- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 6, 2004

Hundreds of antiwar demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Park in Northwest yesterday to call for an end to the U.S. occupation in Iraq and the immediate return of American troops.

Protesters from across the nation chanted slogans and carried signs with such messages as “Bush Lied. Thousands Died,” and “A Few Bad Apples: Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld [and] Wolfowitz.”

Empress Inity, 46, traveled from the Bronx to attend the demonstration and show her support for the troops.

“We would like to see the troops come back safely, alive and not in body bags,” Ms. Inity said. “This war is about economics and greed. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell, all need to be” removed from office.

The activist group International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), organized the afternoon rally. Protests also took place in California.

Despite the rain, the crowd, estimated to be in the hundreds, listened to a series of short speeches by representatives of various interest groups, including the Free Palestine Alliance, the National Committee to Free the Cuban 5 and the International Action Center, headquartered in New York.

“More and more people are outraged about Iraq,” said Larry Holmes, co-director of the International Action Center. “The debate should not only be in Congress. The debate also should be in the streets through rallies and demonstrations.

“I truly believe George Bush is a warmonger,” Mr. Holmes said. “It’s impossible to conclude anything else. There was a false reason for the war and many on both sides died, many on both sides were wounded.”

Michael Berg, the father of Nicholas Berg, 26, the American businessman who was beheaded in Iraq by an Islamist extremist group, addressed the crowd with a message of peace and nonviolence. Mr. Berg embraced the philosophy of the late Martin Luther King.

“America has been in touch with me, Dr. King, [and] the people of America told me they have a dream of peace. I am here to answer the people who offered me help. Don’t let what happened to me and my family happen again,” Mr. Berg said.

“Yes, this is a war and it is racist. Dr. King knew how to make change. He preached nonviolent direct action. Those of you [standing] before this platform are taking direct action,” he said.

After the two-hour rally ended, protesters marched from Lafayette Park to the tree-lined Northwest home of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Although the gathering remained peaceful throughout the day, the crowd chanted, “No blood for oil, U.S. off Iraqi soil,” and “Bring the troops home now” as marchers moved up 14th Street toward Mr. Rumsfeld’s home, located off Connecticut Avenue.

Mr. Rumsfeld was out of town.

“Donald Rumsfeld spent a lot of time intellectualizing about the war, not because the United States was under attack. He is a servant of corporate America. The solution is not to fire Donald Rumsfeld,” said Brian Becker of ANSWER.

“Donald Rumsfeld shouldn’t simply be fired; Donald Rumsfeld should be put on trial,” Mr. Becker told the crowd.

Sue Niederer of Pennington, N.J., held on tight to a picture of her only son, Seth Dvorin, 24, who was killed in Iraq on Feb. 3.

Ms. Niederer, a member of the organization, Military Families Speak Out, said her son was home on leave from Iraq in January and had no desire to return to the war.

“I asked him if he wanted to go back, and he said ‘no,’ Ms. Niederer said. “He said, ‘We’re making no headway.’ ”

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