About 100,000 anti-war protesters marched through Washington, D.C. on Saturday, resulting in over 200 arrests, including three students from the College, as many demonstrators crossed police barricades.
Twenty four students from the College attended the demonstration as part of a community adviser event.
The protesters, which included students, parents of soldiers, the Answer Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), Iraq Veterans Against the War and Code Pink among others, marched from the White House to the Capitol calling for an end to the Iraq War. The crowd covered more than 10 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue as they marched.
“Personally, I wanted to improve political activity on campus,” Todd Stoner, senior political science and international studies double major, said. Stoner is a community adviser and a Bonner Community Scholar but protested on his own accord. He also was one of the students arrested for crossing police barricades.
The other students arrested are also Bonner Community Scholars but protested on their own accord: Neil Hartmann Jr., senior communication studies major, and Marc Williams, freshman political science major.
“We knew we were going to be arrested,” Stoner said.
Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, Malik Rahim, founder of the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans, and Ralph Nader were some of the speakers at the rally.
“Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” protesters shouted while brandishing anti-war signs.
Counter-protesters filled sidewalks behind barricades, resulting in shouting matches between the two sides.
After marching from the White House, the demonstrators held a “die-in” in front of the Capitol.
The “die-in” was a mock funeral for fallen soldiers in Iraq and included a 21-gun salute, American flag-covered caskets and a mourning siren. Over 5,000 protesters laid motionless and silent on the steps and grass in front of the Capitol for over an hour to represent soldiers who have died in Iraq. Many protesters wore military clothing during the “die-in.”
A father of a fallen soldier pulled a casket adorned with an American flag. His child’s military jacket and a pair of boots with a red rose inside were on top of the casket.
“It was truly unbelievable to be able to march with veterans and women over 50, and parents with sons and daughters serving in Iraq,” Stoner said.
Over 200 participants began to climb a waist-high police barricade and were immediately arrested with plastic handcuffs for crossing a police barricade. Stoner, Hartmann Jr. and Williams were all taken to the top of the Capitol’s steps. Many were arrested without struggle but others became aggressive toward police equipped with shields and riot gear.
Those who were arrested were forced to pay a $100 fine. Those who could not pay the fine must return to Washington for a court hearing to pay the fine.
Stoner, Hartmann Jr. and Williams gave money to other students at the College before the “die-in” to bring to them so they could pay the fine. However, Capitol Police did not allow the other students to give money to the arrested trio.
“I think (being arrested) was an important part of the protest and I strongly believe in civil disobedience,” Hartmann Jr. said.
According to Stoner, those who were arrested were held in police custody from about 4 p.m. until early morning the next day. Inside the police station, prisoners chanted “Tell me what bureaucracy looks like! This is what bureaucracy looks like!”
“Actions speak louder than words,” Hartmann Jr. said. “It’s important to educate people about this issue but it’s even more important to mobilize yourself.”
According to United for Peace & Justice’s Web site, a National Mobilization to End the War in Iraq will be held Oct. 27, when 10 massive demonstrations for peace across the United States will take place. Stoner plans to attend a rally in New York or Philadelphia.
“There’s no timetable for withdrawal,” Stoner said, “which is perpetuating the war and that’s illegal.”