Yesterday I attended a protest against the Iraq War held on the fifth anniversary of George Bush's escapades in the region. What began as "Shock and Awe" has proven to be just plain awful. Based on lies and doctored evidence we were dragged into this quagmire by Bush's personal vendetta against Saddam Husein as well as a desire to control the worlds second largest oil field. In the process nearly 4,000 American Soldiers have died, thousands upon thousands have been wounded. Of those wounded many are dealing with a life of physical and emotional scars which will never heal.
Blogging about it for a year and a half somehow soothed me enough so as to feel I was doing something. While I was always on the front lines of the protest movement against the Vietnam war it had now become easy to let others stand on the corners with their placards, while I drove by honking and waving a peace sign in support.
Recently I have been moved more towards direct action. Email solicitations from Moveon.org asked me to sign up to attend the candle light vigil being held at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento preceded by an anti-war demonstration.
The thought of attending kept bouncing around in my head until yesterday morning as I was looking at the piece of foam board sitting in the corner of my room.
Suddenly it occurred to me it would be perfect for a protest sign.
I was off and running, digging through all the downloaded photos on my computer, printing them out, cutting them up and pasting them onto the foam board. A grape stake and some duct tape to attach it completed the sign. After a couple of slivers the handle was also wrapped with duct tape.
First I headed downtown to another protest I had heard about, but upon arriving I found that the rechargeable batteries for my camera had gone bad. In the time it took to make the preliminary settings on the camera the freshly charged batteries had already died. Fortunately I have a charger that works in my car, so wishing to take pictures later, I decided to forgo the demonstration at the Capital and instead get new batteries and get them charging for later.
That was the first battery snafu. The second occurred when I arrived at the later protest, parked and walked six blocks to the event only to discover the dang batteries were still in the charger in my car. Not only did I exercise my rights, but my legs as well!
The Sacramento protest was held at the intersection of Howe Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard during the afternoon rush hour from 4:30 to 6:30PM. This is one of the top 2 intersections for traffic volume in the Sacramento region.
Early arrivals set up at the North East corner on the Grassy Knoll.
These folks are occupying the South West corner. No one seemed to stay there long. Mostly folks rotated through it to keep it occupied. Perhaps it was the EMF from the high tension power lines overhead driving them away.
Set up on the South East corner, these folks were...
...lost in a sea of cars.
Another view of the SE corner.
The crowd has grown at the Grassy Knoll.
Another view of the Grassy Knoll. The long horizontal sign holds the image of a coffin for every American Soldier killed "in action" in Iraq.
Military Families Speak Out.
Early arrivals take position at the North West corner on the Un-grassy Knoll...
...the crowd grew as the afternoon progressed.
A flowery peace sign fits the season well.
This gentleman took to directing traffic down the right path to peace.
We even had our own band, although they were often drowned out by the honking horns.
We had a very good reception in those regards. A few one-finger salutes were thrown at us but there was a definite predominance of people honking their horns and waving peace signs at us. We even had folks driving up asking where to park so they could join us.
What it's all about...
...the flip side of that sign.
Upon arriving at the church after the protest we were greeted by this huge luminary peace sign.
Foreign Exchange student from Kabul Afghanistan, Wafa Sultani, along with Teach Peace and Encina High School created the luminary peace sign, using over 700 luminaries, one for each five US soldiers killed in Iraq.
A number of organizations were set up on the patio with various hand outs and petitions to sign.
More of the hand outs.
One of the signs at the hand out displays.
Military Families Speak Out were represented at the vigil...
... as was the Spiritual Progressive Movement.
I've been saying this for over 40 years now!
The Reverend Doug Kraft, pastor of the church, spoke of the costs of the war. He compared what a month's worth, a weeks worth and a days worth of the war cost could do if used domestically.
Music and songs were a part of the ceremonies.
A portion of the standing room only crowd which filled the church.
More of the crowd.
This lady spoke of the rigged elections, referring to Beverly Harris and recommending Black Box Voting to everyone as a resource to investigate the issue.
This Veteran spoke of the wrongness of the Iraq war.
Murial Strand who is running for Mayor of Sacramento also spoke against the war.
This gentleman spoke with a fiery passion, asking the questions "Why are these people still in power?". "Why have they not been hung as traitors to our country and Constitution?". And "Why have they not been brought before the Hague as war criminals?".
This Vietnam Veteran spoke directly to Congresswoman Doris Matsui (who was not in attendance) and chastised her for not being there. He also lit into her for not following the will of her constituency by ignoring the issue of the war and voting with the status quo.
This lady spoke of her son lost in the Marines. She spoke of the dreams she had for him. Dreams that were taken when, unable to decide what he wanted to pursue in life, he became easy prey for the recruiters on his high school campus.
She finally broke down, unable to finish her statement.
Samira Al-Qazzaz was born and raised in Iraq. She moved from Baghdad to the US in 1963. Having just returned from a trip to Iraq she spoke of her peaceful childhood in contrast of the daily terror the people there now live under. The real terror of bombs and missiles, not the phony terror of alerts based on "unsubstantiated intelligence reports" and conveniently released Osama Videos. (Ever notice how those reports always seem to coincide with some Bush administration screw-up that needs to be buried?)
Bill Durston, also a Vietnam Veteran is running in California's Third Congressional District against rubber-stamp Republican Dan Lungren. Bill spoke of the war and his call for immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
I spoke with Bill at a fourth of July event two years ago and found him very receptive and easy to talk to. Unlike other politicians I have talked with over the years he gave direct answers to questions and seemed to be quite honest. He was very interested in my discussion at that time about the rigged voting machines and the privatization of our elections. I only wish I lived in his district so I could give him my vote.
This young lady spoke of her 18th birthday and how she was enlightened by the people in attendance, then sang several folk songs with her guitarist.
Due to a light rain the candle light vigil was held indoors.
Upon leaving we were greeted by the luminary peace sign...
...as the full moon shines above.
A short video - see if you can find the blue bear - hint: 60's.
The first person to properly Identify BB2 - what I'm wearing or time stamp - wins an Obama Bobble-Head Doll and a Hillary Clinton Whoopie-Cusion! (Unfortunately the author of the video has seen fit to remove it from YouTube.)
Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento
UUSS Ted's Web Group
Sacramento Area Peace Action
Peace in Precincts
Teach Peace Foundation
Sacramento Progressive Alliance
Progressive Student Alliance - California State University Sacramento
Faculty for Peace and Justice - California State University Sacramento
School of American Watch - Sacramento
Coalition for Democracy in Haiti
Sacramento for Democracy
Grandmothers for Peace
Because People Matter
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Good Shepard Independent Catholic Community
Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center
Sacramento Spiritual Progressives
United Nations Association - Sacramento Chapter
Move On - Sacramento Council
Operation Democracy - Sacramento
Amnesty International - Sacramento Chapter
United for Peace and Justice
Plus a special thanks to the Sacramento Bee newspaper for filling their front page with a photo of Wafa Sultani setting up the luminaries and giving me his name as well as that of Samira Al-Qazzaz the Iraqi lady who spoke at the vigil. (Next time I'll remember to bring a pen and paper for such purposes.)
A note about the photos:
All photos were taken with a Fuji Finepix S5000 digital camera. All shots were hand held. The outdoor photos were shot at ISO 400 and 3 mega-pixel resolution. The indoor and night shots were done at 1 mega-pixel resolution to allow an ISO of 800. Even at that speed the exposure times ranged between 1/4 and 1/8 second, hence some blurring is apparent.
All Photos: BB2