WASHINGTON — More than 50 Cornell students joined tens of thousands protesting the war in Iraq in front of the Capitol Building Saturday in one of the largest demonstrations in recent years. Protesters listened to more than two hours of speeches by politicians and celebrities including Jane Fonda, who had not spoken publicly at an anti-war rally in 34 years.
A large contingent of student anti-war groups from over two-dozen universities, led by the Campus Antiwar Network, was particularly vocal throughout the afternoon. Students from schools as far west as Iowa exited buses along 4th Street and, assembling together, chanted, “End the war in Iraq, Bring all the troops out now!”
Politicians who filled the main stage included Rep. Jack Conyers (D-Mich.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who received a roaring applause.
“It takes force and outrage of the American people to force Washington to do the right thing — and that’s why we’re here,” he said.
Conyers announced that he would push Congress to cut funding for the conflict.
President Bush “has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing,” he said, but, “he can’t fire you.”
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, followed with a fiery speech, calling Condoleeza Rice “nothing but another neocon,” and saying that President Bush is “not the decider — he’s the liar.”
Fonda, the actress and anti-war activist, was derisively nicknamed “Hanoi Jane.”
“Silence is no longer an option,” she said.
Fonda thanked participants for “the courage to stand up against this mean-spirited, vengeful administration.”
David Jocubus grad came to D.C. in order to “help rebuild the anti-war movement,” he said.
“During the past year there has been a lull on university campuses, and I believe that similar to Vietnam where the spring before de-escalation the anti-war movement grew, we are now successfully growing.”
“War is such a travesty, and we need to bring our troops home. The occupation is not making things safer,” said Chris Chilas ’08.
On a morning when the Pentagon announced another seven servicemen had been killed in action, one group of protesters held a banner on which volunteers had written down the name, birthplace, age, and U.S. military unit of every one of the over 3,000 servicemen killed in Iraq since the invasion.
Among the Cornell undergraduates present at the rally were those participating in the Cornell in Washington program, a semester during which students live, work, and take classes in the capital. Eric Kollig ‘08, who moved into CIW’s Dupont Circle dormitory just over a week ago, woke up early Saturday and took the Metro down to the National Mall.
“I decided to come this morning because I feel that no one mobilizes anymore and I am showing support today. This [rally] is incredible. It tells people here in Washington that [we] want real change,” he said.
Also new to the city — and to large-scale protests — was Chandra Ghosno ’08.
“The reason I came to DC was to see how the government and citizens interact, and I wanted to see what a real protest was all about. This is like nothing I’ve ever seen before — you don’t have this where I’m from [on Long Island],” she said.
Cornell undergraduates attending from Ithaca were organized by a variety of groups including Cornell for Peace and Justice, the International Socialist Organization, Student Advocates for Palestine, and Students for a Just Peace.