Various area activist groups came together Saturday afternoon to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the war in Iraq and protest the United States’ continued involvement in Afghanistan.
The rally was organized by the Madison Area Peace Coalition and drew around 200 individuals from the community and representatives from such groups as the South Central Federation of Labor, Immigrant Workers Union, Industrial Workers of the World and the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.
Event organizers noted Saturday’s rally on Library Mall was but one of nearly 150 similar events across the country, 19 of which took place in Wisconsin alone.
Wisconsin AFL-CIO President David Newby spoke at the rally about the lack of an organized opposition to the war in Iraq and the expansion into Afghanistan.
“Once that war began, too many of us became silent,” Newby said.
Newby added the cost of the war in both economic numbers and in terms of the cost of American, Iraqi and Afghani lives was too high for individuals to sit by while hundreds of billions of dollars are used to fund what he characterized as “a war of choice, not of necessity”.
According to Newby, the nearly $1.5 billion that have gone towards the wars from Dane County alone could have provided healthcare to one million citizens for two years or totally eliminated tuition at the University of Wisconsin for four years.
Also present at the event were the Raging Grannies, a group of activist women who sing parodies of various songs with an anti-war slant. Among the many songs the crowd heard were “There’s No Business Like War Business” and “Take Me Out of the War Game.”
Following the rally, participants assembled behind banners and beneath signs and began to march down State Street towards the Capitol.
Directed by activists with megaphones, the marchers began to yell a number of slogans, drawing the attention of passersby.
When prompted to “Show me what democracy looks like,” marchers responded, “This is what democracy looks like.” And when prompted to “Show me what hypocrisy looks like,” marchers responded, pointing up State Street to the Capitol, “This is what hypocrisy looks like.”
Iraq Veterans Against the War Madison Chapter President Todd Dennis said his aim in attending the day’s events was to show solidarity with the various groups present and his own friends who have served.
The war itself, and veterans’ services are lacking, he said. By raising awareness through actions like Saturday’s rally and march the issues facing those who fight the country’s wars can be better represented.
International Socialist Organization member and one of the megaphone prompters, Marshall Braun, said he was very pleased with the day’s events.
“I’m surprised that even the 200 people who came out today, came out,” Braun said. “We’re just starting over again, this is just the beginning of the movement because many people put their faith in Obama that he would end these wars, and unfortunately he’s escalated them.”