- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

Thousands of anti-war demonstrators plan to march to the Pentagon from the Mall today to mark the fourth year of U.S. occupation in Iraq.

The protesters are expected to converge on the Mall at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest before marching at noon to the north parking lot of the Pentagon for a rally, event organizers said yesterday during a press conference at the George Washington University Law School.

The protest commemorates the 40th anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon, when demonstrators rallied against the war in Vietnam.

“Iraq is like Vietnam in the sense that both wars were based on lies,” said Brian Becker, the national coordinator for the umbrella protest group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or ANSWER.

“And like the Vietnam War, the war in Iraq will end only when the American people themselves become militantly opposed to the war and fill up the streets,” he said.

Debra Sweet, national coordinator of World Can’t Wait, concurred.

“Seventy-seven percent of the people in this country are openly against the war — even voted to change the Congress in order to stop the war,” she said. “All avenues are being brought, but they are not listening. So we have this opportunity to go out to the people and say, ‘They’re only going to able to do this as long as we accept it.’ ”

Scattered snow showers are expected throughout the morning, with temperatures around 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Mr. Becker said he is cautiously optimistic that the weather will not hamper today’s demonstration.

Counterprotesters with the group Gathering of Eagles will hold a 10 a.m. rally at Constitution Gardens before demonstrating along the march route.

The group filed a permit to rally partly in fear that the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial would be defaced, said Kristinn Taylor, co-founder for the D.C. chapter of Free Republic and spokesman for the Eagles. The counterprotesters, which Mr. Taylor expects will also number in the thousands, plan to stand guard to make sure the memorial would not be touched.

“There’s been all kinds of threats, from throwing acid to Motolov cocktails to spray paint,” Mr. Taylor said. “The radical left attracts the radical crowd.”

Bill Line, spokesman for the National Park Service, said no group’s permit allows them near the memorial and that the two sides will be separated by police.

“There’s been a lot of hyperbole in discussions and circulating e-mails, but anyone who says the memorial will be vandalized is simply wrong,” Mr. Line said.

Metropolitan police said they will activate the department’s Joint Operations Command Center and the city’s network of downtown surveillance cameras used to monitor large-scale events.

Police will also close Constitution Avenue between 17th and 23rd streets Northwest during the march. Additional road closures will be in effect in connection with the St. Patrick’s Day 8-kilometer race, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.

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