Anti-war demonstrators rallied and marched through downtown Saturday. The protest was in response for renewed calls of intervention in Iraq since the outbreak of sectarian violence that threatens the U.S.’s diplomatic and economic influence in the country.
On June 19, President Obama announced he would be sending up to 300 military advisers to Iraq, but said theirs was a non-combat role and promised against mission creep.
“American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well,” he said to reporters in a White House press briefing.
Michael Prysner, a coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition and an Iraq War vet, reminded protesters gathered in Pershing Square that the Vietnam War began with military advisers.
“That is a military escalation,” he said. “We are not going to fall for their lies, just like we didn’t fall for their lies in 2003.”
The U.S. first attacked Iraq in 1991. As a result of war and economic sanctions, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives, many of whom were unborn. But it was America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq that was fresh in everyone’s memory as it just ended officially in 2011. That attack was based on the false assumptions that the country had possessed weapons of mass destruction and its government supported al-Qaida.
The mistaken war wounded tens of thousands of American soldiers and killed nearly 4,500 of them. Though no official total exists, it is estimated by many that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation.
Christy Dede Miller, sister of Cindy Sheehan and aunt to Spc. Casey Sheehan who was killed in Iraq in 2004, spoke to demonstrators before marching. In her speech, Miller criticized Democrats for failing to stop the war. Miller, who lobbied politicians for an end to the conflict with Sheehan, expressed having had hope with the election of President Obama and a Democratic-controlled Senate.
“They did not a goddamn thing for peace,” she said. “We don’t have any representation in Washington ‘Deceit.’ We have two parties who are working for the same goals. Those goals are: Exxon Mobil [and] General Dynamics. Those people are the only ones who [benefited] from the war in Iraq. It wasn’t worth it for me — I lost someone very near and dear to me.”
Afterward, about 100 demonstrators began to march through downtown, blocking traffic with their procession. A security guard from the Historic Core BID attempted to interfere with the march, telling organizers they couldn’t be in the street, but he was ignored. Soon the LAPD were in tow and issuing warnings to protesters. They too were ignored.
No arrests were made though, as the march only encompassed a few blocks and was over in about 15 minutes. Sergeant Baker of the LAPD approached demonstrators afterward and told them to call police next time they plan to have a march so they may coordinate traffic.
“If you want to protest and be in the street, you need to give me a call and we’ll take care of that for you,” he said. “But jumping in the street with no permit and not letting LAPD know is not going to take place. Because if I have to, I’ll bring half the city over here and you will all get a citation or you can go to jail for unlawful assembly.”
Many activists, however, prefer to forgo such bureaucratic formalities. They feel the First Amendment, which includes the right to assembly, trumps any need for permits or communicating with police.