Thousands of anti-war protesters marched in Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles over the weekend. They said the U.S. war on terrorism will cost innocent lives, in addition to those lost in last month's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Counter-demonstrators also marched to support the U.S. war against terrorism.
The anti-war demonstrators had initially planned to protest the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, but those organizations canceled their meetings in Washington in the wake of the terrorist incidents September 11. Still, thousands took to the streets in Washington and San Francisco, and hundreds in Los Angeles, to oppose military action by the U.S. government.
Preston Wood is a spokesman for the International Action Center, one of the sponsors of the protest in Los Angeles. He said, "We say that we don't trust the U.S. government to tell us the truth about this thing. We're not even sure who did this. If such an answer is to be found, it has to be found with the people of the world through the U.N. or other such agencies, not the Bush administration, which is intent on pumping up the Pentagon budget to wage a new war against innocent people abroad.
Many college students joined the anti-war demonstrations. There were also some prominent clergymen. However, most of the sponsoring organizations were from the far-left end of the U.S. political spectrum. They included the Socialist Workers Organization and the alumni committee of the radical Black Panther party. Other sponsoring groups support rebel movements in Latin America.
Bob Zirgulas belongs to an organization called International Human Rights Watch, which organized a counter-rally in Los Angeles. "We're here counter-demonstrating against the anti-war hypocrites," he said. "And the organizers of the anti-war group actually have ties to terrorist groups, and we want to point that out. It's really a shame that they have all these young people out there supporting them, and they're being useful idiots."
The peace protesters say they have no sympathy for terrorists, only for the innocent victims of war.
Polls show nine out of ten Americans support the administration's plan for military action against terrorists and the countries that harbor them. Anti-war demonstrator Preston Wood says those numbers don't bother him. "We feel fine," he said, "because, you know, the polls say 85 percent of the people in this country are for war. That means there are about 15 percent of us, which is about 27 million, are against the war. And we find that a good starting point."
Rabbi Steven Jacobs gave the invocation for the anti-war protest in Los Angeles. Rabbi Jacobs believes the U.S. government is acting wisely by bringing nations together in a broad-based coalition against terrorism. But he believes the administration should be cautious about war.
He says the country is already sending a message to terrorists. "You're not going to rip the fabric of our society apart," he said. "In fact, you've done just the opposite. There are more people talking to each other, Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Sikhs and Christians, who are now talking to one another. Where we just had the language of cooperation before, we are meeting in each other's mosques, we are meeting in synagogues, we are meeting in churches." Rabbi Jacobs says he is now seeing inter-religious cooperation in action.
Still, Rabbi Jacobs worries that an assault on terrorism could lead to a spiral of violence. Counter-demonstrators say that, like it or not, the United States is fighting a war that was started by terrorists.