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Iraq war protesters make selves heard in Chicago and elsewhere on anniversary of invasion

Downtown rally, march mimic events nationwide

By Tina Shah and Kristen Kridel | Chicago Tribune reporters

11:57 PM CDT, March 19, 2008 - LINK

Kate Caleal has two friends who are fighting in Iraq. She wants them to come home now.

So the Rogers Park resident joined about 2,200 other anti-war demonstrators Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, at a rally in Federal Plaza and a subsequent march through downtown Chicago calling for an end to a conflict that has gone on longer than World War II.

"We as individuals have power. I'm exhibiting that power. [Government officials] don't speak for us," said Caleal, 22, as she held up a tree branch attached to a pizza box with "Stop the slaughter" and "You're killing my brothers and sisters" written on it. "We need more of this, people standing up and speaking out against this," she said.

The downtown protest Wednesday was one of many across the Chicago area and the nation against and in support of U.S. military involvement in Iraq. On Wednesday morning, a group gathered outside Soldier Field to show support for U.S. troops in Iraq. Another group of anti-war protesters held an evening candlelight vigil in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood.

In Washington, at least 30 anti-war protesters were arrested Wednesday as they attempted to block access to Internal Revenue Service offices.

Wednesday night's rally and march is part of an effort to pressure politicians to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, said Andy Thayer, a member of one of the rally's chief organizers, Chicago's 5th Year Anti-War Coalition.

"The main thing is that the politicians have failed to stop this war," said Thayer, 47. "We need a very strong militant domestic peace movement."

He said the war in Iraq is similar to the Vietnam War because both wars were "built on lies."

There were no disturbances or arrests at the downtown march.

At the Wednesday morning rally in Soldier Field, Ald. James Balcer (11th) stood in front of a military monument at the north end of Soldier Field and announced plans to petition the City Council for a memorial to honor American soldiers who serve in the war on terrorism.

More than 140 soldiers from Illinois have died in this war, said Balcer, a former Marine who served in Vietnam. Hundreds of Chicago police officers, firefighters and residents have been deployed.

This has nothing to do with politics, he added.

"We're here to support the troops," Balcer said. "This memorial will be important."

Balcer will present the proposed resolution at the next City Council meeting April 9. If it is approved, Balcer expects a committee to be selected to determine the design and location of the memorial.

Standing behind Balcer were a handful of supporters with military ties. Standing tall in the middle of the group was a soldier who had lost an eye.

Jim Frazier, a member of the mayor's Memorial Day committee, talked about his son's dedication to the military. Jacob Frazier, an Air Force staff sergeant, died in Afghanistan in March 2003. Jacob Frazier, 24, was serving as a tactical air controller embedded with the Green Beret army unit.

He wanted to hunt down Osama bin Laden personally and died doing what he loved, Frazier said.

"I'm very honored, and I choose to honor our troops, men and women who take an oath and know they will possibly go in harms way," Frazier said. "They do so because they believe in the mission."

In Washington, protesters outside the IRS said they don't believe liberating Iraq should be a U.S. mission.

Ashalyn Sims, 20, a Howard University student, said that she had been concerned about the United States going to war with Iraq from the start. At the time, both of her parents were in the armed services, and Sims was living on a military base in Hungary. But she said she only started protesting the war in the last year.

Sims said that her mother was supportive of Sims' involvement in anti-war protests. "These are my mom's Army pants," Sims said, showing off the green camouflage she was wearing.

Organizers of the protest targeted the IRS because the agency allocates money to the Pentagon to pay for the war, they said.

Tribune reporter Whitney Blair Wyckoff contributed to this report.




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