For Zorina Sanchez, getting the troops out of Iraq is personal. “My son just finished basic training. He could ship out in March or August,” says the 48-year-old home-care supervisor from the South Bronx. Though she’s never been to an anti-war demo before, Sanchez was among a dozen volunteers who turned up at the midtown offices of United for Peace and Justice last Wednesday to help mobilize for the big march in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, January 27.
“He’s only 20 years old. He’s my only child,” says Sanchez, who’s riding to D.C. on a bus organized by her union, District Council 37. “I begged him not to sign up, but he felt like the Army was his only way out. Now he’s going over there to fight, and for what? You think putting in more troops is going to stop the killing over there? Now they’re spilling blood all over the place—their blood, our blood—for what? I’ll do anything to stop this. I don’t want my son to die for nothing.”
If recent polls are any indication, there’s a growing army of Americans who don’t want Sanchez’s kid or anyone else’s in the Iraq occupation. President George Bush’s newly announced intent to send an additional 21,500 troops into the burgeoning civil war—his so-called “surge” plan—has given this particular march on Washington unexpected momentum. “We got a call from an American in China who said, I’m so fed up, I’m getting on a plane to be at the march,” says UFPJ spokesperson Hany Khalil. Last week, the group’s website got 700,000 hits in a single day. “A couple from Los Angeles canceled a cruise for their 35th wedding anniversary to be at the march. Bush’s escalation has jolted people into recognizing it’s absolutely essential they be in the streets.”
Organizers, including MoveOn, the National Organization for Women, and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, say this could be the largest antiwar demonstration since that chilly February 15, 2003, uprising before the U.S. invasion.
“I don’t think we’ve been in such a pivotal moment since the campaign began to stop this war,” says Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn, whose members have pitched in tens of thousands of dollars in “travel scholarships” to help others attend. “It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ kind of feeling. Congress needs to know that people expect them to block this escalation and then lead the way out of this quagmire.”
Many marchers are staying for the big lobbying push on Monday, when activists from all 435 Congressional districts plan to descend on Capitol Hill to urge their representatives to pass more than just symbolic resolutions against the troop increase.
“Bush is saying, what’s the counter offer? Well, the counter offer is to get out now, because when you look at the options, nothing else makes sense,” argues Brooklyn peace activist Steve Ault. “We’re saying to the Democrats, the time for equivocation is over. What is going to be accomplished by hanging out there any longer? There’s huge amount of evidence that the presence of U.S. troops is inciting sectarian warfare in Iraq and making it worse.”
Here’s how to get your “surge” on this weekend.
HOW TO GET THERE
Reserve a seat on the bus:
1. UFPJ is organizing buses in Manhattan and Queens, departing at 6 a.m. Saturday from these locations:
— Union Square North
— West 72nd Street & Broadway
— West 125th Street & Seventh Avenue
— 105 East 116 Street, between Lexington and Park
— Queensboro Plaza, northern end, at Crescent Street
Tickets are $35–$40 round-trip, with a limited number of $20 tickets for students and low-income riders. Purchase online at unitedforpeace.org, in person at 261 West 36th Street (between Seventh and Eighth avenues), or by phone with a credit card at 212-868-5545.
2. Brooklyn Parents for Peace is organizing buses from Grand Army Plaza, leaving at 5:45 a.m.
Tickets are $35, available online at brooklynpeace.org, or by calling 718-624-5921.
3. Bronx Action for Peace and the Working Families Party have buses leaving from these locations ($35; call to reserve a seat):
— Bedford Park Blvd. and Jerome Ave., 6 a.m.; contact Frank Farkas at 718-365-4044 (day) or 718-543-6963 (eve), or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Co-Op City, Einstein Loop express bus stop at 5:45 a.m. and Dreiser Loop bus stop at 6 a.m.; contact Bernie Cylich at 646-522-5498 or e-mail email@example.com.
4. Peace Action of Staten Island is organizing buses from Staten Island. Tickets are $35. Call 718-989-2881 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. For an expanded list of groups organizing buses for D.C., see this page.
6. Free Agent: See this page for Chinatown busline schedules. Generally, tickets are $35 round-trip.
Or ride the peace trains:
— Fares from Penn Station start at $67 one-way. See amtrak.com.
— Trainpool with other marchers. See peacetraintodc.com.
There are also vans and carpools:
—See unitedforpeace.org for info on ride shares from New York and cities across the U.S.
And if you need to fly:
— Jet Blue has flights from JFK to Dulles Airport for $39 one-way. See jetblue.com
EVENTS IN D.C.
9 a.m.— Interfaith Service, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 East Capitol Street NE
10-11:30 a.m. Feeder marches organize and start walking.
— “Women Say Pull Out” feeder march with Code Pink and NOW leaves at 10 a.m. from the Navy Memorial, 7th Street and Pennsylvania NW. See codepink4peace.org.
— Poets feeder march (bring placards of verse!) leaves at 10:30 from Busboys and Poets, 14th Street and “V” NW. See dcpaw.org.
— Students and youth contingent leaves at 10:30 from 7th Street and Maryland. Contact email@example.com.
— “Justice in the Middle East” meets at 9th Street and “O” NW, 11 a.m., walks at 11:30.
— Labor feeder march gathers at 3rd Street and “E” NW. See unitedforpeace.org for updates on schedules.
11:30 a.m.— Rally on the National Mall, between 3rd and 7th streets. Speakers include Jesse Jackson, California representative Maxine Waters, Ohio representative Dennis Kucinich, actress Rhea Perlman, Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, and Bob Watada, father of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first military officer to refuse deployment in Iraq, now facing court-martial.
1 p.m.— March to the Capitol. For the exact route and a full list of contingents and other feeder marches, see unitedforpeace.org.
5 p.m.— Buses begin departing for NYC.
9 p.m.— Dance party with Code Pink at Busboys and Poets, 14th Street and V NW
WHAT TO BRING
— Warm clothes, water, snacks
— $5 for the Metro, as buses may park far away
— Pots, pans, and spoons to “wake up” Congress
— Puppets, banners, drums, horns, and whistles
— A white rose to symbolize war resistance
— Extra pairs of shoes, especially kids’ shoes and women’s sandals, for Code Pink’s “Walk in Their Shoes” project
WHERE TO STAY
— UFPJ has a housing board where folks are offering guest rooms, couches, even breakfast. See unitedforpeace.org/housing.php for information.
— The International Student Center has beds for $23 a night. See dchostel.com.
— Some area hotels are offering discount rates of $69 a night. See unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=3042 for a list of hotels, hostels, and church groups offering lodging.
Activists are training demonstrators for a round of lobbying on Capitol Hill on Monday, January 29.
Training starts on Sunday, January 28:
— 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, 4301 East-West Highway, Bethesda, Maryland. Plan your lobbying day with others from your congressional district, plus attend strategy sessions and issue briefings on how to defund the war, G.I. resistance, student organizing, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and more.
Lobby Day is Monday, January 29:
— Peace Action New York is calling on New Yorkers to lobby all 29 congressional districts, with an extra push on Clinton, Schumer, and Rangel. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Tell your representatives to bring the troops home now! (Hey, Cher signed up.) For information on registering to lobby, go to unitedforpeace.org or call Sue Udry at 301-565-4050, x315.
CAN’T MAKE IT TO D.C.?
Check out the virtual march at democrats.com.