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Thousands in Seattle march against Iraq war
By TOM PAULSON, Seattle Post Intelligencer
Under a brilliant blue sky Saturday, thousands of people sang, chanted and marched through the streets of Seattle, one of 11 cities nationwide participating in a coordinated protest against the war in Iraq.
"Veterans need to take the lead on this," said Chanan Suarez-Diaz, president of the Seattle chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "This has been a war for oil, for profits and for corporations. It's time for the occupation to end and veterans should be at the head of the movement to end it."
The 25-year-old Suarez-Diaz was wounded by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade while serving in Aramadi, Iraq, as a member of a U.S. Navy medical team supporting the Marines. Joining the young man at the protest was David Meeds, 74, of Monroe, also a navy veteran.
"I served in the Korean War," said the white-haired Meeds, holding a sign saying: "War is Not the Answer." Meeds said he has been demonstrating weekly, at a strip mall in Monroe, against the war in Iraq since before it began because he views it as contrary to American values and principles. He said he was heartened by the Seattle protest, seeing that more young people are becoming active and speaking out against the war.
"This is our generation's war," said Eva Walker, an 18-year-old musician and Seattle resident who with her twin brother Cedric helped organize -- and musically launch -- the protest with the aim of bringing out more young people. "We need to pay attention, get involved and vote. This is our future."
The Seattle protest, coordinated nationwide by the organization United for Peace and Justice, began in the Central Area's Judkins Park as musicians like the Walkers and speakers rallied a crowd estimated by organizers to be about 3,000 people. Banners for Code Pink (Women for Peace), Veterans For Peace, the Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee and other such organizations fluttered across the park as the group prepared to march.
Though many of the speaker comments, and placards, at the protest were unsurprisingly hostile to the Bush Administration, a significant number also fired salvoes in the direction of the Democrats for so far failing to take any meaningful steps toward ending the war.
"We need to see past the usual hollow rhetoric," rapped Dakota Alcantara-Camacho, a 16-year-old resident of south Seattle who performed his own lyrical version -- a sample -- of Doobie Brother Michael McDonald's "What a Fool Believes" to express his anti-imperialism theme.
Michael Dixon, the youngest of three brothers who in the late 1960s formed the Seattle branch of the Black Panthers, spoke at the event yesterday to encourage young people to protect their future. Dixon said history shows what can happen when American citizens don't pay attention and don't fight back -- just as it shows what happens when people do get involved.
"Young people are the force that can stop this," he said. "What you do or don't do will determine the future of the United States."
After the rally at Judkins Park, the demonstrators marched downtown to Occidental Park in Pioneer Square. Seattle police on bicycles closely monitored black-clad anarchists, many with handkerchiefs covering their faces. Police reported no incidents or arrests after the event. Some of those marching were campaigning for political candidates and a few held signs advertising a local radio program. A person dressed as polar bear protested global warming.
Only a few counter-protesters showed up, most of whom identified themselves as members of the King County Young Republicans organization, to heckle the anti-war crowd as it marched. They held signs saying "Give War a Chance," "Stop Smoking Marijuana" and "Stop Global Whining."
"This is not democracy or about free speech," said Russell Johnson, 27, one of the young Republicans protesting the protesters. "These people are guilty of sedition. It's a disgrace."
P-I reporter Tom Paulson can be reached at 206-448-8318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.