Monthly Archives: January 2003

Jan. 30, 2003

D.C.: Largest U.S. protest yet against Iraq war

By Leslie Feinberg

The power of the people. You could see it, filling the broad avenues in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, stretching for miles. You could hear its thunder: “No war on Iraq!” And as marchers reached the crest of Capitol Hill, looked back and roared in reaction to their own sheer strength, a mass of half a million, you could even taste it.

What a spectrum: all ages and nationalities, ethnicities, religious beliefs or lack of them, sexes, abilities, genders, sexualities, political viewpoints, occupations and walks of life. They came from diverse regions–from inner city neighborhoods to dairy farms; towns, campuses and reservations.

Homeowners and apartment dwellers marched with the homeless; working people walked shoulder to shoulder with the jobless and under-employed. Some weathered the day fortified by a good meal, others marched with growling stomachs. Retirees chanted alongside those too young to work.

The mercury hovered around 20 degrees. But even though an arctic front had swept down across the continental United States the day before the massive mobilization, it didn’t stop people of all ages from braving the trip to make their voices heard.

They came from as far away as Texas, Florida, Alabama, Colorado, Vermont, Wisconsin and Minnesota–many traveling an 18-30 hour bus trip in each direction. At least one bus drove all the way down from Nova Scotia.

Students from University of Wisconsin-Madison filled five buses. Another 10 buses brought people from around the state. A fleet of 22 buses came from Minneapolis/St. Paul and 35 from North Carolina, including 20 from Winston-Salem.

Just some of the cities in New York State: A minimum of 2,000 people from New York State’s Hudson Valley. People packed 10 buses from Syracuse, eight from Rochester, five from Albany, four from Callicoon, six from Westchester, two from Rockland County, two from Warwick, and three buses and a van from Buffalo.

An armada of more than 100 buses convoyed from New York City, including 20 from New York’s 1199/SEIU Health and Hospital Workers Union that brought many African American and Latino workers.

The Chicago Teachers Union brought six buses.

The 15 buses–with no empty seats–that pulled out of Boston’s Roxbury Community College at midnight en route to D.C. were joined on the road by dozens of buses, vans and car caravans from throughout New England.

At least 80 percent of those coming from Boston reported that they were going to their first national protest. The labor bus was filled with workers and union leaders from hotels, school bus yards, government and university offices, the Roxbury Workers Association and electrical workers hot off the picket line at General Electric’s Lynn, Mass., plant.

Latino youth, fresh from marching against a racist attack on bilingual education, helped organize another bus.

Three buses from Manchester, N.H., were packed with AIDS educators and civil rights veterans, Palestinian leaders, union organizers, lesbian, gay, bi and trans community activists, environmentalists and others. Trans youth led a bus; leaders of the local Women’s Fightback Network captained another.

One woman carried a sign on a pole that read simply: Mississippi.

Caravans of cars and buses clogged the highways and byways of D.C.; the bus station, Metro stops and cavernous Union train station were teeming with thousands of people wearing anti-war buttons and carrying hand-made signs. Any large stream of people in D.C. that day led to the National Mall.

Many people brought with them the sentiments of those who could not make the long journey. A woman from Fargo, N.D., carried a placard with the signatures of all her family and friends, neighbors and townspeople, who were against the war. Next to their names they’d written what they do for a living: nurse, librarian, teacher, auto mechanic.

One man carried a sign with 150 signatures. He said, “These are all the people against the war that I know who couldn’t come. And I got them all in 24 hours.” Representatives of the Brooklyn-based Bedford-Stuyvesant Coalition for Peace were there.

Equally impressive rallies

This sea of progressive humanity–from anti-imperialists to those cautious about the wisdom of this war–had answered a call issued last fall by the International ANSWER coalition, Act Now to Stop War & End Racism.

A sister protest of 200,000 was taking place simultaneously in San Francisco. There were also local protests. In all, including 38 countries around the world, millions marched to protest Bush and his generals’ drive towards war against Iraq.

Speakers from organizations that make up the ANSWER leadership addressed the rally. They are Partnership for Civil Justice, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, the Free Palestine Alliance-U.S., Nicaragua Network, Bayan-USA/International, Korea Truth Commission, International Action Center, Muslim Student Association of the U.S./Canada, Kensington Welfare Rights Union, Mexico Solidarity Network and the Middle East Children’s Alliance.

