WASHINGTON – The Temple College Democrats, other Temple students and local Philadelphians were among a crowd of about 1,500 anti-war protesters who rallied and marched in Washington, D.C., Saturday.
Troops Out Now Coalition, a national grassroots group, organized the majority of the protest. It was put together “to demand an end to the war at home and abroad,” TONC media coordinator Lelani Dowell said.
Citizens from across the nation joined in the effort including the Darr family who biked for six months from Portland, Ore. Tala Darr, 12, said her mom, her mom’s boyfriend and her two-year-old twin sisters made the trip “to stop the war” – the central issue surrounding the protest.
Temple College Democrats President Anna Walker said she “thought it would be a good event, early in the year” for her group to get involved in.
“[We want] to see reform happen and reform happen now,” said Walker, a junior economics and political science major.
Unlike other rallies, this event was described as “the first national multi-issue protest” by Betsy Piette, a member of the Philadelphia International Action Center.
“[The event] was purposefully built that way,” Piette said.
Issues addressed Saturday included health care, homelessness, Hurricane Katrina, the Jena Six, immigration, education, Iraq and the possibility of the United States invading Iran.
Senior anthropology major Rebecca Reynolds said she noticed one common theme at the rally. “[There were] a lot of different causes represented, but basically at the heart it’s all about equality,” Reynolds said.
A majority of the speakers at the event echoed the sentiments expressed by Adam Kokesh, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
“Power ultimately rests with the people and the people will get the government they deserve,” Kokesh said.
Donna Smith, a cast member in the Michael Moore documentary Sicko, addressed the health care issues facing Congress.
“I believe that my life is worth as much as your life is or any member of your family,” Smith said about members of Congress. “We sent you to office; you have benefits we will only dream of at a price we can only dream of.”
The variety of issues addressed at the rally left several Temple students with mixed emotions.
“A lot of the focus was lost on other issues,” sophomore theater major Olivia Webster said. “It could have been more concentrated on just getting us out of the war.”
On the other hand, sophomore sociology major Audra Winn said she felt the protest was “really powerful.”
The march passed by several government buildings including the Department of Education and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
When the event ended, Andrew Roberts, a sophomore music therapy major, said he “felt like we got nothing done.”
“We call it a protest but we do it in the way [that] the government says we’re allowed to,” Roberts said.
“The problem is, in order for that [change in government] to get done, people need to stop worrying so much about themselves,” he added. “A protest would be getting all the people there to block a bunch of streets in order to shut stuff down in a peaceful way.”
Kevin Paris, a Temple College Democrats events coordinator, said protests can be more influential if more people attend.
“If you’re into politics at all while you’re young, you should experience at least one big war protest,” said Paris, a junior political science major.
Walker said, “We’ll definitely do it again.”
Sara Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.