Sunday, March 22, 2009

Anti-war march held in Los Angeles to mark Iraq war anniversary

Special Report: Tension escalates in Iraq

LOS ANGELES, March 21 (Xinhua) -- Shouting "Occupation is a crime" and holding banners such as "Bring All the Troops Home Now," thousands of demonstrators held an anti-war rally in Hollywood, Los Angeles on Saturday.

The demonstrators marched along the famous Hollywood Boulevard to demand an end to the six-year war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our resources are being squandered on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when we have a devastating economic crisis at home," said "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan, who spoke at a rally on behalf of Global Women's Strike. Her son was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Naming himself as Jay, a veteran who lost both eyes during his two years in Vietnam joined the march with the help of his friend. He told Xinhua that like the war in Vietnam, the Iraq war has killed many Americans and it is time to pull out U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

An Asian woman who declined to disclose her name said the war is not in the interests of people around the world and that's why she came out for the march.

Marie Shrupsolv, a 60-year-old lady, told Xinhua: "We are against what is going on now. We are against the illegal occupation of Iraq and don't want Obama to go into Afghanistan. We are for peace and do not want America to go around the world to kill innocent people. The invasion of Iraq was illegal."

She added that those who started the war should be prosecuted for their war crimes.

A symbolic "die-in" led by veterans, students and young children was held as demonstrators reached Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Ave. People sat down and laid down at the busiest corner in Hollywood and a symbolic action to visually represent the mass destruction wrought by the Pentagon war machine abroad was taken to create a sense of terror of war.

A group of veterans carried about 40 cardboard coffins draped with the flags of the United States, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine during the march and delivered the cardboard coffins to the Armed Forces Recruiting Center nearby.

Ryan Endicott, Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of Iraq Veterans against the War, said the lesson he learned from four years as a Marine in Iraq was that war was unjust.

Students from several dozens of universities, colleges and high schools participated the rally and march. American Indians danced through the street and shouted anti-war slogans.

Organizers said in November last year, the American people voted overwhelmingly for an end to war and occupation in Iraq. But in the midst of this economic crisis, Washington plans to keep an occupying force of 50,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely and wants a surge in Afghanistan while spreading the war to Pakistan with a 4 percent increase in the Pentagon budget, raising it to 534 billion dollars from 513 billion dollars.

That would be enough to put millions of workers back to work, millions of people back in their homes, or to serve as the beginning of a national health plan. The majority of the people of the U.S. and the world are demanding an end to the wars and occupations.

The economic crisis with an unemployment rate in California as high as over 10 percent and about 3 million Americans lost their homes because they could not pay their mortgages.

Some people in the rally said they were heartened by President Obama's plan to withdraw 100,000 troops from Iraq, but hoped he would also soon bring home the remaining 50,000, while others said they were disappointed by the increased troop deployment to Afghanistan.

Organizers of the march said it was important to hold demonstrations to raise awareness and hold politicians accountable.

Police on bicycles, riding horses and motorcycles secured the area to cope with possible clashes. A few supporters of the war held a verbal war with anti war demonstrators but no clashes were reported.

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