There is something in the air, it broke out in Tunisia, spread to Egypt and many other nations. It seems the locals in Santa Barbara are feeling it too. The Veterans for Peace, student groups, the interfaith community, Democrats, Ron Paul Republicans, groups from both Left and Right, are organizing a “Wake up Call” Rally and March on Saturday, March 19th. “In the Middle East, they’ve had enough, have we had enough?” says Ron Dexter, Korean War veteran and member of Veterans for Peace. “After 8years in Iraq and 10 years in Afghanistan and billions of dollarslater, what have we accomplished?”

People in the Middle East have been turning out in massive numbers to demand a say in how they are governed and here in the U.S. – the protests in Madison Wisconsin are still going strong. For many, the American Dream is turning into a nightmare, as people are losing their homes, their jobs, small businesses are closing, the middle class is joining the working poor, and all too often, people are deprived of basic needs essential to a civilized life. The gap between the rich and poor is widening, infrastructure is failing, while the government pours the people’s tax dollars into the Pentagon’s budget and wars abroad. The organizers are calling this an “economic wake up call”, not just another anti-war protest marking the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The anti-war protests in Santa Barbara in 2002 -2003 culminated with 5,000 people in the street on two occasions, before the US invaded Iraq. Many who marched then feel that they were betrayed by their government.

“Many of us voted for change, and it appears that it doesn’t matter what the people want anymore. The system as we know it is broken.” says Penny Little, from People to People TV. “We are focusing now on how the wars are affecting our personal economy, questioning whether our current foreign policy is really keeping us safer. Whatever happened to the idea of government of, for and by the People? And it’s people from across the political spectrum who are marching in the street who want to see a real change.”

Troy Lucero, a member of the local Ron Paul Meet up Group says. “We were not born on the liberal or conservative team. We were born on humanity’s team.” In a recent interview with Ron Paul and Ralph Nader on Fox Business Channel, they talked about a Libertarian-Liberal alliance, and they were not talking about bi-partisanship, because as Paul said, ‘we have too much bipartisanship because the bipartisanship we have here in Washington endorses corporatism.” Peter Cohen, Internet writer and veteran of WWII, posits: “Our huge national debt, primarily caused by our constantly rising military expenses, is now resulting in budget cuts of programs for working people, the sick and the poor. Who benefits? The public pays for the military and its wars, while the corporations are the major beneficiaries.”

David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation similarly concludes: “The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have acted as reverse Robinhoods. They have stolen from the poor, while benefiting only the arms profiteers. They have taken countless lives of young American soldiers, those of allied forces, and of Iraqis and Afghanis. It is past time to recognize these wars for the illegal, immoral and irresponsible failures they have been, and to move rapidly to end them.”

The gathering on March 19 will begin at 11:00 a.m. in De La Guerra Plaza, the people will march at 11:45, south along State Street to Arlington West – the memorial at the beach that commemorates the thousands of US soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan – for a rally.

Speakers at the Rally include former Mayor Marty Blum, David Krieger of the Nuclear Peace Foundation, former City Council Member Babatunde Folayemi, WWI Veteran Peter Cohen, Erik Rasmussen from “Peace Now” and a representative from the local Ron Paul Meet-up Group.

“We want to foreclose these wars, not our homes. We want to rebuild our America. We want schools, jobs and a safe infrastructure.” adds Mary Johnston Vice President of Veterans for Peace.

Many of the speakers at the Rally will be available for comments on Friday. March 11th at De La Guerra Plaza. Marty Blum, David Krieger and Babatunde will speak briefly and be available for comments.


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