ANSWER brought together an impressive array of speakers at two rallies–one that began at 11 a.m. in the sprawling National Mall, and a concluding rally at the Washington Shipyard. The early rally was seen by millions in the United States and around the world on C-Span broadcasts.

Moonanum James, co-chair of United American Indians of New England and a Vietnam-era veteran, opened the rally by connecting the U.S. government’s ongoing racist war against Native peoples with their preparations for a racist war against Iraq.

Actors Jessica Lange and Tyne Daly addressed the crowd. So did political figures, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton; former-U.S. Congressperson Cynthia McKinney and Rep. John Conyers. The Rev. Lucius Walker read an anti-war statement from Rep. Charles Rangel.

Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark got a rousing cheer when he called on those listening to “impeach Bush.” Blase Bonpane, from the Office of the Americas, traveled from Los Angeles to bring greetings.

International representation included Ashraf El-Bayoumi from the Cairo Conference against U.S. Aggression on Iraq and Jeremy Corbyn from the Stop the War Coalition and a member of the British Parliament. They linked the Jan. 18 mass turnout with the call for worldwide demonstrations on Feb. 15. Abe Tomoko spoke as a representative of the Lower House of the Japanese Parliament.

Struggles around the world against U.S. domination were articulated by Teresa Gutierrez and Sara Flounders from the IAC; Hector Castro, director of education, Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, Colombia; Francisco Rivera, Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques; Marie Hilao Enriquez from BAYAN, a mass organization in the Philippines; and Yoomi Jeong from the Korea Truth Commission.

At a time when the Bush administration is carrying out mass roundups and demonization of Arab, Muslim and South Asian people in the United States, the ANSWER rally demonstrated solidarity in deed and in word. Speakers included Mahdi Bray, Muslim American Society; Ismael Kamal, Muslim Student Association; Ihab Darwish, Free Palestine Alliance; Ghazi Khan Kan, Council on American Islamic Relations; Imam Mousa, Masjid Al-Islam; and Dr. Mansoon Khan from Peace TV.

The Revs. Herbert Daughtry, national pastor of House of the Lord Church; Graylan Haglar, pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, and Jesuit priest John Dear addressed the audience.

Anti-war speakers included Charley Richardson and Nancy Lessen from Military Families Speak Out and Liz McAlister, partner and widow of the late peace activist Phil Berrigan. “No blood for oil!” demanded disabled Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, author of “Born on the Fourth of July.”

Speaking out for labor against the war: Brenda Stokely, president of AFSCME 1707 and Local 215 as well as a co-convener of New York City Labor Against the War; Fred Mason, president of statewide Maryland and D.C. AFL-CIO; Michael Letwin from U.S. Labor Against War and Dr. Nadia Marsh from Doctors and Nurses Against the War.

ANSWER speakers included Youth and Student Coordinator Peta Lindsay, Elias Rashmawi from the Free Palestine Alliance. Jennifer Wager from IFCO/Pastors for Peace, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard from PCJ and Larry Holmes and Brian Becker, both from the International Action Center.

Speakers representing other anti-war coalitions included Bill Fletcher, co-chair of United for Peace and Justice; Damu Smith from Black Voices for Peace; Medea Benjamin from Global Exchange, and Miles Solay from Not In Our Name.

Speakers reminded the crowd about the war on the domestic front to free political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Jamil Al-Amin, and the Cuban Five. Jesse Heiwa, from Queers for Peace and Justice, New York, pointed to the growing coalition of lesbian, gay, bi and trans organizations against the war. Brooklyn-based activists Viola Plummer from the December 12th Movement and City Councilman Charles Barron raised the need for anti-racist solidarity, including fighting for reparations.

British pop group Chumbawamba, singer Patti Smith and D.C. cultural artists Pam Parker and Lucy Murphy performed.

The first marchers stepped off close to 1 p.m. Accompanied by drumming, chanting and singing, they brought their message “No blood for oil!” to workers and passersby along a two-mile route to the military shipyard.

An hour later, when the head of the march reached the Navy Yard, tens of thousands had not yet left the rally site. The second rally took place from atop a truck because the D.C. police reneged on sound and stage permits. Brian Becker concluded that the powerful protest with its huge turnout was due to “a growing disenchantment with the Bush administration and an urgent situation, because Jan. 27 could be a deadline for war.”

