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Posted on Mon, Mar 21, 2005

Antiwar march marks Iraq War 2nd anniversary

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In Center City , activists read names of war dead and asked the President to recall U.S. troops.
By Joel Bewley
Inquirer Staff Writer

Rain-soaked peace activists marked the second anniversary of the start of fighting in Iraq yesterday by demanding that President Bush recall the military and repair the war-torn country's damaged infrastructure.

"This is a war that shames us before the world," Robert M. Smith, a spokesman for the Brandywine Peace Community, told about 250 protesters as they prepared to march in Center City. "It is up to the people of this country to bring it to an end."

The marchers said they were doing their part locally to help a nationwide effort to create a nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq , which began March 19, 2003 .

The marchers tromped from the historic Arch Street Friends Meetinghouse to the federal building a few blocks away at Sixth and Market Streets.

Along the way, names of area soldiers killed in Iraq were read over a loudspeaker, as were those of some Iraqi civilians killed by the fighting.

Two coffins were carried, one with an Iraqi flag and one with the Stars and Stripes. A bell was struck every few seconds in tribute.

The group paused the march at the Federal Detention Center to remember the seven-day sentences some members - including an 89-year-old Quaker woman who uses a wheelchair - served after protesting the start of the war two years ago by blocking entrance to the federal courthouse.

The walk culminated in a rally at the adjacent federal building with a handful of speakers. Perhaps the most widely known was Michael Berg.

His son Nicholas, 26, was beheaded in Iraq by Islamic fundamentalists who said the move was in retaliation for the mistreatment of prisoners by American soldiers.

Berg, a civilian from West Chester , had gone to Iraq hoping to help rebuild the country's communications network. His slaughter was videotaped and posted on the Internet.

His parents sued the government after the military detained him following his arrest in Mosul .

Michael Berg accused the government of turning its back on his family's effort to safely bring home his son.

"I should have become active against this war sooner," he said. "It's too late for me to get my son back. But it's not too late for you. We need to act now to apply pressure against our government."

Contact staff writer Joel Bewley at 609-261-0900 or jbewley@phillynews.com.