Hundreds in US urge Iraq pullout

As the US military presence in Iraq enters its third year, the number of anti-war demonstrators in one key US city has fallen dramatically.

    Activists are struggling to keep the movement's numbers up

    Hundreds of anti-war activists marched in the cold Los Angeles rain on the second anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, calling on President George Bush to bring the troops home.


    According to the coalition of local and national peace organisations, 100,000 activists protested against the invasion of Iraq last year on its first anniversary. 


    This year's 1500 protesters, assembling on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, listened to fellow activists who addressed the crowd on the negative impact of the invasion of Iraq on America, the hundreds of American troops and the thousands of Iraqis. They stressed the importance of supporting the peace movement.


    Protesters cited bad weather as one reason for the low turnout.


    Low numbers


    "Well, it's raining, what do you expect?" said Kelly Goldberg, 63, and a long-time anti-war activist.


    "It was raining last year too, and it is raining now, but some are not dedicated to the peace movement like myself and everyone here. That should speak for something."


    Demonstrators drew attention to
    their message with costumes

    The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) came up with this year's head count as an approximation.


    Some officers believed the low count was expected because it was the second anniversary of the invasion and could not compare to the emotions that were felt at the time of the first anniversary.


    The Los Angeles Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (Answer) coalition hosted the rally to continue the peace movement. One of the anti-war movement's goals is to bring home the troops.


    Anti-war words


    "From Falluja to Jenin, stop the US war machine," said Mahmud Ahmad, member of al Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition of Los Angeles.


    "I'm not sure what they want. You got one guy holding a sign about Social Security reform and another person talking about freeing Palestine. Isn't this supposed to be about Iraq?"

    Timothy Shaw, onlooker

    "Sisters and brothers, this is an impressive showing in the rain. These raindrops on our head can't stop us, just like the bombs dropping on Iraq can't stop the Iraqi resistance," Ahmad yelled to the protesters. 


    He questioned how much longer Americans would fight Bush's war.


    "How much longer do people of colour have to go to the army to fight the rich man's war just so they can be able to go to college?" Ahmad asked.


    "How much longer are we going to be asked to give up our rights and our benefits to fight the rich man's war that has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with freedom, or with democracy but only with war-mongering?"


    Other issues


    While the theme of the rally was to protest against the Iraq war, other issues were also addressed.


    Activists say the war gives the US
    a bad image abroad

    Activists spoke out about defending the civil rights of minorities in the US, healthcare reform, education and welfare. 


    "These people are way confused," said Timothy Shaw, an onlooker. "I’m just here on vacation from New York and listening to all these people, I'm not sure what they want.


    "You got one guy holding a sign about Social Security reform and another person talking about freeing Palestine. Isn't this supposed to be about Iraq?"


    Domestic issues played a role in the protest because of the billions of dollars spent on the war and not Americans, activists said.


    Sitcom actress Mimi Kennedy said it was important local leaders, including Congress and assembly members, listen to their citizens who are against the war because the costs affect cities.


    "This year, the peace movement is growing stronger and organising in the local communities," Kennedy said.


    Since the start of the invasion of Iraq two years ago, 1521 US troops have died and more than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed.


    More than 11,000 US troops have been wounded in action.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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