Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to gather in Washington, D.C., this weekend for a major anti-war rally -- the first of several events designed to pressure Congress to end the war in Iraq.
Hollywood stars known for their opposition to the war, including actors Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, Tim Robbins and Danny Glover, plan on joining the protest on the National Mall this Saturday. Speakers also include the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio; Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.
Anti-war groups say their cause has been re-energized by November's midterm elections in which Democrats gained a majority in both the House and Senate, and by the president's troop escalation plan.
"We want to translate this energy into a powerful, political force," said Tom Andrews, national director of the anti-war group Win Without War.
Groups including United for Peace and Justice, Win Without War, the National Organization for Women and the RainbowPUSH Coalition, have organized a rally and march around the Capitol building Saturday, and arranged a "citizen lobby" day on Capitol Hill Monday, urging protesters to target House members, senators and congressional staff in an effort to force them to do more to stop the war.
"The president is a lost cause and everybody knows it," said Andrews, a former Democratic representative from Maine.
"So we are going to push the Democrats in Congress to not just talk but act and use their power -- and that power is the power of the purse," said Andrews. "It's time to stop the rubber stamp of Congress and start the accountability and stand up to the president."
Andrews said congressional Democrats are in danger of spending all their time debating "toothless words." He was referring to the nonbinding resolution against President Bush's plan to send 21,5000 additional troops to Iraq, which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed this week.
Organizers said they are urging people to develop relationships on Capitol Hill, and to be respectful yet firm with House members, senators and staff.
However, they said they are planning more forceful tactics in February, when Congress is expected to debate spending more money on the war as part of the president's supplemental budget.
"We are planning more confrontational tactics for recalcitrant members of Congress for February and March," said Andrews, adding that we could see sit-ins outside Capitol Hill offices.
Beyond planning protests, organizers are raising money for television ads, and are planning local protest rallies, news conferences and meetings with editorial boards across the country -- all designed to build public opposition to the war and pressure the Democratic-led Congress to stop the president.
Television ads targeting Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., over his support for the president's troop escalation plan, are already airing in New Hampshire and Iowa -- critical 2008 battleground states -- and nationally on cable channels.
"We want there to be a political price to pay for Sen. McCain in supporting the president," said Tom Matzzie, Washington director for MoveOn.org, the Internet-based, grass roots political organization that paid for the television ads.