To Build Labor Contingent for NYC Feb. 15

To Build Labor Contingent for NYC Feb. 15
January 29, 2003

Unions representing more than 4 million U.S. workers have already adopted antiwar resolutions, and support for the February 15 antiwar march is growing by leaps and bounds.

To help build the rapidly growing NYC Feb. 15 labor contingent, you can:

1. Copy and forward the following labor contingent flyer, which is a variation on the main rally leaflet (this can also be downloaded from http://www.unitedforpeace ).

2. Get your union to endorse and mobilize for the February 15 march, and to join USLAW (whose founding statement is posted at: ).

3. Immediately notify us of your union’s endorsement, so that the leaflet can be promptly updated.

4. Arrange for a NYCLAW representative to attend your upcoming meetings of your union.

5. Attend the next NYCLAW meeting, Monday, February 3, 6:30 p.m., at AFSCME DC 37, 75 Varick St. (@ Canal).

Thank you!

Michael Letwin
NYCLAW Co-Convener
Feb. 15 NYC Labor Outreach Coordinator

Half a million tell Bush… No to war! (Socialist Worker)

Half a million tell Bush… No to war!

January 24, 2003 | Page 1

HALF A million people across the U.S. sent George W. Bush an unmistakable message on January 18. We don’t want your war on Iraq. And we’re ready to take a stand to stop you.

Even the corporate media had to take time out from its frenzied speculation about the United Nations (UN) weapons inspectors’ discovery of empty warheads in Iraq to report on the outpouring of opposition.

Some newspapers and TV reports downplayed the size of the protests with vague descriptions of “tens of thousands” of demonstrators. But no one who made the trip to Washington, D.C., or San Francisco is buying that.

Despite bitter-cold temperatures that dampened the turnout, at least 250,000 marched in Washington, jamming the streets for every block of the two-and-a-half-mile march route. In San Francisco, protesters filled Market Street from curb to curb for as far as the eye could see. Estimates of the crowd ranged as high as 200,000. In other cities across the country, thousands more turned out–as many as 20,000 in Portland, Ore., more than 1,000 each in Los Angeles and San Diego and hundreds in Houston.

The D.C. and San Francisco demonstrations were far larger than those that took place in October, and they brought out people from every corner of society, too–both new activists and veteran antiwar protesters, unionists and students, church groups and community organizations.

The size of the protests is a reflection of growing doubts about the war. A new Time-CNN poll showed Bush’s popularity dipping to the lowest level since before September 11. And according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, only 46 percent of Americans want a war with Iraq, even if UN inspectors find the government hiding “the ability to easily make weapons.”

In the weeks before January 18, march organizers and the antiwar movement were criticized–even by some claiming to be against the war–as “too radical” and “out of touch.” But it turns out that the critics are the ones who are “out of touch.”

“This war has touched a nerve,” Zack Robinson, who traveled from North Carolina with a group of 150 protesters, told Socialist Worker. “We have a Gulf War veteran who came out in our bus, we have union delegates, we have people from the civil rights movement, people from the Unitarian church, Quakers–it’s a slice of America. I don’t see anybody supporting this war except the big media and the Bush administration.”

From the signs, chants and speakers at the demonstrations, it was clear that large numbers of people have come to the same conclusion about one of the main motives for Bush’s war drive. In a word, oil. “This one is just so outlandishly blatant that it’s for oil,” said Ola Odell, who traveled from Bethel, Vt., with the group Vermonters for Peace.

And many protesters have drawn another conclusion–that the cost of this war will be paid for by ordinary people. “We just feel so strongly that the education budget is going to get cut a lot for this war,” said Mike Barringer, a student at the University of Michigan.

Students from across the country were on hand to get that message across. A day before the protests, representatives from more than 80 campus antiwar groups came together at East and West Coast student conferences to form a national student antiwar network.

But the protests also showed that the antiwar movement is reaching far beyond the traditional base of campus activism. As Luis Gonzalez, a retired member Service Employees International Union 1199, told Socialist Worker: “It’s not fair. The big guys up there, they’re not fighting the war. They send other people–poor people–to war. Unions are getting hurt. They’re laying off, laying off, laying off–and they’re thinking about going to war now? They don’t care about us. They care about oil, not us.”

The labor turnout was significant in both Washington and San Francisco. The 1199 union in New York sent more than 25 buses to Washington, and 2,000 union members marched behind the banner of “Labor Against the War.”

