The groups gathering in Washington this weekend to protest President Bush and the war in Iraq have ties to radical left-wing groups and communist organizations and have enjoyed the support of the left’s biggest financial supporter, George Soros.
United for Peace and Justice (UPJ) and International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) are the two main organizers of the weekend of events — the first major public protest allowed to surround the White House in more than 10 years — and expect 100,000 people from dozens of smaller left-wing and liberal organizations.
A highlight of Saturday, the first day of protests, is an appearance and speech by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq.
“That will be a marvelous moment,” said Bill Dobbs, spokesman for UPJ. “I’m sure a lot of people want to hear her.”
The leaders of ANSWER, founded three days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, are connected to the Workers World Party, a Marxist group that has expressed support for such dictators as North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The latter two have been ousted from power and jailed.
Other groups associated with ANSWER are the Free Palestine Alliance, U.S.-Mexico Solidarity Foundation and the Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada.
UPJ, founded by liberals who say they were concerned about the radical tactics and smorgasbord of issues trumpeted by ANSWER, says it organized the “S24,” or Saturday (Sept. 24) protest first, but Mr. Dobbs said there’s “a big overlap” between the protests and “the major point is that we’re in D.C. to stop the war in Iraq.”
Among the nearly 1,000 groups in the UPJ coalition are Punks for Peace, Queer to the Left, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and Historians Against the War.
California-based Code Pink, which has established a reputation for aggressive protesting, and MoveOn.org will also be out in force this weekend.
John J. Tierney, a scholar at the Institute of World Politics and author of “The Politics of Peace: What’s Behind the Anti-War Movement?” said the core of the protesters are “ideologically very hard-core left” and that their agenda goes far beyond merely protesting the Iraq war.
“They’re not anti-war. They are anti-West, anti-capitalism and anti-American political culture,” Mr. Tierney said. “You see the speeches, the flags, the posters, the speakers and the pamphlets cover a whole host of revolutionary causes, literally everywhere.”
The question of who is funding the protests remains clouded. Billionaire George Soros has funded various left-wing groups that will have a presence at the protest through his Open Society Institute, as has the Tides Foundation, created by Theresa Heinz Kerry, heir to the Heinz food fortune and wife of Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat. Money from both of these groups is filtered down to other groups and then filtered down to yet others, Mr. Tierney said.
“It’s a trickle-down structure that is very difficult to trace without being an inside intelligence agent,” he said.
But Mr. Dobbs said his group relies on individual donations.
“[Soros] doesn’t fund us, at least not to my knowledge. … What we do, we do on a shoestring,” he said.