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Thousands rally in D.C. to protest occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq

By Kosta Harlan

SDS contingent at the march.

Washington, D.C. – About ten thousand demonstrators filled Lafayette Park across from the White House to demand an end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. March 20 marked the seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, while the occupation of Afghanistan is now in its eighth year. A broad range of organizations mobilized for the demonstration, organized by the International ANSWER coalition. Military veterans, student groups, trade unions, Arab American organizations, church congregations, and many other groups brought thousands of people into D.C. for the rally.

Addressing the crowd at the rally, Natasha Morgan from Students for a Democratic Society talked about the connections between the education rights movement and the antiwar movement. “When we say fund education not occupation,” Morgan explained, “we mean an end to all military research and corporate 'defense' research in the university, an end to military recruitment, and an end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. We want money for schools, not for occupation.”

Morgan stated, “SDS demands an end to the imperialist wars and the occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we organizing every day towards that end.”

Speakers emphasized the importance of supporting the demand for self-determination – the right for oppressed countries to determine their own affairs – and the need to keep putting pressure on Washington to end the occupations. Many speakers called for an end to the U.S.-backed occupation of Palestine. Others called for a halt to the drone strikes, and a strong South Asian contingent held banners and signs denouncing the drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed hundreds of civilians. At the end of the march, at least eight people were arrested when they attempted to place mock coffins draped in Iraqi and Afghan flags on the White House lawn.

Military veterans gave a powerful condemnation of the occupation, and two speakers with Military Families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans Against the War ripped their dog tags and badges off of their uniforms and threw them off the stage, in a symbol of their rejection of the immoral, unjust, and criminal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many of the protestors were youth and new to the antiwar movement, and are committed to rebuilding a broad movement to force the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq.

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