“Weapons of mass destruction are really weapons of mass distraction,” Michael Letwin, co-convenor of New York City Labor Against War, said from the stage in D.C. “They’re a distraction from oil. They’re a distraction from the disastrous economy at home. And they’re a distraction from the fact that it’s working people and poor people who will pay for this war.”

The demonstrations on January 18 were a tremendous success–and will certainly inspire more people to take a stand. In the coming weeks, we have the opportunity to take our antiwar message even wider–and show the Bush gang that they have a fight on their hands.

The Issues (Black Commentator)

January 23, 2003

The A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition is serious about creating a genuinely multi-racial movement against the pirates who control the U.S. government. Of the 30 or so speakers that addressed hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters in Washington, January 18, at least 17 were African Americans. Native-born whites were a distinct minority on the microphone, also sharing the historic moment with an international cast of activists from Latin America, Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

A.N.S.W.E.R. is the acronym for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. Folks with experience in coalition building understand that nothing, nothing is more politically sensitive than compiling a speakers list for a tightly scheduled event. It is the public face of the movement – or the movement that is envisioned – an irreducible statement. A.N.S.W.E.R. stated plainly, for all the world to see, that anti-racism is a core principle of the movement they seek to build.

The crowd, which organizers numbered at 200,000 by noon, before many contingents had even arrived, was predominantly white, although otherwise quite varied by age, region and lifestyle. We at have no problem with the preponderance of white marchers. After all, there are a lot more of them. Blacks ushered in the modern era of Washington mega-demonstrations in 1963 and held the nation’s capitol as if we owned it in the 1995 Million Man March. African Americans are the most consistently anti-war demographic, by far. African American representatives comprise the core of the Peace Party in the U.S. Congress. Ten thousand Colin Powells could not alter the anti-war character of Black America.

What is most important – and what the anti-war movement of a previous generation failed to fully understand – is that white people who seek to build a movement must be prepared to accept leadership from the ranks of those who have always been in motion. There can be no hint of privilege in the struggle against Power.

The Black contingent – a majority on the speakers platform – was, itself, a coalition, comprised of politicians, religious leaders, union activists, students, scholars – veterans of a thousand marches against a multitude of grievances, a non-sectarian reflection of Black America as a whole.

George Bush was elsewhere, shielded from the bitter cold, but his ears must have burned red. “You can’t rob us of health care, by spending billions of dollars on this dumb war in Iraq,” declared Mahdi Bray, of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.

“We must fight the terrorism of lack of economic development in our communities,” said Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron.

Everywhere, placards like “Money for Jobs, Not War” proclaimed the class issue. So did 18 year old A.N.S.W.E.R. Youth and Student Coordinator and Howard University freshman Peta Lindsay: “We are not the executives of Exxon and Mobile, and this war is not in our interests.”

Black labor grapples with issues of race and class, daily. “Workers and working people want jobs, but we want jobs in an economy that is built on peace, not war,” said Fred Mason, AFL-CIO statewide president for Maryland and Washington, DC.

New York City Labor Against War co-convener Brenda Stokely sees the connections, clearly. “Our fight for justice in the workplace has to be part of our fight for justice in the world.”

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, displaced from her seat by a Hard Right cash juggernaut last summer, denounced the Bush family war on domestic democracy. “We won’t forget that your brother trampled on the voting rights of the poor and people of color” in Florida, said McKinney. “Dr. King warned us that we have guided missiles and misguided men.”

King was omnipresent, universally invoked. Rev. Jesse Jackson recalled a meeting on the civil rights leader’s last birthday, January 15, 1968. At the top of the day’s agenda were two items: civil rights enforcement and an end to the war in Vietnam. “Today we have come full circle,” said Rev. Jackson. “We’re not fighting about security. We’re fighting about hegemony and oil and defense contracts.”

Bill Fletcher, the scholarly president of TransAfrica Forum, senses madness in the air. “We stand on the edge of a precipice of catastrophe, and if it were not so serious it could be a skit on Saturday Night Live,” said Fletcher, also co-chair of United for Peace. Bush is enflaming the world. “What will he do when the hordes of the dispossessed are at the gates of the United States?”

Presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton scoped the game in Bush’s plan. “Are we talking about weapons of mass destruction, or a political game of mass distraction?” Deficits rising, child care disappearing. “You can’t fight in our name. We will stand up, we will not back down, we will fight the fight.”

