This Saturday, March 15, the activist group The People’s Coalition will be staging a two-day event in downtown Santa Barbara entitled “Five Years Too Many,” protesting the war in Iraq.
The event begins at 10 A.M. Saturday morning with a rally at Vera Cruz Park and concludes with an all-night candlelight vigil at the Arlington West Memorial on the beach at Stearn’s Wharf. The event will run from Saturday night through Sunday afternoon, with a full lineup of marches, musical performances, forums, workshops, and even a giant human peace sign demonstration to fill the time in between.
The over-arching purpose of the event, according to the mission statement on The People’s Coalition website, is to demand the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and a change in the U.S. foreign policy.
“This war has caused incalculable damage to our reputation in the world, to our way of life, and to the pocketbooks of all Americans,” asserts Lois Hamilton, organizer of Santa Barbara’s Operation Democracy Council. “This is affecting our lives, our families.” According to www.icasualties.org, the war in Iraq has been responsible for the death of 3,980 US soldiers. In addition, the Associated Press reported on Monday, March 10, that in the year 2008 the war will cost approximately $12 billion each month.
“Five Years Too Many” also provides an opportunity for the community to come together to discuss and explore the issues. “We need to use every avenue possible, whether the power of our vote, lobbying, marching in the streets, petitions, whatever it takes to change the direction of this country back to sane policy,” explained Penny Little, co-chair of the People’s Coalition, “Street protest is only one of the various means that activists can use to achieve a political end. It’s also personal and a way to build our community.” One example will be the so-called “political marketplace” being held at the morning rally in Vera Cruz Park, across from the Saturday Farmer’s Market on Cota Street, which includes tabling by various groups, an open mic, and politically-oriented music.
The rally is followed by a march at noon on the Santa Barbara Courthouse, where the organizers have planned to form a giant peace sign at the Sunken Gardens. At 2:30 p.m., the political workshops will begin to feature at the Faulkner Gallery such topics as “Militarism & Nuclearism: Possibilities for Peace”, with speakers David Krieger of the Nuclear Peace Foundation and Darwin Bond Graham from UCSB, a presentation entitled “Fossil Free by 2033″, and an “Interfaith Panel” moderated by John Michal. Capping off the event will be the all-night candlelight vigil at Stearn’s Wharf with Veterans for Peace and ending Sunday afternoon.
The People’s Coalition’s Little said she hopes the event will encourage people to get involved. “[It’s about] the importance of knowing you are not alone — that there are hundreds, thousands, millions of people who think the way you do can never be underestimated,” she stated. “I believe we are helping to shift opinion. So it’s about numbers, itâ€™s about achieving critical mass, a tipping point.” Of course, with enough people anything is possible. Little explained, “We want this to be the last year that we will have to organize a march like this.”