March 17, 2007

Riot Police Block Buses and Deny Access to People Coming to the Demonstration

March on Pentagon
On the way to the Pentagon, March 17

Congratulations to everyone who made it through the snow and freezing rain to get to Washington and join together in the tens of thousands and March on the Pentagon!

Led by a contingent of Iraq war veterans, active-duty service-members, Gold Star families, and veterans from other past and present wars, the demonstration received a large amount of media coverage. CNN has featured the demonstration, which the report described as a march of tens of thousands, in its rotation since yesterday. The major French newspaper, Le Monde, ran a significant article under the headline, "More than 50,000 People Protest Against the War in Iraq," about the March on the Pentagon as the U.S. component of the world-wide protests marking the beginning of the fifth year of the war against Iraq. The rally was broadcast live on C-span and Al-Jazeera and received wide-spread media coverage. C-span will be replaying the rally, check for times.

The March on the Pentagon was not a solitary action but one of more than 1,000 protests that will take place in the U.S. between March 17 and March 20. In Los Angeles, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition called a demonstration that drew 50,000. Maxine Waters was one of many speakers and music was provided by renowned Ozomatli, Jackson Browne and Ben Harper.

The ANSWER demonstration on March 18 in San Francisco drew 40,000 protesters and filled 15 blocks of Market Street, a six-lane avenue.

The March on the Pentagon took place the day after a severe winter snow and sleet storm suddenly hit northeastern states that prevented many buses from traveling, 700 fights from taking off, and thousands of cars from reaching the March. Motorists were advised throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic region to stay off the road. The large turnout at the demonstration was all the more significant given the hardships people had to endure to participate in the activity. People marched to the Pentagon and stayed as long as they could braving 20 mile-an-hour winds and a windchill factor into the teens.

March on the Pentagon front banner
The front banner for the March on the Pentagon

A great thank you is owed to the committed volunteers who endured a torrential downpour of freezing rain though Friday night to help set up the assembly and rally sites. People stayed overnight with the equipment and then began working again at 5:00 am in complete darkness. The assembly area had become a lake on March 16 and filled with mud by the time the march stepped off. The windchill in the early hours was not far above zero.  At the rally site the large tents and canopies blew down. Volunteers continued to work long hours after the rally ended to take-down, pack, clean the entire area and unload trucks. The anti-war movement is growing both numerically and its organizational capability and the tireless work of volunteers forms the core of this success.

The lead banner of the march demanding US Out of Iraq Now was carried by Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, Jonathan Hutto co-founder of Appeal for Redress, Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and youth and students in the anti-war movement.

Pentagon Prevents Immortal Technique and Others from Joining the Rally

Police at the March on the Pentagon
Police at the March on the Pentagon

The Pentagon and Virginia State Police, many clad in riot gear, wearing gas masks and wielding batons, blocked people coming from the subway/metro who wanted to attend the demonstration. They also blocked buses from accessing the Pentagon in contravention of the agreements reached in the permit. This required people to walk nearly two miles to get to their buses following the rally.

Many people who came to the rally after it had begun - some who had seen the huge march at a distance as it crossed over the Memorial Bridge across the roadways and wanted to then join the activity - were blocked by the Pentagon and the police from entering the rally site through a maze of misdirection, road closures and threats of arrest at multiple different locations. The ANSWER Coalition worked to get people in, and ANSWER organizers and our attorneys went to the site of sudden police confrontations and shutdowns, but many people were still unable to get in including the hip-hop artist Immortal Technique who was scheduled to perform. 

Like so many other people, the hip-hop artist Immortal Technique's travel plans to get to the demonstration, seemed so daunting as to be virtually impossible. But due to his determination and his resourcefulness, he found a way to overcome cancelled flights and frozen roads. Although he rebooked flights in order to land in North Carolina, personally rented a car and drove it to Washington, D.C., the Pentagon and law enforcement blocked him from coming into the rally where he was going to perform. We urge everyone to read Immortal Technique's compelling account -- which is both a narrative and a political commentary. Immortal Technique's message below should be read and circulated to your e-mail address book and to e-mail lists everywhere.

Message from Immortal Technique:

Immortal Technique"First and foremost I would like to congratulate the organizers of ANSWER and in specific Brian, Amelia, Peta, and Sarah and the many others who reached out to me and who I saw make a powerful statement today. I am not a big fan of marches and rallies because I have always believed that the system must be attacked economically above all. But, if coordinated well, they can effect change and remind people that this war is still costing lives and no matter who the father of Anna Nicole's Baby is or who wins the next season of American Idol or what new song is on the radio, people are dying, both from this country and in massive numbers in the Iraqi Civil War. March 17th, even with all the problems we faced, was a success in reminding people of the insurmountable evidence of corruption, self righteous moral depravity, and dishonesty present within our government... Because we have issue with the administration we should not be painted as people who despise their country. If I am not pleased with a book I read or a movie I watch that doesn't mean I hate the concept of film in general or that I take issue with printed literature on a whole. The administration presently tries to attach itself to the idea of America as if they were the far right standard by which all should be judged by as Americans. This White House after all just concerns itself with the well being of its stock holders, make-shift praetorian guard of politicians and political contributors. Click to see the rest of Immortal Technique's message.

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