Michelle Boorstein | Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, September 17, 2007
Two days after bringing thousands of protesters to the U.S. Capitol, Iraq war opponents will begin a "week of action" today that starts with sending activists to area high schools and military recruiting centers and marching through a congressional building.
Dozens of war opponents, including some who were among the 192 arrested Saturday, spent yesterday training for this week, which will be "the most intense week" of planned actions since the Iraq conflict began, said Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, which organized Saturday's rally and march and many of the other large antiwar events across the country.
Activists came to four training sessions held at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs yesterday, many trading stories from their arrests or from clashes with several hundred war supporters who lined the march route.
"You have to ask the right questions, find out what's motivating them, share with them the truth and dispel myths," Adam Kokesh, co-chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War, told the crowd, which included local college students as well as older activists, many of whom had traveled from outside the Distrcit. "My reasons [for volunteering] were patriotism; I wanted to put my life on the line for my country." But in hindsight, "I could have been convinced that there were better ways to further democracy in the world."
Other strategies include trying to eat up recruiters' time by calling and visiting centers and pretending to be potential recruits.
John Judge, a longtime "counter-recruiting" activist, told the audience to disseminate information about the limited rights soldiers have to leave the military or pick where they will be stationed and how much money the military provides for general education.
Others trained earlier in the day for a noon march in the Rayburn House Office Building that is planned to pass what organizers call a "hall of shame": offices of representatives who voted to support the war, Becker said.
Later in the week, war opponents will visit congressional offices across the country "and not leave until they get answers to questions about the war that satisfy them," Becker said. They also plan to visit the Pentagon to try to find out how employees feel about the war. The activism week is planned to end Friday.
According to Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman, all 192 people who were arrested Saturday for crossing a police line were released by last night. She said two officers and two protesters were injured but not hospitalized.