Thousands march through Hollywood, protest foreign conflicts

Participants in the “U.S. Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!” peace protest March 20, making their way slowly down Hollywood Boulevard at 2 p.m. they dramatize returning to life after being killed in the Afghanistan or Iraq War. The performers limped like zombies, craddled the heads of dead family members, nursed the wounded and hugged family members that awoke from the dead. Photo by Charles Purnell/Daily Titan Staff Writer

Saturday, March 20, thousands took to the streets of Hollywood, Calif. as part of “March in Los Angeles – U.S. Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!”

The demonstration was a march and rally to demand immediate withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Cal State Fullerton student Tamara Khoury, 20, was a lead organizer and stage manager at the anti-war protest and peace march.

Khoury is also a member of Act Now to Stop War and Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.), the organization that put on the event. Formed September 14, 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, A.N.S.W.E.R. has grown to encompass branches in nearly every major city across the country and has organized some of the largest demonstrations in recent years, including the annual March 20 multi-city marches.

Hollywood Boulevard and Vine was the meeting point for the protesters and organizers. The rally began one block away on Ivar Avenue at noon.

Signs, songs and chants expressing sentiments that 9/11 was an inside job, disgust with the Obama administration and passionate pleads to end wars and put more money into education and jobs, filled the streets

Khoury was the third guest speaker, taking the microphone after Richard Castaldo, a member of the Peace and Freedom Party and a candidate for congress.

Khoury delivered an ardent speech advocating the dropping all charges against the Irvine 11, a group of UC Irvine students arrested for protesting the visit of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to their campus.

“It is extremely hypocritical of UCI to bring a representative of Israel, a country whose government completely destroyed 18 schools and damaged another 200 in the Gaza Strip last year, to speak on its campus,” she said.

“And it’s the same government who continues to demolish and take over Palestinian schools and the West Bank so that illegal Israeli settlers can seize and build upon the land. On behalf of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, I extend my solidarity to the Irvine 11 as they face unjust and obvious discriminatory punishment.”

Khoury also claims responsibility for the yellow flyers circulating campus announcing the march and said she has been organizing with A.N.S.W.E.R. for five years. The group seemed all business on the morning of March 20.

The A.N.S.W.E.R. members didn’t express sentiments regarding the war or the protest as they worked, preparing for the opening rally and march. But, Khoury said, they were feeling the impact of the issues they were about to speak out against.

“It’s really the veterans that have had their lives deeply impacted,” she said. “I myself went to a public school and they constantly told me they were bankrupt and there was no money for schools. Meanwhile, they were pumping hundreds of millions of dollars everyday into the application of Iraq and Afghanistan. So, we all feel it. It’s impacting us all at some level.”

Thousands began marching at 1:06 p.m., chanting phrases such as: “Hey Obama we say no/ The occupation has got to go…”; “Hey Obama you will see/ The Iraqi people will be free…”; “What do we want, troops out!/ and when do we want them, now!” and “The people united/ will stop the wars!”

Local grassroots organizations participating in the peace march included Topanga Peace Alliance, Teamsters Union, LA Workers’ Voice and Long Beach Area Peace Network.

Carl Roman, from the LA Workers’ Voice, passed out two fact sheets to protesters regarding the war in Afghanistan and other occupations abroad. He said the people can’t rely on Obama, and it’s all about breaking away from the Democratic Party and people relying on each other.

“We can’t rely on the democrats, including the senate, who sold out at the last minute on this health bill,” Roman said.

Leonard Baric from the Long Beach Area Peace Network carried a sign promoting his organization with a partner.

“We’re against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Baric said. “We would like to have immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. And when the troops that are there come home, if they need medical attention either physical or mental, or any other health issues, they should receive proper care and not shoddy care they are receiving now.”

At the closing rally in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Khoury introduced the remaining guest speakers to the crowd.

Khoury said she hopes that everyone, and especially CSUF students, leave the protest with a renewed dedication to fight against the war.

“They go back to their communities, they organize, they get people back into the streets to fight,” she said of fellow activists.

About Charles Purnell