By Karin Fleming
Delia Jurek stood among the hundreds of thousands of protestors who gathered on the Mall in Washington D.C. last month with a simple message painted nearby. On a poster-board leaning next to her was a painting of an American flag, upside down, with the words “the flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” In the bottom right-hand corner was a number, 3,068. It represents the number of soldiers, at this time, who were victims of the war in Iraq.
An artist from Minneapolis, Jurek prints these posters once a week, with an updated number, and hangs them in the city. She also created silk-screen shirts that bear the same image, which she sold in order to afford this trip to D.C.
“I’m putting these out on the streets of Minneapolis with the number on it,” Jurek said. “I hang the same sign on two different places with the numbers so people see it. So the numbers are out every week.”
Originally the artwork was hung in a gallery and updated once a month. But Jurek decided this wasn’t enough; not enough people were seeing it and being impacted by it. So she brought it to the streets.
“I want everybody in this country to take the flag back from the war mongers,” said Jurek. “[They] think the only way to be patriotic is to support the war…[I want to] tell everyone in this country to get our flag back and hang it upside down. This is a time, if there’s any, this is a time of distress.”
On January 27, United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of antiwar and social change organizations, called for a march on the Capital to protest President Bush’s new plan to send 21,500 troops to Iraq.
According to their estimate, 500,000 people answered their call, bringing with them signs, chants, costumes, noisemakers, flowers and their voices. Representatives from a variety of groups, including Artists for Change, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans Against the War, Socialist Workers and the National Organization of Women were among the protestors. Many spent long nights driving to arrive in D.C. by the start of the protest. Everyone had their own story to tell.
“My girlfriend’s brother came back from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder,” said William Booth, from Belchertown, Mass., who is affiliated with Military Families Speak Out. “[He] ended up taking his own life.”
Booth spoke briefly about the night his girlfriend, Debbie, heard about her brother’s death, saying the war in Iraq “touches everything.”
“We’re hoping Congress will not fund to send more troops over there,” said Booth. “The people are speaking up. We want our men and women home.
The call for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops was echoed in many of the signs and chants people carried with them that day.
Sally Wagner of Philadelphia, PA, said that while a complete withdrawal is what she hopes the march will accomplish, it’ll be a “total mess whenever we leave.”
“We’ve messed it up,” said Wagner. “Everything that could have gone wrong has…I don’t know how we can fix it.”
In addition to bringing troops home, Wagner also shared her hopes of showing Congress they have enough political support from the people to oppose President Bush’s new plans.
“That’s the importance of the march today, to give them the courage to stand up for something,” said Wagner. “There’s enough political momentum behind them to support them. They won’t be labeled unpatriotic.”
Doreen Leone took an 18-hour bus ride from her hometown of Daytona Beach, Fla., to D.C. in order persuade Congress to oppose the new Iraq policy.
“We want to show the government we mean what we elected them to do when they were elected in November,” said Leone. “Please use diplomacy and political means to end the war.”
While Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have failed to reach a compromise regarding the surge of troops, House Democrats announced a simple resolution opposing the deployment of additional troops.
“We will vote on a straightforward proposition: Do you support the president’s plan or oppose it?” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a Feb. 12 article in the Washington Post. “That vote will herald whether the House understands the message the American people are sending about the policies used to implement this war: They have not worked, they will not work, and they must be changed.”
This resolution has found supporters in both Democrats and Republicans in the House.
For the many people who marched around the Capital last month, this resolution appears to be a very small step in the right direction.
“We’ve opposed the entry into Iraq since the beginning,” said Wagner. “Congress didn’t listen to the people who warned against getting into Iraq in the first place, so we’re hoping they’ll listen to us now.”
Karin Fleming is a sophomore journalism major who is emboldening the terrorists. Email her at kflemin3[at]ithaca.edu.
More from D.C: Buzzsaw editor Emily McNeill’s account of the protest.