Detroit’s John Conyers, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, was the sole U.S. representative on-site. “You are the truest patriots in this country, here today,” Conyers told the crowd, by now at least half as large as the population of a congressional district. “Only American citizens can stop this war, now. There is still time, brothers and sisters, but not much.”

Pam Parker and Lucy Murphy, introduced as “cultural workers,” sang their own composition, “Mothers Day,” with the moving refrain

You take our money You think I don’t see You use it to fire On women like me

Other African American speakers included: Larry Holmes, International Action Center; Rev. Graylan Hagler, Plymouth Congregational Church, United for Peace; Rev. Herbert Daughtry, House of the Lord, Brooklyn; Viola Plummer, December 12 Movement; Damu Smith, Black Voices for Peace; Imam Mousa, Masjid Al-Islam; and the Reverend Lucius Walker, who read an anti-war statement from Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY).

Organizers put the crowd at half a million. DC police say they no longer do estimates.

Barbara, Barbara!

San Francisco A.N.S.W.E.R. headcounters claim 200,000 took to the streets on Saturday – most of whom seemed to know the local Black Congresswoman by name. “Barbara, Barbara,” chanted the crowd as Rep. Barbara Lee took the microphone. “The silent minority has become the vocal majority because of you,” said Lee, the only member of the House to vote against giving Bush sweeping anti-terrorism powers in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001. “It’s not too late for the administration to heed our call. It takes leadership to resolve conflicts peacefully. It does not take leadership to drop bombs.”

Chicago landslide for peace

By a vote of 46 to one, the Chicago City Council last week went on record against a unilateral strike on Iraq. Alderman Joseph Moore, chief sponsor of the “Resolution Opposing Pre-emptive U.S. Military Strikes on Iraq,” said foreign adventure is a domestic concern. “The cost of the war will dry up federal funding for domestic programs for a war that has yet to be justified,” Moore argued.

The resolution reads:

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the members of the City Council of the City of Chicago, oppose a pre-emptive U.S. military attack on Iraq unless it is demonstrated that Iraq poses a real and imminent threat to the security and safety of the United States; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support a return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, enhanced by sufficient police support to guarantee unfettered access to all targeted sites; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the U.S. to work through the U.N. Security Council and reaffirm our nation’s commitment to the rule of law in all international relationships; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Illinois congressional delegation and the President of the United States.

World applauds Illinois Governor

George Ryan’s last major act as Governor of Illinois was to spare the lives of 167 death row inmates, earning him the eternal enmity of much of the American public and most of his own, Republican Party. Whatever popularity the former pharmacist lost in the U.S., he has more than recouped abroad, according to the January 18 Washington Post. Ryan has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (by international lawyer Peter Boyle), glowingly editorialized in newspapers across Europe (whose 44 nations have abolished capital punishment), and received phone calls from a current and former head of state.

Mexico’s Vicente Fox was grateful that three of his nationals were among those spared by Ryan’s commutation. More than 50 Mexicans citizens await execution in the U.S. This month, Mexico asked the International Court of Justice at The Hague to intervene, charging that the men were denied their right to consult with the Mexican embassy.

Nelson Mandela phoned Ryan with congratulations. The former South African President was condemned to death by the apartheid regime in 1961 for his role in the armed wing of the African National Congress. The sentence was later changed to life in prison.

Said Amnesty International: “The U.S.A. is on the wrong side of history on this fundamental human rights issue. Governor Ryan has shown that change is possible and that principled human rights leadership is crucial.”

Bush’s Confederate heart

When Woodrow Wilson walked into the White House in 1913, he brought segregation with him, establishing separation of the races throughout Washington’s federal bureaucracy. Although often described as a liberal because of his support for the League of Nations, Wilson was a hard-core Dixiecrat. Born in Staunton, Virginia, in 1856, Wilson viewed African Americans as an “ignorant and inferior race.” (See “Bush’s Ugly America,” in this issue.) During Wilson’s two terms, the Klan thrived, North and South, with membership in the millions by the time of Wilson’s death in 1924.

Wilson began a White House tradition of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington Cemetery each Memorial Day, in honor of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. President George Herbert Bush called a halt to the practice in 1990.

