On the fifth anniversary of U.S. involvement in the Iraq War, 500 protectors engaged in a silent, single-file march down Main Street in Huntington Beach.
Members of dozens of peace organizations under the Orange County Peace Coalition gathered near the Huntington Pier armed with folding card tables, flyers and bold signs. Among the groups present were Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Cal State Fullerton Students for Peace and Justice, Code Pink and the Grey Panthers.
Carefree beach goers swatted volley balls on the sand and white crested waves disintegrated in the background as organizers rallied members of the public to be a part of this local stance against what has become a wildly unpopular war.
Children and adults of all ages huddled together to cross the intersection from the pier to Main Street as the procession began to form. There were parents wheeling strollers, elderly people shuffling with canes, teens and twenty-somethings sporting colorful, neo-hippie garb.
During the slow, tedious walk up and down the street, curious and cynical patrons darted glances from cars and cafe tables or in passing as they darted by on foot.
Short bursts of tension in the consumer community, though not violent or volatile definitely showed signs of growing impatience as trails of people momentarily blocked intersections and crowded narrow sidewalks.
Protesters were asked by organizers of the OCPC not to respond to any mocking, carry signs or make any loud noise in an attempt to stay keep the integrity of the march to remember soldiers killed in the line of duty.
The procession ended where it had began on just off the beach in an amphitheater near the pier. Hard winds flared up in the late afternoon creating a blizzard of sand and flocks of anti-war flyers literally flying. Despite the weather, many protesters stayed to listen to speeches and testimony from a few guest speakers. Iraq Veterans and activists Sean McAllister, Augustine Aguyo and activist Marisela Guzman shared their feelings about the futility and immorality of our country's current involvement in Iraq.
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Aguyo, an army medic and conscientious objector to the war, had spent six months in Mannheim prison in Germany where he had been stationed after failing to join his military unit's second deployment to Iraq. With a rush of wind at his back, Aguyo addressed the crowd of protesters his decision not to go against principles that he believed in that would not allow him to take another human life.
Before the end of the amphitheater presentation, Vern Nelson's children's peace choir made the crowd smile with some peace protest classics like Creedence Clear Water Revival's "Fortunate Son" and John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance".
The afternoon concluded with a quiet gathering in front of tribute to our soldiers. In a makeshift replica of Arligngton National Cemetery those who managed to stay for the whole event took a brief period to honor the dead. Rows of miniature white crosses lined the sand and American and Marine Corps. flags flailed in the wind as fed up citizens and military families paid their respects the fallen.
(Note: Photos to follow.)