10 years after invasion of Iraq, protesters remember shutting down Lake Shore Drive

March 19, 2013

AP/File
File: Chicago's downtown Federal Plaza filled with people and police during an anti-war protest Friday, March 21, 2003 in Chicago. Thousands of people gathered and marched through the city in opposition to the war in Iraq.

Back on March 20, 2003 as news of the U.S. invasion of Iraq spread, one Chicago activist decided to act.

“As we said at the time, if they’ll ignore our voices let them ignore our bodies,” Andy Thayer said.

Thayer helped organize more than 15,000 protesters who proceeded to march onto Lake Shore Drive snarling traffic in both directions.

“People did what they could to peacefully demonstrate against this war in as forceful a way as they thought possible," Thayer said. "Which was to basically shut down a major artery in the city of Chicago.”

As the protest wrapped up, more than 800 people were arrested downtown.

“On the one hand while the American public was overwhelmingly against the war, the powers that be were dead set for it including our own Daley administration,“ Thayer said.

All of their charges were eventually dropped, and last year the city settled with some of them for $6.2 million dollars.

Looking back 10 years later, Thayer said he thinks protesters could have been more effective.

“I think there always are things you can see in retrospect that you’d want to do better,” he said. “[No one] aside from those of us who’ve stayed in the streets against these wars can say truthfully I told you so.”

Thayer says one thing that has changed in the last 10 years is that more people realize all struggles are connected whether at home or abroad.

“I think there is a growing consciousness that all the so called separate struggles are connected and that’s a good thing," he said. "This is not something that has come about due to the political leaders of either party.”

Thayer said activists will commemorate the anniversary with a march on State Street Tuesday night as well as a forum on Wednesday night at Grace Place located at 637 S. Dearborn St.

“The only way we can stop these wars is by the people themselves,” he said. “Not just getting out in the streets and demonstrating, but also doing resistance."