WASHINGTON – It will be dueling demonstrations on Capitol Hill this weekend as the debate over the Iraq war continues to play out.
An expected 1,000 anti-war protesters will stage a “die-in” on the grounds of Capitol Hill Saturday to represent the soldiers who have died in Iraq.
Participants will lie down while holding placards with the names and pictures of families and friends who have died in the war.
The die-in will be the last part of a rally and march that begins at noon on Saturday.
Coordinated by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition,the die-in will be led by Veterans Against the Iraq War,Veterans for Peace and Gold Star Families for Peace,families who have lost a daughter or son in the war.
The die-in is described as “massive civil disobedience” by Brian Becker,the National Coordinator of A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition. Becker the die-in was designed to “trigger a new model of protest. We're not standing up. We're getting in the way of the war machine.”
Adam Kokesh,co-chairman of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a marine veteran of Iraq,said the purpose of the die-in was to make politicians aware of the human cost of the Iraq war. Kokesh said arrests were not anticipated,but “if it wasn't risky it wouldn't be meaningful.”
Though 1,000 people have signed up just for the die-in,about 10,000 people are expected for the entire event,according to the demonstration permit application submitted by A.N.S.W.E.R. to the National Park Service.
Pro-war organizers expect 15,000 demonstrators at their rally and march ,according to the parade application of Free Republic,an umbrella organization of several groups participating this Saturday. The pro-war demonstration,organized primarily by the Gathering of the Eagles Corporation,includes Move America Forward,Rolling Thunder,Military Order of the Purple Heart,and Veterans of Freedom. A march to Capitol Hill is expected around noon.
Though both sides of the debate will be at the same location around the same time,neither side is expecting any conflicts with each other.
“We are well organized and are expecting things to go well,” said A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Becker. “We are not expecting problems.”
“We let everyone know that we're not there to confront anyone,” Richard Dixon,executive director of Move America Forward said. “We focus on our message,which is to support the troops.”
For both groups,this weekend is important because if follows closely the report by Gen. David Petraeus,the head of U.S. troops in Iraq.
“We thought it was important to bring attention to the report,” said Dixon. “We also knew there would be backlash from the Democrats as far as what was said in the report.”