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War protesters to observe fast on 'The Fourth'

Written by: Staff

Washington, Jul 4: A coalition of anti-war groups in America will observe July 4, Independence Day, by fasting to press their demand for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

The anti-war groups feel the best way to back America's service men and women is to withdraw US forces from Iraq.

The list of anticipated fasters includes anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, mother of an American serviceman killed in Iraq, and Michael Berg, the father of an American citizen who was captured by insurgents in Iraq and later beheaded.

Several members of Congress are expected to take part including a British and a Canadian law-maker. Actors Danny Glover, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, as well as country musician Willie Nelson, are among a long list of celebrities.

Beginning today, a contingent of fasting people will gather every day in front of the White House, while others take part from their hometowns.

President Bush has refused to set a timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, arguing that doing so would embolden Iraqi insurgents, as well as terrorists worldwide. He says US troops will come home only when Iraqi forces are able to stand on their own and defend their country's 'nascent' democracy.

Protest organiser Medea Benjamin says, far from quelling violence in Iraq, the US military presence is stoking violent passions and allowing the country's rival factions and ethnic groups to drag their feet when it comes to confronting killers and insurgents.

In the US, public opinion surveys have shown Americans are growing increasingly pessimistic about the US mission in Iraq.

Nevertheless, polls show most Americans do not support an immediate troop withdrawal.

July 4 is generally observed as a patriotic day. It was on this day in 1776, the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence from Britain.

Americans, including immigrants from all over the world, celebrate the day with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations.

Community firework displays are common. In New York City, Macy's department store for 30 years has sponsored a July 4 fireworks display. In 2005, the 30-minute show featured 35,000 shells launched from seven barges afloat in the East River and in New York Harbor.

An estimated crowd of more than 3 million watched in person. The event also has been televised nationally in recent years.

''The Fourth'' is also a family celebration. Picnics and barbeques are common.

Independence Day is not among the legal holidays fixed on a Monday or Friday, but many employees use vacation time to create an extended weekend, as in 2006, when the holiday occurs on a Tuesday.

Construction of important public works sometimes begins on July 4. The Erie Canal, Washington Monument and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (the nation's first) all broke ground on Independence Day.

The date reflects a desire symbolically to stamp these projects as true civic improvements.

Like many other US cities, Washington DC, the nation's capital, has an annual Fourth of July parade. And the spectacular display of fireworks in the night.


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