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War Opponents Launch Grassroots Campaign Aimed at Larger Numbers
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut -- Fed up with the Iraq war, the peace movement is trying its own surge.
After years of large-scale national demonstrations in Washington, New York and other cities have failed to end the war, activists are embarking on a campaign that starts Friday with more than 100 local protests around the country.
The protests will continue on the third Friday of each month, with participants pledging to stop their daily routines on that day and take some kind of action.
Thousands have signed the pledge, promising to wear black armbands, stand silent, put signs on their lawns, or not buy gas or shop, organizers say. One woman is buying plastic toy soldiers, putting "bring me home" tags on them and leaving them in public places.
"This is something that will catch on," said Bill Fletcher Jr., one of the organizers. "I'm very excited about it."
The campaign is called the Iraq Moratorium, inspired by a similar effort during the Vietnam War that peace activists say was effective in galvanizing opposition. Organizers say polls show a majority of Americans believe the war was a mistake, but only a small fraction have become active in protests.
"I think it has terrific potential because it provides a focus at the local level so a much broader spectrum of folks can be involved," said John Humphries, an organizer in Connecticut. "It has the potential to involve much larger numbers of people and energize them over time."
Well-known activists such as Tom Hayden and actress Susan Sarandon are supporting the campaign, organizers said.
Kristinn Taylor, spokesman for Gathering of Eagles, an organization founded by Vietnam veterans that has held demonstrations to counter war protests, dismissed the campaign.
"They've been trying for six years to gin up a Vietnam-era-style anti-war movement and they have failed miserably," Taylor said. "I just don't think the American people want to lose the war."
Hayden said the anti-war movement has drawn large numbers. Personal pledges are a way for people to become more involved, he said.
"I think the idea here is to address the frustration that this war is so removed from daily life except for the small number of families who have sons and daughters there," Hayden said. "Many people don't feel they're doing enough and the moratorium speaks to that need."
The first round of protests Friday will include a "living graveyard" in Oakland, Calif., in which protesters plan to lie on the sidewalk covered with sheets symbolizing the war dead. An exhibit in San Francisco will feature 393 pairs of boots representing soldiers from California who have died in the war.
In Chicago, war opponents plan a "die-in" at Federal Plaza. Others will bang pots and pans.
In New Haven, protesters will read the names of soldiers killed. Protests in Iowa and other states will target members of Congress, challenging officials over why they keep funding the war.
Organizers are hoping the campaign will escalate in numbers and intensity, possibly leading to civil disobedience and boycotts. They say the new campaign is not designed to replace existing protests.
"We believe and hope it will escalate," said Dennis O'Neil, another organizer. "The hope is by doing this escalation of pressure month by month it will give people heart. Also the politicians will feel the pressure as well."
© 2007 The Associated Press