Placards with the name, age, rank and hometown of every American soldier who has lost his or her life in Iraq will be the most powerful symbol at a peace rally Saturday, according to rally organizers. The ID cards will represent pacifists’ desire for the troops to come home and for America’s foreign policy to be changed.
The placard is meant to be a “powerful symbol for this particular event,” said Mark Haim, Mid-Missouri Peaceworks director and one of the organizers of the event. “There have been other ventures (like this) before, representing the victims for 9/11 and the Holocaust for example, but wearing placards on this particular occasion seems to be a local idea.”
The rally will not commemorate solely American military losses. “We will honor the memories of all those who have died in Iraq,” Haim said. More than 20 times as many Iraqis have died, he said.
An exact death toll of Iraqi citizens has never been fixed, but stakeholders agree the number is in the thousands.
The Columbia Peace Coalition, which includes eight faith-based groups and 10 other associations from Food Not Bombs to Middle East Justice Advocates, is organizing the local rally.
The event will start at 11 a.m. at the downtown post office and proceed to Courthouse Square, Sixth and Walnut streets, where a ceremony will take place. Names of the GIs will be read, and the participants wearing the soldiers’ placards will stand up.
“Placards required hundreds of hours of work by dozens of volunteers ... (who) carved 571 plaques out of cardboard boxes and lettered them with magic markers,” Haim said.
Flyers have been distributed throughout Columbia over the past three weeks in a grass-roots effort to spread the word throughout the community. Three hundred bulletin board notices, more than 900 e-mails to different listservs, radio announcements, and between 1,200 and 1,400 fliers have publicized the event and recruited volunteers to wear the placards. Even though the project is ambitious, the response from the community has, so far, been heartening, according to Haim.
“The current participants wearing the placards are 358,” he said.
Performers at the gathering will encourage discussion and include Peace Street Theatre, musicians and local speakers. Shakir Hamoodi, an Iraqi-American who has family in Iraq, will share his insight on the current situation.
Nationwide, more than 250 marches will take place Saturday, and there will be demonstrations in more than 50 countries, according to United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of organizations against U.S. action in Iraq.