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Rainy-day Patriots descend on Denton

On Saturday, March 18, Veterans for Peace staged a protest of the Iraq war in Denton, Texas.
Photo by Stephen Webster

Rainy Day Patriots descend on Denton
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter

On March 20, 2003, George W. Bush announced the start of America’s invasion of Iraq. Just two months later, on May 1, 2003, Mr. Bush landed a fighter jet on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and delivered his now-infamous speech, declaring that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” He stood before the nation in a gray flight suit, framed by hundreds of cheering soldiers, under a red, white and blue banner that read “Mission Accomplished.” Three years later, America is still waiting for that promise to come true.

About 100 protesters gathered outside the Denton County Courthouse on the square to protest the Iraq war.
Photo by Stephen Webster

On Saturday, March 18, 2006, Peace Action Denton and Veterans for Peace convened a protest of America’s involvement in Iraq at the Courthouse on the square in Denton. The rally was just one of thousands that dotted the U.S. and the world in commemoration of the third anniversary of the Iraq war.

Gary R. Page, Democrat running for the House of Representatives in Texas District 24, spoke at the protest.
Photo by Stephen Webster

In February of 2003, Peace Action Denton organized a protest which attracted fewer than 10 people. On Saturday, in spite of pounding rain and temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s, nearly 100 people came to show their resistance to America’s current foreign policy. Those in attendance included U.S. Congressional candidate for Texas District 24 Gary R. Page and Denton County Justice of the Peace Precinct One candidate Mac Poe, both Democrats. Members of the Denton County Green Party were also present, collecting signatures to put their candidates on the general election ballot this November.

This man's sign reads "Other casualties of war - Births caused by depleated uranium. W - THE LIAR."
Photo by Stephen Webster

“I came here to talk about how we go about stopping this war,” said Mac Poe. “How do we take this country back from the Neo-Cons? I have been against this war since they began talking about it. This war, if you look at international law, is an illegal war. If you remember, this president, had it not been for one Supreme Court justice, would not be in office. Last week, Sandra Day O’Connor gave a speech saying that this country was on the verge of becoming a dictatorship. My response to Mrs. O’Connor is that your vote – one vote – could have prevented George W. Bush from becoming our president.”

“If that had happened, today we would still have a democratic government,” he continued. “Today, we would still have our freedoms and liberties that have been taken away by the Patriot Act. Today, there would be no war that has maimed over 20,000 of our soldiers. Over 2,500 of our soldiers are dead. Over 100,000 Iraqis are dead. This is unconscionable. How do we stop it? We stop it by registering to vote. We stop it by getting out to the polls and supporting candidates who reflect our views. […] Our money is going to kill people in other countries, and it should be going to help disadvantaged people. It should be going to help the 43 million Americans without health care.”

As protesters stood in the downpour listening to Poe’s speech, two police cars pulled up to the courthouse. The officers got out of their cars and walked up to each other, standing approximately 100 yards away from the protest. They observed, but did not approach any closer. After standing in front of their cars for several minutes, they both departed. Over the next hour, a total of 10 other officers arrived on the scene, though no protesters were arrested or detained.

After Poe finished his speech, Gary R. Page stood to share his thoughts on the war. “The only ones who are going to be able to turn the tide in Iraq are the people themselves,” he said. “Our government is supposed to be of the people and by the people. If a majority of our people think [a withdraw from Iraq] needs to happen, then let’s make that happen. Let’s put our people in control of our government again. We ought to make this happen.”

A man in green and black camouflage, sporting a sign on his chest and back and wielding an upside-down American flag, walked to the north-east corner of the courthouse square. He stood practically motionless for 20 minutes as cars passed by honking and flashing their lights at him. His sign read, “I.R.A.Q. – I Remember Another Quagmire. Vietnam Veterans Against the War. VVAW.ORG”

Photo by Stephen Webster

“Something needs to be done about this administration,” said protester Michael Bono of Ft. Worth. “Too many of our troops are dying. Too many innocent Iraqis have died. And now, he wants to go into Iran. I fear if we go into Iran, we’ll be starting World War III. I am so afraid for this country. We keep giving Bush and Cheney billions for their illegal war, and less for the American people. […] George W. Bush committed a high crime by letting us come under attack on 9/11. He was told, very clearly, about terrorists training to fly airplanes into targets in America, but he did nothing. And in response to that attack, he went to war the wrong country. That is shameful. We are the patriots of America. We want our country back.”

A brown and tan Dodge truck with a Bush/Cheney ’04 sticker parked next to this reporter’s car about 10 minutes after the start of the protest. At times, the truck could be seen driving very slowly around the square. The man in the driver’s seat was bald, in his late 40’s or early 50’s, wearing a red and black flannel shirt. Around his neck hung a pair of binoculars; in his hands, a pen and yellow legal pad with at least one full page of license plate numbers written on it. He remained parked on Elm Street, directly across from the courthouse, for at least half the duration of the rally.

These flags were hung by a Vietnam Veteran dressed in a tattered uniform. The notes under each flag read (from left to right), "Past - Present - Future."
Photo by Stephen Webster

“I went through this with my brother during Vietnam,” said a Flower Mound woman who would only identify herself as Susan. “I cannot believe it is happening all over again. Where’s the Christian ethic in this?” As she stood in the rain, water trickled down her yellow raincoat and into the eyes of a small, black dog wearing a matching raincoat. “This is Marty. He’s not for the war either,” she said. The dog barked and strained against its leash as a girl of about five years in a purple raincoat ran by, a boy of the same age in a red jacket with the logo from Disney’s “The Incredibles” on the back, giving chase. They screamed and laughed as they dodged back and forth between the adults’ legs.

A woman who would only identify herself as "Susan of Flower Mound" poses with her dog, Marty, at Saturday's protest.
Photo by Stephen Webster

“If I hadn’t been through this before, I would not be out here. But it isn’t just for me. It’s for them too,” said Susan, motioning to the children who had disappeared into the crowd. “What are we going to do if Bush starts World War III by going into Iran? That isn’t a future I want to cope with. I don’t think anyone does. Isn’t that right, Marty?” The dog shook itself and continued panting. “I think he agrees,” she said.


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