Time Magazine reports in this week’s issue that the White House is once again paying homage to the Slave Nation President, payback to Sons of Confederate Veterans official Richard T. Hines, of South Carolina. Hines financed a mass mailing on Bush’s behalf during the 2000 Republican primary, railing against Bush opponent John McCain’s failure to support the fight to keep the Confederate Flag flying atop the state capitol in Columbia. Bush won the primary, and the wreaths began arriving again the Memorial Day after he took office.

Affirmative action, anyone?

Labor at Jan. 18 DC Demo

Momentum generated by establishment of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) on January 11 was reflected at January 18’s national antiwar protest in DC, the size of which organizers put at half a million people.

Labor speakers at the rally were:

**Jeremy Corbyn (Member of Parliament; UK Stop the War Coalition and Labor Against the War)

**Michael Letwin (NYCLAW Co-Convener; USLAW Continuations Committee; Former President, UAW Local 2325/Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys)

**Fred Mason (President, Maryland-DC AFL-CIO)

**Brenda Stokely (President, AFSCME DC 1707; NYCLAW Co-Convener)

Their speeches, along with the entire rally, are available at: (RealPlayer audio at 42:50 min.)

A spirited USLAW contingent of one thousand or more trade unionists–by far the largest of its kind since 9/11–near the front of the march was led by hundreds of leaders and rank-and-file members of New York City’s SEIU1199, and included trade unionists from many cities.

Labor’s participation at the DC protest is mentioned at:

< >
< >
< >
<\ ce701f583b0ad >

Signs of Peace in DC (AlterNet)

Signs of Peace in DC
By Traci Hukill, AlterNet
Posted on January 20, 2003

The signs were good. Really good. Almost good enough, in some cases, to make you forget about the bitter, 24-degree cold that turned feet and hands into aching blocks of ice and froze the ink in pens.

The signs were folded and wedged between people on the bulging Metro trains that carried protesters from the suburbs into Washington, DC all morning. They popped up by the score from the swirling sea of humanity that filled the Mall four city blocks, from the Reflecting Pool in front of the Capitol halfway to the Washington Monument. They floated over the mile-long column that flowed down Pennsylvania Avenue, turned right on 8th and right again at Virginia to the Navy Yard.

And they were funny. They ranged from the Onionesque (“Drunk Frat Boy Drives Country Into Ditch, Starts War to Cover Up”) to the slyly blasphemous (“Who Would Jesus Bomb?”) to the exasperated (“Who Elected This Fucker?”).

Another played the pop culture angle: “Frodo Failed! Bush Has The Ring!” Among the standard-issue “No Blood for Oil” signs were placards revealing the reach of this movement to stop a military juggernaut before it reaches Iraq (“Montanans for Peace,” “Vermonters for Peace”). A host of them reflected the unofficial social justice theme of this event (“Drop Tuition, Not Bombs,” “Liberate Health Care, Not Iraq”).

And it wasn’t just signs. Half the protesters, it seemed, had camcorders trained on some riveting thing at all times — a ghoulish Nixon tossing a bloody globe, or oversized Bush and Cheney masks on two slouching gray-suited hippies.But even distracted by witty slogans and pressed in on all sides by the mass body heat of the throng as one speaker after another took to the PA system, it was impossible to forget the cold.

Which might have been why the question heard most often in the crowd was, “Do they have a count yet?” When you?re suffering, you at least want to know you?re making a difference.

No one knows for sure how many protesters were there; the National Park Service, which used to count crowds on the Mall, got out of that business after its estimate put the Million Man March at more like 400,000, prompting Louis Farrakhan to threaten a lawsuit. Nevertheless, at 11:45 a.m. a rally organizer exulted into the microphone that half the buses still had not arrived. (The buses were legion; according to one union member, New York’s SEIU local 1199 alone was planning on bringing 27 buses.)

By noon organizers were estimating 200,000, based on guesses that the October march here drew 100,000 and that this one was twice as big. Tony Murphy, a spokesman for ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), said he’d heard someone estimate a half million — “and no one was contradicting them.”

More than 40 scheduled speakers took turns at the microphone. “It’s not about peace, democracy and justice,” declared former Labour Party MP Tony Benn. “It’s about oil, and it will benefit the arms manufacturers who have benefited from so much misery for so long.”

“We are here,” said actress Jessica Lange, “making sure that our legacy to the next generation is not shame and greed and bloodshed.”

“The war makes no sense,” intoned Michigan Congressman John Conyers. “Its costs would be horrendous in lost lives, in an inflamed Middle East, in increased terrorism in our cities, in billions of dollars desperately needed here at home.”

