which hold their annual meetings this weekend. Anti-globalization protesters will eventually join the marchers opposing the Iraq war.
ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice are the main antiwar organizers. The protest will start with a rally at the Ellipse with speakers including Sheehan, actress Jessica Lange and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Protesters will march to the front of the White House, down to the Justice Department and then circle back to the Washington Monument for a concert featuring folk singer Joan Baez.
Other protests are planned Saturday in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.
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