Tens of thousands converged on Washington, D.C., on Saturday in a spirited anti-war demonstration that drew military families, celebrities and ordinary people calling for the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
'After we went to Iraq, I began to see through the lies.' —U.S. air force Staff Sgt. Tassi McKee, who was among the protesters
Under a sunny sky, the protesters seized an opportunity to press their cause with a Congress restive about the war and a country that has turned against the conflict.
Marching with them was Jane Fonda, in what she said was her first anti-war demonstration in 34 years.
"Silence is no longer an option," Fonda said to cheers from the stage on the National Mall.
The actress once derided as "Hanoi Jane" by conservatives for her opposition to the war in Vietnam said she had held back from activism so as not to be a distraction for the Iraq anti-war movement, but needed to speak out now.
More military people protesting, Fonda says
Sensitive to the old wounds, Fonda made it a point to thank the serving members of the military, veterans and Gold Star mothers — those who have lost a son or daughter in military service — who attended the rally.
Fonda drew parallels to the Vietnam War, citing "blindness to realities on the ground, hubris … thoughtlessness in our approach to rebuilding a country we've destroyed."
'I've just gotten tired of seeing widows, tired of seeing dead marines.' —Vincent DiMezza,a formermarine aircraft mechanic
But she noted that this time, veterans and soldiers in uniform are increasingly and vocally protesting.
Among them at the protest was Staff Sgt. Tassi McKee, 26, an intelligence specialist for the air force who is based at Fort Meade, Md. Shesaid she joined the military because of patriotism, totravel and to getmoney for college.
"After we went to Iraq, I began to see through the lies," she said.
Vincent DiMezza, who was a marine aircraft mechanic from 1997 to 2002, was also in the crowd, wearing a dress marine uniform from his years as a sergeant.
"I've just gotten tired of seeing widows, tired of seeing dead marines," said DiMezza, 32, who did not serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Day of bloodshed in Iraq
The protest came on the same day as the U.S. military reported the deaths of seven more American soldiers in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Sunni Muslim insurgents bombed another market in a predominantly Shia Muslim district on Baghdad, killing at least 13 people in a bid to terrorize the city before a U.S.-Iraqi crackdown.
In the past week, U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration made it clear that they intend to push ahead with their plan to send more soldiers to Iraq in spite of opposition in Congress and the public.
Mid-terms showed Americans oppose war plans: protester
At Saturday's demonstration in Washington, from the stage and in the crowd, protestors gave voice to the opposition that has been so clearly evident in public opinion polls and November's mid-term elections, which handed the Democrats a majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years.
"The election made it very clear that we are tired of the way things were going," one man told CBC News.
"It is unfair to the people that are over there, the Iraqis, Americans, and any other people … and I think it is time to end this."
Polls show that not only do most Americans oppose the war, but they also think the situation is getting worse. About 70 per cent of Americans disagree with the decisions the president has made during the war as commander-in-chief.
"Is impeachment still off the table? Let's get him out of office," said actor and activist Tim Robbins as the crowd on the Mall chanted "Impeach Bush."
The rally unfolded peacefully, although about 300 protesters tried to rush the Capitol Building, running up the grassy lawn to its front. Police on motorcycles tried to stop them, scuffling with some and barricading entrances.
United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, had hoped 100,000 people would come. Police, who no longer give official estimates, said privately the crowd was smaller than that.