In keeping with the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday, it didn’t take long for a strong social justice message to emerge from the podium. Rev. Jesse Jackson exhorted the crowd to “choose minds over missiles and negotiation over confrontation.” Michael Letwin of NYC Labor Against the War started his speech by invoking the 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial at the other end of the Mall, most of whom were working class young men. “Today the chicken hawks who didn’t go to that war because they were wealthy enough to get out of it want to send us to war again!” he blared into the mic to spontaneous cheers.

“The poor and the homeless people are in need of some homeland security here in our own country,” hollered Cheri Honkala of Pennsylvania’s Kensington Welfare Rights Organization as the crowd erupted into applause.

“One-point-five million New Yorkers have to go to the food pantry for food to feed their families,” said the International Action Center’s Brian Becker. “We want the 200 billion dollars that’s designed for war!”

About the time Patti Smith came on and started playing “People Have the Power,” the crowd was starting to break up and head down Pennsylvania, where U.S. Capitol Police on parked motorcycles lined the route in some places and guys in S.W.A.T. gear stood stationed every so often to keep the marchers on the street.

For the most part, though, the police stayed out of the way. Only once was there real tension between cops and protesters, and that was on a stretch of 8th Street, close to the Navy Yard. A group of counter-protesters was enjoying a spacious and protected segment of sidewalk behind yellow tape and a line of cops, from where they shouted at protesters to “Get a job” and “Go home, hippie,” etc. The cops started herding the marchers much more aggressively at that point; the lights came on, the sirens wailed, and people started getting very nervous.

Ultimately nothing came of it. The column turned down Virginia and continued to some vaguely defined place, and at that point things more or less broke apart. ANSWER had been denied a permit for a PA system, a last-minute glitch that effectively dismantled the plan to conduct a symbolic People’s Inspection for weapons at the Navy Yard. With no loudspeaker to rally around, people more or less milled about for a while, then just drifted away to find their buses or to stand in block-long lines to get on the Metro. By then it was well after 4pm, and many of the protesters had been out in the sub-freezing weather for five or six hours.

And that’s how it ended. A few streets away the buses idled, jammed two and three abreast on the streets in a hopeless gridlock, while protesters stood in groups and tried to figure out where their own buses were. The fumes from the diesel engines were suffocatingly thick. And the “No Blood for Oil” signs paraded up the steps of the buses and rested against the windows, ready to go home.

Traci Rae Hukill is a freelance writer in Washington, DC.

Global Protests Against Iraq War (Tribune India)

Global  protests against Iraq war
Washington, January 19 [2003]

Thousands of people from all walks of life rallied here against preparations for war against Iraq.

The police said 30,000 protesters, part of a much larger crowd that packed the east end of the National Mall and spilled onto the Capitol grounds, marched through the streets.

“We stand here today, a new generation of anti-war activists,” Peta Lindsay from International Answer, the main organisers of the protest, told marchers shivering in biting cold. “This is just the beginning. We will stop this war.”

The Bush Administration appears to think that if it is a short war with not many casualties, the protests will die down. If the war lasts long and there are too many soldiers arriving in body bags, the mood will change.

Polls show that though 62 per cent of Americans are for war, the number reduced to 42 per cent if the USA goes to war without the sanction of the United Nations.

The White House did not seem to be worried about the demonstrations. “Protests are a time-honoured American tradition,” White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo said while press secretary Ari Fleicher said the protesters did not represent the majority of the Americans.

“We don’t want this war and we don’t want a government that wants this war,” anti-war activist Brenda Stokely said.

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said: “We march today to fight militarism and racism, sexism and anti-semitism and Arab-bashing.”

Those who supported plans for war, said the protesters did not understand the threat of Saddam Hussein. “It is a war of liberation for people,” they claimed.

LONDON: In the biggest day of protests the world has seen so far against a possible US-led war on Iraq, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across the globe took to the streets.

There were a series of anti-war demonstration yesterday in the UK, including a two-hour protest outside the permanent Joint Headquarters of the British Armed Forces in north London. There were anti-war rallies or vigils in Bradford, Bristol, Hereford, Liverpool and Glasgow.

There were similar demonstrations across France and Germany, Russia, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, Pakistan and in the Middle East. One of the largest was in the Syrian capital, Damascus. PTI Top