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Massive Antiwar Protests Scheduled in Washington DC

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Saturday marks the beginning of three days of massive anti-war activities in Washington, DC. We speak with Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice about the upcoming events. [includes rush transcript]

Polls continue to show that the majority of the U.S public is against the war in Iraq and want an immediate withdrawal of U.S troops. After Hurricane Katrina hit, support for Bush’s policies in Iraq dropped even more.

One poll showed that two-thirds of Americans believe Bush is spending too much money in Iraq and 42 percent favor cutting spending on the war to pay for relief efforts in the devastated Gulf Coast region. Well, tomorrow starts the beginning of three days of massive anti-war activities in Washington, DC.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll go to D.C. right now to speak with Leslie Cagan about all of these upcoming events, coordinator of UFPJ, United for Peace and Justice. Welcome, Leslie.

LESLIE CAGAN: Hi, everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: You can talk about what the plans are for this weekend?

LESLIE CAGAN: Sure. Let me say quickly, if anybody wasn’t clear about why they needed to come to Washington, this weekend, I hope they were listening to the last people that you just had on the show. All these connections are vitally urgent, we need to make them on the streets of Washington. We are assemblying tomorrow morning, Saturday, the 24th, on the ellipse, the backyard of the White House, technically its actually the front yard. On the ellipse at Constitution, that’s between 15th and 17th, at 11:30 a rally will begin.

In addition to myself speaking at the rally, Reverend Jesse Jackson will be there, Cindy Sheehan will be there. Just a host of people from many, many communities, including Curtis Mohammad, one of the community leaders out of New Orleans who is helping to fight the fight of the reconstruction fight in New Orleans from a community people orientation. He will be speaking as well.

Anyway, at 12:30, the march kicks off. We’ll take a route that will go right in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. This will be the first time in some ten or twelve years that people have been allowed to march literally on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. Then we’ll circle around through downtown Washington, and then at the end of the day, there will be a massive concert on the Washington monument grounds, a free concert that will go well into the evening, and through the concert, there will be additional speakers, including Jim Hightower, Julian Bonds from the NAACP, Military Families, other Gold Star parents, Fernando Suarez, Medea Benjamin, a full program throughout the day and the weekend.

We’re organizing also on the Washington monument grounds something called a Peace and Justice Festival. And there will be tents set up, booths set up for people to get information about a host of issues, not only what’s going on in Iraq, not only what’s happening with ilitary families and Iraq veterans and Gold Star families, but also making the connections to global warming, to the oil crisis, to nuclear issues, counter recruitment issues, a whole range of issues that people can engage in.

Sunday afternoon actually in the early evening, there will be an interfaith religious service and then Monday, we have two full days, two days— two different actions on the same day. A lobby day, there’s close to six hundred people already registered to lobby in the halls of Congress. We expect several more hundred to join us and hundreds of people would be participateing in a non-violent civil disobedience right at the White House. And risking arrests doing that. We are calling on people, if you haven’t made your plans yet, go to our website: and get the information.

Come to Washington. The country is at a crossroads. The nation is at a crossroads. Do we continue to feed our resources, our money, our young people into this war, a war that everyone knows never should have happened, a war based on lies. Or do we redirect our resources and our priorities and start the rebuilding based on community needs with community input, community control, and dealing with the very big problems that your previous speakers have just, you know, have just laid out for folks. Let me point out one other interesting thing about this weekend — the IMF and World Bank meetings. The International Monetary Funds and World Bank annual meetings happen to be in Washington this same weekend. So, we’ll be making that connection, too, between the military wars and the economic wars, that are at the core of U.S. foreign policy. So, we welcome everybody from all walks of life from every corner of the country to join us.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Leslie, you’re a veteran of decades of anti-war mobilization, and what is your sense — including the huge one at the Republican National Convention last year, what is your sense of the mobilization and the response, given especially the enormous public sentiment that’s turning increasingly against the war in Iraq?

LESLIE CAGAN: Yes. You know, even now, one day before the demonstration, it’s impossible to say, you know, the exact numbers that are coming. I think we’re on the eve of a tremendous outpouring of people, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life. And I think you’re right, the public opinion polls, every new poll shows increasing numbers of people oppose this war, wanting the war to end. That’s our a demand. End the war in Iraq. Bring our troops home now.

But we’re also making the connection to how this government has dealt with the crisis on the gulf coast, and it will be interesting to see how they deal with the new crisis that might unfold tonight or tomorrow in another part of the gulf coast. So, these are the — these issues are connected. I think because of hurricane Katrina, even more people understand just how — it’s not just that this government is incompetent. Some people have talked about it, it’s the policies. It’s the orientation, that’s what the priorities are. This is mobilized even more people to come to Washington. I think we’re on the verge of what may be one of, if not the largest anti-war demonstrations this country has ever seen.

AMY GOODMAN: Leslie Cagan, we want to thank you for being with us. In addition to this demonstration in Washington, we know there are protests all over the country. I was just in Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama last weekend. They’re making major preparations in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. There are satellite protests as well as the one in Washington. Leslie Cagan, coordinator of United for Peace and Justice. We will certainly be bringing the exerpts of the protest to folks next week on Democracy Now!.

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