Sept. 15, 2007 -- Thousands of anti-war protesters holding black and yellow signs saying "End the War" filled the park in front of the White House today demanding an end to U.S. occupation of Iraq. Police said they arrested 189 people, one of them on a felony charge of carrying an incendiary device.
"USCP made 189 arrests at the US Capitol for individuals who crossed police lines and attempted to enter secure areas near the Capitol," said Capitol Police spokesperson Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. "Those arrested are currently being processed at US Capitol Police facilities. Two officers and two arrestees received minor injuries during the arrests."
Speakers at the rally included antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan and consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Nader encouraged people to visit their congressional representatives and express their thoughts about the war in Iraq.
Nader said "Every protest needs to focus on individual members of Congress" and that the biggest bargaining chip is withdrawal.
Demonstrators marched down all eight lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol where a mass "die-in" around the Peace Monument took place. Adam Kokesh with the Veterans for Peace said the die-in is to "Symbolize the American cost of this war." They were encircled by bolts of red cloth that Kokesh said symbolize the Iraq deaths.
U.S. Capitol Police arrested the protesters after they jumped a waist-high barricade near the base of the Capitol. early 100 officers were standing guard -- some in riot gear. The protesters were arrested without a struggle.
Liam Madden, an Iraq War veteran, believes the funeral demonstration will make a strong impact on Congress. "There will not be business as usual unless they want to walk over the bodies," he said.
Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER coalition, said the protest was beyond expectations and he was happy to see a large number of Iraq war veterans and family members joining the event.
Since the war in Iraq began in 2003, anti-war protests have become a regular occurrence in Washington. This is the first major protest against the war in Washington since January.
Even though President Bush was at Camp David and not at home to hear the shouting, today's events still come at a tense time in the fractious debate over the U.S. mission in Iraq. Just this past week, we heard congressional testimony by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, followed by President Bush's speech to the nation on Thursday.
The president ordered the first limited troop withdrawals since voters elected an antiwar Congress last year.
While Bush announced that he had approved Petraeus' plan to withdraw 5,700 troops from Iraq by the holidays and reduce the force from 20 combat brigades to 15 brigades by July 2008, many people here in Washington don't think that's good enough.
With additional reporting by Zachary Wolf