Iraq war veterans lead protest at Democratic convention

The group calls for Barack Obama to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and improve healthcare for veterans. After a march ending at the Pepsi Center, they ask to read their letter at the podium.

DENVER — About 50 Iraq war veterans led a parade of thousands of demonstrators this afternoon in a boisterous march that is Denver's largest protest this week.

The Iraq Veterans Against the War group led the four-mile procession from the Denver Coliseum to the Pepsi Center, the site of the Democratic National Convention, calling for Barack Obama to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and improving healthcare for veterans.

As many as 4,000 protesters took part, according to a police estimate.

The 50 veterans who led the demonstration included some in full military dress. As they marched along an industrial area far from downtown, they chanted, "My buddy's in the foxhole with a bullet in his head. . . . I called to get the medic, but he's already dead."

Following behind were a long stream of concert-goers who joined the protest after attending a free performance by Rage Against the Machine earlier in the day.

One participant, Andrew Pratt, 15, beat a rhythm on a plastic bucket. As a teenager, he said, "you don't have much power. This is a chance to get out and try to make a difference."

The parade ended near the convention site, where the veterans carried a letter intended for Obama, the Illinois senator. Along with the call for withdrawal from Iraq and improved healthcare, the group is advocating for reparations to Iraq "for the destruction caused by the U.S. war and occupation."

At 6:30 p.m. local time, the crowd remained outside the Pepsi Center, saying they would not leave until a representative of the Obama campaign allowed them to read their letter at the convention podium. So far, they said, they had not received a response.

In Billings, Mont., today, Obama told veterans he would improve healthcare for Americans returning from military service.


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