WASHINGTON – It's not every day that Luke Ryan,an innkeeper from Washington state,yells at a congressman's chief of staff.
“I'm just furious. My mind is blown,” said Ryan,37 of Orcas Island,in a meeting Monday with the staff of Rep. Rick Larsen,D-Wash.,to protest the war in Iraq.
Ryan,along with nine other activists from his state,were part of a coordinated lobbying day by United for Peace and Justice,a non-profit coalition that organized Saturday's anti-war rally on the National Mall.
“I've never seen anything like this,” Ryan said throwing his hands into the air and banging on the wall. “The country is united on its opposition to the surge” of 21,500 troops proposed by President Bush.
Ryan and his group were meeting with Kimberly Johnston,Larsen's chief of staff.
A whirlwind of criticism flew at Johnston,who promised their statements wouldn't go unheard.
Earlier in the day,the group ate breakfast and strategized with others from around the country in the basement cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The smaller group from the tens of thousands who crowded the mall over the weekend was made up of mostly retirees or those who didn't have to rush back to school or work.
Energized and optimistic from the march,many waited for their scheduled meetings with eager smiles. Manila folders,stuffed with statistics,statements and letters,had replaced angry banners,trumpets calls and celebrity speeches.
Musing over his coffee,Richard Potter,a cattle rancher from Powell,Mo.,said he blames the “neo-cons” for the war and thinks the president is “beyond a lost cause.”
“It would be misleading to call him an idiot,” said Potter,56. “But I don't mind calling him a liar.”
But Potter said he remains optimistic he'll get a response from Congress and that his countless marches,including one with Cindy Sheehan,the now-famous anti-war activist whose son Casey died in Iraq,will have an impact on public opinion.
He said he planned to speak with Republican Rep. Roy Blunt and Democratic Sen. Claire C. McCaskill,both of Missouri,about cutting off funds for the war. “You support the troops by stopping the war,” he said.
Berta Silva,a 49-year-old union organizer from New York,said she arrived at the Capitol to fight the “imperialism” the United States has brought upon other countries such as Iraq. She had an appointment with Rep. Carolyn Maloney,D-N.Y.,to try to convince her to put money reserved for Iraq back into communities and education.
“I'm really charged,” she said. “This is my first time doing this.”
James P. Keller,73,a retired minister from Jamestown,R.I.,and others from his state met with staff of his congressman,Democratic Rep. James R. Langevin. Keller gave his religious perspective to the war in Iraq.
The way President Bush uses his faith to promote his policy is “blasphemy,” Keller said. “All I know is what the scripture says,and that's nonviolence.”
The Rhode Island group asked that the congressman co-sponsor legislation to bring the troops home,providing his staff with a list of bills they supported. Their concerns were recorded at the brief meeting.
At the stormy meeting in Larsen's office,members of the group who supported Larsen when he ran for Congress in 2000 said they felt betrayed because he has not supported pulling troops out or spoken out against the war. They wanted answers.
Wyoming McKenzie,65,a lawyer from Bellingham,Wash.,said she needed reassurance that the man she helped elect would help stop the war. “This country is killing innocent people and Rick won't do a damn thing about it,” she said.
Jim Hanrahan,62,a graphic artist from Bellingham,said Larsen was “about four notches from reality with a silver spoon stuck in his throat.”
However,the most solemn cry for change came from Gene and Victoria Marx,whose 33-year-old son served two tours in Iraq.
Victoria Marx,59,said her son,Capt. Benjamin Marx,watched his friends “die in his arms.”
Gene Marx,who fought in the Vietnam War and is vice president of the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center,said he couldn't watch the country and additional soldiers get sucked into the continuing civil war in Iraq.
“I've been there,” he said. “I've lived it.