Peace Activists are Hopeful for March 20 Demonstration

On Saturday, peace activists met to hash over plans for a demonstration that will mark the seven-year anniversary of the Iraq war.

The ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition hosted area organizers to discuss community outreach, logistics and fundraising. The event, scheduled for March 20, will coincide with a march on Washington, D.C. to demand an end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In a crowded room located in the United Teachers Los Angeles building on Wilshire Boulevard, ANSWER Coalition organizer Mike Prysner addressed the crowd of activists. Prysner, an Iraq war veteran, stressed the need for the anti-war movement to seize national attention.

He said the political climate in favor of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was low. "Right now is the time to capitalize on the moment," he said. "We are the one's responsible for shifting public opinion."

Since the beginning of hostilities the number of people attending anti-war demonstrations has dwindled. However, organizers feel that things are going to change.

"The people put a lot of hope in Obama. They saw him as a man of peace," said Jim Lafferty. Lafferty is the host of "The Lawyer's Guild," which airs on KPFK. He was at the meeting representing the international justice and peace organization Office of Americas.

"The fact that we are in a deeper war in Afghanistan is just beginning to register with the American people," he said.

Prsyner acknowledges that the anti-war movement was bigger in 2003, but feels that there were calculated moves by the media and White House to quell dissent. "Every single day is a catastrophe for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and our soldiers," he said. "That's why the demonstrations are vital, so the people can push back."

Also in attendance, representing the Party for Socialism and Liberation, was SMC student Orlando Pardo. He found out about the ANSWER Coalition when he was in high school and has over the years helped organize anti-war demonstrations.

When asked about Obama's war record, Pardo said he was not happy with the president. "It's ironic he was promoted as an anti-war candidate," he said. "Now we are spending more on these wars."

According to the ANSWER Coalition Web site, peace activists are demanding "the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan and Iraq."

The event in Los Angeles is scheduled for March 20 at 12 p.m. on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.