War protesters halt traffic, recall dead
WASHINGTON – Protesters blocked traffic and government buildings in Washington, acted out a Baghdad street scene in Syracuse, N.Y., and banged drums in a parade through San Francisco on Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
In other, more somber observances, organizers set up a two-mile display of about 4,000 T-shirts in Cincinnati, meant to symbolize the members of the U.S. military killed in Iraq, while in Louisville, Ky., demonstrators lined rows of military boots, sandals and children’s tennis shoes on the steps of a courthouse.
Laurie Wolberton of Louisville, whose son just finished an Army tour of duty in Iraq, said she fears the worsening U.S. economy has caused Americans to forget about the war.
“We’re not paying attention anymore,” she said. “My son has buried his friends. He’s given eulogies, he’s had to go through things no one should have to go through, and over here they’ve forgotten. They just go shopping instead.”
On previous anniversaries, tens of thousands of people marched through major U.S. cities, and more than 100,000 gathered on several occasions leading up to the invastion.
Only a few hundred mustered for one of Wednesday’s largest gatherings, in Washington, the crowds’ size perhaps kept in check by a late-winter storm system that stretched the length of the country. More than 80 people were arrested, most of them outside in Washington and at the Syracuse demonstration.
At the Internal Revenue Service building in the nation’s capital, about 100 protesters led by a marching band gathered at the main entrance. Several jumped barricades and sat down in front of the doors and were immediately detained. The demonstrators said they were focusing on the IRS, among other institutions, because it gathers taxes used to fund the war. Brian Bickett, 29, was among the first arrested. The high school theater teacher from New York City said he had never engaged in civil disobedience before. “We need to find lots of different ways to resist the war, and I decided to try this,” he said.
About 20 protesters were arrested about a block from the U.S. Capitol after blocking traffic. In some cases, police had to drag the protesters off the street.