About 250 people rallied at Westlake Park on Friday to mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, joining forces with another 200 or so protesters of the Occupy Seattle movement.
They were young and old, and a few were very old.
About 250 people rallied at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle on Friday to mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, joining forces with another 200 or so protesters of the Occupy Seattle movement.
Many college students took part, but the protesters with the most experience were probably Lyle Mercer, 90, a World War II veteran, and his wife, Barbara, 91.
“She was a nurse who took care of wounded veterans,” said Mercer, of Seattle. “I served in Italy and in occupied Berlin.”
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Holding a cane and a megaphone and wearing a white cap that said, “Veterans for Peace,” Mercer said, “We have opposed every American imperial war since 1950, when we invaded North Korea.”
The couple also opposed U.S. military action “in a country that never lifted a finger against us — Vietnam,” he said, where nearly 60,000 American soldiers died and more than 2 million Vietnamese lost their lives.
Now they oppose the conflict in Afghanistan.
A pacifist for 70 years, Mercer told the crowd he hoped they would enjoy “peace and economic justice” before they turned 90.
“This is what keeps me young,” he later told a reporter.
Others at the rally railed against the “trillions of dollars” spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the more than 700 U.S. military bases across the world.
“If that isn’t imperialism,” said one speaker, “I don’t know what is.”
Before the rally, protesters marched down Pine Street from Seattle Central Community College to Westlake Park, escorted by police on motorcycles and bicycles.
There were no arrests, and traffic was stopped briefly at some intersections.
“We are sick and tired of war,” said protest organizer Jane Cutter, who passed the megaphone to anyone who wanted to speak.
“I joined the Army and it turned me into an anarchist,” said one woman, who declined to give her name, but said she joined the Army in 1993 right out of high school.
The antiwar protesters held a rally at the north end of the park, while Occupy Seattle protesters continued to rally at the south end. The two groups inevitably mixed, with some at the antiwar rally holding signs such as, “Honk if you think people are more important than profit.”
Emma Kaplan, of the World Can’t Wait organization, urged protesters to lie down on the cold stones of the park for several minutes to mimic the dead from the war.
“This is what it looks like when the 1 percent of the world rules,” she said.
Earlier in the day, a couple of dozen union members joined the Occupy Seattle protest rally.
Protesters loudly cheered after comments by Lynne Dodson, secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, who told the crowd: “Your fight is our fight. We are tired of the wealth in this country going only to the top 1 percent.” She said working men and women support the efforts to “bring social and economic justice back to this country.”
David Westberg, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 609, spoke of how many people are facing economic hard times.
“We are experiencing the same things these people are experiencing,” he said referring to the protesters. “I have people who every day are just one paycheck away from poverty.”
Local labor leaders have said union members would join the Occupy Seattle movement again on Saturday.
In a similar movement in Tacoma, dozens of protesters gathered in front of the U.S. federal courthouse, holding signs and chanting. The stop at the federal building was part of a march through downtown.
Seattle Times staff reporter Hal Bernton contributed to this report. Jeff Hodson: 206-464-2411 or firstname.lastname@example.org