WASHINGTON – Protesters from all ends of the political spectrum gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, setting aside their ideological differences to advocate for one common goal: ending war. The rally, entitled “Rage Against the War Machine,” primarily called for ending the war in Ukraine, global nuclear de-escalation and disbanding NATO.
Hundreds of attendees, some D.C. locals and others traveling from as far as Canada, heard speeches from politicians such as former presidential candidates Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Jill Stein, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), journalists, activists and musicians prior to marching to the White House.
Attendees dressed for the occasion, some sporting full-body costumes while others carried Russian flags.
“What’s unique about this event is it’s pulling together people who are left and right to collaborate, out from under all the slander,” said Deborah, a representative of the International Schiller Institute, who did not wish to include her last name.
Jason Ross, who traveled from New Jersey, does not identify with the Democratic or Republican parties. What compelled him to attend is a sense of life and death urgency.
“I don’t want to die in a nuclear war, and U.S. policy is leading us toward that against Russia and also against China. If we don’t have a massive display publicly to show that the American population opposes this, we’re going to walk right into the end of the world.”
A common message during speeches was that the baseless notion that the U.S. and NATO, rather than Russia, are to blame for the war in Ukraine.
“The Russian invasion was a provoked response to an even bigger, more murderous illegal game plan of the U.S. empire, in which defeating Russia is just one small part. So yes, Russia illegally invaded Ukraine, but did so with a gun to its head,” said Stein.
The U.S. has aided Ukraine’s effort to defend its “sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders” against Russia’s “premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified” invasion, according to the State Department.
The belief that Russia does not bear responsibility was held by several attendees as well.
“I’m really not sure what else Russia could have done,” said Ross. “The idea that this is all Russia’s fault is certainly simplistic.”
Many accused NATO, which identifies Ukraine as a “close partner” subjected to a “brutal and unprovoked war of aggression,” of playing a larger role than Russia in instigating conflict.
“We see this as a war really led by NATO,” said Suzzanne Monk, a D.C. resident, who identified herself as a supporter of former President Donald Trump. “We need to be stepping back, the people of the United States don’t want anymore wars in their name… It feels like the U.S. and NATO are literally poking the bear.”
Monk was not opposed to U.S. involvement in other nations in the form of aid.
“We’re the most compassionate nation on earth,” she said. “Let’s help people.”
However, right now that help is needed here at home according to Monk, who referenced the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in Ohio earlier this month.
“American people need significant help… It’s come to the point of ridiculousness.”
Disapproval of Biden did not exclusively come from Republicans like Monk. Bates believed that a progressive President could have prevented war in Ukraine.
“I truly believe that if Bernie [Sanders] was President right now, there wouldn’t be a war going on. He would have done something very differently,” said Jane Bates, a dual-Canadian citizen. Bates has denounced U.S. military involvement abroad since traveling to Washington to protest the Iraq war.
Proposed solutions to these issues varied among attendees. Some called for a nation-wide vote on whether to continue U.S. involvement in Ukraine while others demanded a cease in the supply of weapons abroad.
Bates said that she believed much of the Ukrainian land in dispute is “Russian, anyways.”
“I think we should give it to [Putin], and negotiate peace,” she said, citing Crimea as the most obvious territory to concede, as “Russia has had for years.”
Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. Shortly after, the United Nations backed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, stating that the referendum in Crimea that led to its annexation by Russia “has no validity.”
Kristan T. Harris, host of an independent news radio show called “The Rundown Live,” viewed the conflict as one for the respective nations to navigate on their own.
“For years, the U.S. has been the policeman of the world, always getting involved. It’s never beneficial for the American people. I’m here as a person that’s passionate about humanity.”