WASHINGTON – Two groups commemorated the Sept. 11 attacks in different ways Sunday. At one end of the National Mall,thousands of people began a walk to the Pentagon to support soldiers and honor those killed five years ago.
At the opposite end,hundreds of people gathered at what they called “Camp Democracy” to protest U.S. war efforts. The camp began Sept. 5 and will continue through Sept. 21.
“It's about remembering,reflecting,recommitting and respecting Sept. 11 for the ideas of that day,” said Pentagon spokesman Commander Gregory Hicks. “We are here remembering Sept. 11,2001,and we appreciate their service.”
The Pentagon-sponsored America Supports You Freedom Walk limited public participation in the 1.8 mile stroll starting at the Washington Monument.
“It's for a secure environment. It's for a safe event,” said Hicks,adding that the registration process was necessary to provide an adequate number of free T-shirts and bottles of water.
The walk ended at the Pentagon,where thousands wearing red,white and blue T-shirts gathered at the crash site of American Airlines Flight 77. The memorial service included 184 beams of light representing the number killed at the Pentagon.
On the other side of the Mall,Camp Democracy participants deemed Sept. 11 “Gandhi Day of Nonviolence.”
The camp is open to anyone who wants to protest war efforts while supporting U.S. troops. The two-week event is a temporary relocation of Cindy Sheehan's Camp Casey from near President Bush's home in Crawford,Texas.
Sheehan,who is recovering from surgery,helped to organize the relocation but could not attend.
David Swanson,organizer of Camp Democracy,said the Pentagon's concurrent event was just one of many examples of the federal government misusing the tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It's a staged event for the media,” Swanson said. “To have a march in the U.S. and not allow the public to join. It's manufacturing the news.”
Camp participant Geoff Millard,a member of Iraq Vets Against the War,said it would have been difficult for him to participate in the Pentagon's walk when the Veterans' Affairs budget wasn't take care of his needs.
“If you want to talk about supporting troops,you need to talk about [it] individually,” Millard said. “When we talk about opposing the war,we need to support our troops to oppose the war.”
The final day for Camp Democracy will mark petitioner's request to Congress for a concrete plan to end the Iraq War. The camp is training people to perform civil disobedience if the petition goes unanswered.