SAN FRANCISCO - Antiwar activists from around the country will celebrate Mothers Day by converging on Washington, DC, where they will demand Congress end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Five days of activism, sponsored by the women-for-peace group CODEPINK and "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan's Gold Star Families for Peace, will culminate in what organizers call a "Mother of a March" on May 14.
"We want to get people out and get them active," said Tina Richards of Salem, Missouri. "We're getting in the way [and saying] no more business as usual until you pass legislation that brings our troops home and takes care of them when they get back."
Richards brings her own war story to the week of action. Her son Cloy is a Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq. The military lists him as 80-percent combat disabled.
"He's got knee injuries, arm injuries, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," Richards said. "He's also got another claim pending for a traumatic brain injury, which will put him at 100-percent disabled."
Richards said her son sustained most of his injuries after his first tour in Iraq, adding the family protested his second deployment but to no avail. After four years on active duty, Cloy Richards is now in the individual ready reserve and faces the possibility of a third deployment to Iraq.
Tina Richards said she can't believe the military would even consider that.
"It's something that affects us every single day," she said, "when he's 23 years old and he can't even climb the stairs. He has bad nightmares where he thinks he's back in Iraq. Last week, he punched out all his windows and cut major arteries. He had to go to the hospital because he almost bled to death."
Personal trauma has turned Richards into an activist. She traveled to Washington for large antiwar demonstrations in January and has rarely left since.
On April 16 she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in connection with a boisterous demonstration inside the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill.
The Mothers Day protests also promise to feature civil disobedience. Richards told OneWorld the organizers have only applied for one permit for their five days of protest -- for the march on Congress May 14. A handful of House members are scheduled to speak.
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According to the CODEPINK Web site, women and families are also expected to rally in over 50 U.S. cities this weekend to oppose the war in Iraq.
In addition to military mothers like Tina Richards and Cindy Sheehan, the Washington demonstrations will feature musician Willie Nelson's wife Annie, actor Ed Asner's wife Cindy, and actress and film director Kamala Lopez.
Richards said she draws inspiration partly from the actions of a few liberals in Congress, among them Representative John Lewis of Georgia.
Lewis, who was one of only a few Democrats to vote against Pelosi's $100 billion plan to continue funding the Iraq war with conditions, worked with civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In explaining his vote on the House floor, Lewis said of King: "If he could speak today, he would say this nation needs a revolution of values that exposes the truth that war does not work. If he could speak today, he would say that war is obsolete as a tool of our foreign policy."
"Tonight I must make it plain and clear that as a human being, as a citizen of the world, as a citizen of America, as a member of Congress, as an individual committed to a world at peace with itself, I will not and I cannot in good conscience vote for another dollar or another dime to support this war," Lewis said.
Lewis' words inspired Richards' civic activism.
"John Lewis told me that the only way they were able to win on civil rights issues was because they were in DC throwing sand into the gears of government," Richards said. "They just kept getting in the way and getting in the way until they finally got done what had to be done and so that's what we're doing."
On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced it had alerted more than 35,000 Army soldiers that they could be sent to Iraq this fall.
Some 3,378 U.S. service members have been killed since the Bush administration launched the invasion of Iraq four years ago. Over 600,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war in their country, according to the only scientifically rigorous study conducted to determine Iraqi casualties.
More than 100,000 U.S. service members are currently receiving disability payments from the Federal government.
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