Dallas activists, LGBT activists gather in Washington to protest war
Pro-peace Texans raised their voices in unison with others from around the nation at a rally and march on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 27, calling for a solution to the war in Iraq.
Organized by the non-profit United for Peace and Justice, the protest drew activists advocating multiple tactics to end the occupation. Some wanted the impeachment of Bush (or first Cheney, then Bush), while others said the U.S. should appeal to the Arab League of Nations for assistance.
Local Texas advocates representing the Dallas Peace Center and the Crawford Peace House said that citizens should tell their legislators to stop funding the war.
“I am a responsible American,” said Mary Warren of Dallas. “It’s our job to be out here today. People in Congress aren’t doing their job, so we’ve got to get out and do ours and make them do theirs.”
The Dallas activists plan on continuing their campaign locally at the March in Dallas, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 19 (President’s Day) from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The march will start at Dealey Plaza and continue to Ferris Plaza, in front of the Dallas Morning News building.
While CNN reported “tens of thousands” of protestors, organizers reported 500,000. Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Raging Grannies joined Jane Fonda on the speaking platform. It was Fonda’s first anti-war speech since the Vietnam era.
“I haven’t spoken at an anti-war rally in 34 years,” Fonda said, “because I’ve been afraid that because of the lies that have been and continue to be spread about me and that war, that they would be used to hurt this new anti-war movement. But silence is no longer an option.”
According to icasualties.org, 84 U.S. troops were killed in January 2007. Iraqi deaths, both for security forces and civilians, added up to 1,802 in the same time period.
The crowd was diverse, with many races, creeds, politics and personalities represented. Representatives from the AFL-CIO program, Pride at Work, came out to show their solidarity with the pro-peace movement, they said.
“We were the first national LGBT organization to come out against the war back in 2002,” said Jeremy Bishop, executive director of Pride at Work. “We just see it as taking money away from other important things, and we’re also tired of people killing poor people. There’s no point to it.
“We feel like, as queer people and people of conscious, we need to come out against it.”
Also, said the activists, issues like the war present an excellent opportunity to build bridges across the movement.
“I think a lot of times, people in their particular movements have blinders on and only concentrate on their issues,” said Sandra Telep, an organizer with Pride at Work. “This is one issue that really brings people together. You can see people from different organizations, so I think it’s a really great way for us to build coalitions and to realize that we’re on the same side of a bigger fight.”
More importantly, said Jessica Burgan, a media associate with Pride at Work, American LGBT folks need to educate themselves about how the Bush administration’s policies are affecting LGBT folks elsewhere.
“Lately there’s been a lot of information coming out about how Iraqi LGBT lives have been affected, and I don’t think many LGBT people in the United States are aware of that,” Burgan said. “The lack of secularism in the current Iraqi government is detrimental to queer people in Iraq.”
Many protestors had long lost the illusion that practicing their rights to assembly and free speech would have any effect on the administration’s policies, they said. Instead, they searched for connection and refueling with their fellow activists.
“I think the main point of the demonstrations is to remind people that they’re not alone and to get energy to keep going, because it’s obvious that Dubya isn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to what we’re doing today,” said Abby Cohen, from Baltimore. “I don’t think we’re changing policy by being here, but I do think it’s inspiring to people and helps us do the work that we need to do when we go back, like education and contacting our legislators.”
During a press briefing, a journalist asked White House Press Secretary Tony Snow what the President thought of the march on Washington.
“I don’t think he really thought a lot about it,” Snow said.
For more information go online to UnitedForPeace.org, to DallasPeaceCenter.org or DallasRally.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 2, 2007