WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 — "Tens of thousands of protesters converged on the National Mall on Saturday to oppose President Bush’s plan for a troop increase in Iraq in what organizers hoped would be one of the largest shows of antiwar sentiment in the nation’s capital since the war began.The event drew demonstrators from across the country, and many said that in addition to taking their discontent to the streets they planned to press members of Congress to oppose the war...“We need to be talking not just about defunding the war but also about funding the vets,” Ms. Sarandon said, adding that more than 50,000 veterans had been injured while benefits for them continue to be cut.
“I grew up during the Vietnam War, but I never protested it and never had my lottery number called to go fight,” said David Quinly, a 54-year-old carpenter from Prairie Village, Kan., who arrived here Friday night with about 50 others after a 23-hour bus ride. “In my view, this one is a war of choice and a war for profit against a culture and people we don’t understand,” Mr. Quinly said. “I knew I had to speak up this time.”...“I’ve got a son who just got out of the military and another still in,” said Jackie Smith, 65, from Sunapee, N.H., whose sign read “Bush Bin Lyin.” “And I’m here because this is all I can do to try to help them.”
Tassi McKee, from Bastrop, La., who said she was a staff sergeant in the Air Force, was among a small contingent of about 20 active-duty service members who turned out. “I believe this has become a civil war and we are being hurt and making matters worse by staying in the middle of it,” Sergeant McKee said. She said that it was not illegal for active-duty members to attend protests but that it was strongly discouraged.
Veterans were more numerous among the crowd. Dressed in the olive green, military-issued flight jacket that he said he wore during the invasion of Iraq while serving as a Marine sergeant, Jack Teller, 26, said he joined a caravan of vans coming from Greenville, N.C., because he felt that it was his duty. “I don’t like wearing the jacket because it reminds me that I participated in an immoral and illegal war,” said Mr. Teller, who had “Iraq Veterans Against the War” stenciled on the back of his jacket. “But it’s important to make a political statement.”
Fernando Braga, a 24-year-old Bronx native who is a member of the Army National Guard, said that he was skeptical of the war before it started. Mr. Braga said his views hardened into opposition while he served in Iraq from March 2004 through January 2005. “My own commander told us when we arrived that if we thought we were there for any reason other than oil then we had another think coming,” he said. “I realized even commanding officers were against it but following orders.”
Police officials declined to provide crowd estimates, but Hany Khalil, a spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, said the protesters numbered about 400,000.
Counterprotesters also converged on the mall in smaller numbers, but the antiwar demonstration was largely peaceful..."
IAN URBINA, New York Times, Published: January 28, 2007