We've learned how to deal with the weather - ignore it! And that's just what hundreds of Brooklynites did last night as they joined together for a march and vigil to protest the 5-year nightmare of George Bush's war and occupation of Iraq. Beginning at Grand Army Plaza with a press conference attended by CBS, NBC, NY1 and others, speakers, including Brooklyn For Peace's Diane Lent, LIU Student Government President, Ty. Christian Joseph, Deanna Bitetti representing Congressmember Yvette Clarke and Vern Bergelin of MoveOn.org-Brooklyn, took on George Bush's demand that the U.S. must remain in Iraq.
Then the hundreds marched up Flatbush Avenue to the U.S. Army recruiting station. Motorists honked in solidarity and flashed the V-sign as the peace marchers trekked through Brooklyn's rain-soaked streets. They chanted demands for slashing the war budget and transferring those monies to fund urgent human needs instead. A drummer and trumpet led the procession.
Arriving at Flatbush Avenue and Livingston Street, the marchers were greeted by rousing speeches including that of Reverend Clinton Miller of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church who led the crowd in repeated cries of "peace now." Then the marchers broke into small circles of 10 or 12 and, holding candles aloft, they read, one at a time, stories from Iraqi veterans and their families.
The stories told of the hardships endured by soldiers who have been sent back to Iraq again and again; of the stress caused to the families by the return of wounded sons or husbands or even worse, the horror of having lost loved ones to a war based on lies. Mothers and wives demanded a shift in priorities - to end spending for war, death and destruction and to begin funding the urgent needs here at home: for health care, education, jobs training and to take care of an increasingly endangered environment.
Here's a sample of one of the stories -- Mary in Kentucky. Her husband is a Sergeant in the army, currently deployed in Iraq.
"For the second time, my husband is serving a 15 month tour in Iraq. I am now - for all intents and purposes - a single mom to four little kids, ages 7, 5, 4 and 2.This was a moving and dramatic outpouring of anger at Congress and the Bush Administration, who prattle on about democracy but then ignore the overwhelming sentiment of the people they were elected to serve. Seventy percent of Americans are opposed to the war but after five years of this disaster there is still no end in sight. Four thousand lives and trillions of dollars later, we're neck deep in the big muddy and the big fool says to push on (as Pete Seeger wrote about another war - Vietnam - many years ago).
They need their dad in their life. The oldest has been most adversely affected by these repeat deployments. He's big enough now to know that Dad could end up dead.
The emotionall and physical stress of being the spouse of a deployed soldier is more than just "hard work." It's intense and traumatic.
Even if my husband comes out of Iraq physically unscathed, as a medic he has seen things that will leave him emotionally scarred. I worry not only about his physical health but his mental health every waking hour.
Instead of spending billions in Iraq we should invest in education, veteran's benefits and health care."
Click the PLAY button
to hear Pete Seeger sing Wait Deep In The Big Muddy
Saturday is the citywide culmination of the week of protests against five years too many. Please come out with family and friends to show the world that NYC says NO to war! Details at Five Years Too Many. The human chain, along Manhattan's 14th Street from river to river begins at noon on Saturday, March 22nd. Brooklynites will gather at 10th Avenue and 14th Street. See you there. Deanna Bitetti, speaking on behalf of Congressmember Yvette Clarke, decried the expenditures on war and told how it leaves her district without the funds urgently neeeded by her constituents.
Vern Bergelin of MoveOn.org-Brooklyn, speaks to the press. The cooperation of MoveOn and Brooklyn For Peace played a large part in bringing out hundreds of Brooklyn residents and set a good precedent for future work together.
Diane Lent, co-chair of Brooklyn For Peace's Iraq Committee, reads a statement to the press.
Christian Joseph, President of the LIU Student Government, reads his statement.
Brooklyn's El Puente turned out in force and lent a youthful, exuberant spirit to the march and vigil.
Brooklyn For Peace led the march up Flatbush Avenue .
Marching up Flatbush in the rain - motorists honked and flashed the V-sign. Shopkeepers and strollers waved in support.
The rain could not dampen the high spirits of Brooklynites marching for peace.
A vigil was held at march's end, across from the U.S. Army Recruiting Station. Reverend Clinton Miller of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church gave an impassioned speech denouncing the war and the impact it has on Brooklyn's communities.
Listening to speeches at the vigil.
Holding a candle aloft for peace in Iraq.
Reading the stories of Iraqi vets and their families.
Reading the stories.
This march and vigil marks the beginning of a new, revitalized peace movement in Brooklyn. Bringing together a diverse collection of organizations and individuals, Brooklyn For Peace is making a unique contribution in reaching out and helping to build what can be a new coalition for progressive change in the borough.