[sixties-l] Protestors Overflow NYCs Central Park (fwd)

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Date: Wed Oct 16 2002 - 04:17:31 EDT

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    Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2002 22:09:01 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Protestors Overflow NYCs Central Park

    Protestors Overflow NYC's Central Park


    On Sunday in New York City, 15,000 determined demonstrators said no to war
    with Iraq.

    By Stewart Nusbaumer
    Oct. 7, 2002

    It was a bright, warm autumn day, and approximately 15,000 protestors
    gathered last Sunday in New York City's Central Park to demonstrate against
    a possible war with Iraq. The mood remained
    relaxed, even pleasant, but also determined.
    "This can't be," insisted Bob Borden from Brooklyn. "This clown [Bush] has
    no idea what is in store for him if he insists on pursuing this war. We're
    not going to let this happen!"
    The large crowd was mostly young, in their 20s, numerous university
    contingents were present, and 30s, with a sizable number, approximately a
    third, middle-aged. There
    was certainly the feel of an anti-Vietnam War demonstration. The number of
    in New York on Sunday, however, dwarfed any anti-war protest in the early
    1960s; that
    is, before large numbers of U.S. ground troops were deployed to and died in
    More than the feel of a Vietnam anti-war protest, the history of that
    movement was
    present in Central Park. The American protest during that earlier war in
    Southeast Asia is
    now being drawn upon by leaders and participants to stop a war in Southwest
    Asia before
    it begins in earnest.
    The New York City "Not In My Name" rally was only one (although the
    largest) of thirty
    that occurred over the weekend throughout the nation, including in Alaska and
    Washington state and Colorado and Massachusetts, in small towns and in
    cities. In
    Portland, Oregon, an estimated 10,000 people rallied in the city's
    downtown, chanting
    "No more war, no more war." In Texas, nearly 500 at the state capital in
    preferred the chant "No more blood for oil." In San Francisco, several
    demonstrators jammed into Union Square and beat drums for peace. In
    New Hampshire, almost a hundred protestors screamed antiwar slogans outside as
    President Bush gave a speech in support of Senate candidate John Sununu.
    Although the setting at East Meadow in the northeast corner of Central Park
    is only
    minutes from Harlem, there were few Blacks at the New York rally, and fewer
    Still, the overall turnout was huge, beyond people's expectations,
    overflowing the
    natural bowl of the East Meadow and forcing protestors back into the park
    and even onto
    Fifth Avenue, which slowed vehicular traffic to a crawl.
    "I was afraid only a few hundred other people would show up," said Tom
    Levi, who lives
    near the park. "This is fantastic!"
    Beyond the number of protestors, their mood was also impressive: throughout
    event, people appeared friendly yet serious, concerned with a spirit of
    defiance. No one
    was arrested, not a single disturbance was observed. People simply enjoyed
    the warm
    weather while focused on ending a major war before it has even begun.
    At the bottom of the slight slope that formed a grassy bowl in East Meadow
    was the
    speakers' stage with a large banner: Not In Our Name, the name of the group
    organized the rally. (www.notinourname.net)
    For four hours in the unseasonably warm afternoon weather, a succession of
    (most limited to less than 2 minutes) spoke of a litany of offenses. The
    wife of a World
    Trade Center victim expressed outrage that the U.S. might invade Iraq; an
    Iraqi man
    screamed at the U.S. government for seeking war with Iraq; an
    Afghan-American woman
    criticized the U.S. bombing of Afghan civilians; the wife of a Jordanian
    man deported to
    Jordan cried for the return of her husband; an Irishman gave an articulate
    attack on
    America, his swipe at the media producing the loudest applause; a student
    from Kent
    State implored her generation to resist; a Christian minister talked about
    morality; a Black Muslim, representing a long list of Muslim groups, quoted a
    segment of the Koran for peace and against war.
    With the computer and printer now ubiquitous, it's not surprising there
    were a ton of
    leaflets advocating every cause from free Mumia Abu-Jamal to free Palestine
    and save
    the trees and revolution now! The thousands of protestors, however, brought
    their own
    self-made handheld cardboard signs: Dissent Is Patriotic, and everywhere,
    Not In My
    Name, the theme of the rally. In fact, I had never seen so many signs at a
    demonstration, or so many made by individual hands expressing their slant
    on events.
    "I'm a Vietnam vet," the slightly gray-haired, thin Jim Davidson, wearing a
    fatigue shirt, told me. "This feels like 30 years ago. It's the sameimmoral
    war. They
    have learned nothing, not surprising since Bush evaded the Nam and just
    snorted and
    drank his lazy butt through life. We have to speak up, now, not later,
    right now! Later is
    too late."
    Being New York City, there were several celebrities. When Susan Sarandon was
    announced as the next speaker, the crowd made a gentle surge toward the
    stage, but
    gently. Sarandon pleaded with everyone to call the Congressional
    representatives still
    holding out against supporting a war with Iraq. She was quickly replaced by
    actor Tim
    Robbins, who distinguished between Afghanistan and Iraq, one of the few
    speakers to
    do so, and strongly opposed any war with Iraq. Neither spoke longer than
    the less
    famous speakers, a refreshing display of egalitarianism in this era of
    elite benefits and
    Spaced between the speakers was live music, also kept on a short time
    lease, just a few
    songs and then out. Before the event, however, an Indian-Pakistani group
    the swelling crowd, caressing the anxious edge of any demonstrator. Later
    there would
    be an outraged Black rap group, then Saul Williams with his antiwar songs
    producing an
    enthusiastic response from the crowd. Finally a woman singer. I didn't get
    her name, but
    heard her sweet sound echoing through the trees of Central Park, jolting me
    back to
    August 1969, to the Woodstock Music Festival, when while walking in the
    upstate woods
    the glorious voice of Janis Joplin bounced off the trees.
    "I'm issuing a pink alert!" screamed a speaker who advocated women being more
    aggressive in stopping war. In quick sucession, three women whose sons were
    killed by
    New York policemen said they were against the war. Then a Puerto Rican,
    "I'm a Puerto
    Rican and I'm against the war ^." A Filipina expressed outrage with
    American oppression
    and American military men; a fiery woman from National Public Radio slammed
    mainstream media; a lawyer opposed illegal detentions; a New York State
    Senator tore
    into all timid politicians; a British artist^. And all, of course, were
    opposed to war.
    A sign weaved through the crowd: Wake Up! Democracy Is Over. Rome Needs Oil.
    "And here is Martin Sheen," an Indian accent announced. "It's great to see
    a public
    debate on such a critical issue," Sheen said.
    "What kind of public debate is this?" asked a man either to himself or to
    the child on
    his shoulders as he walked past.
    It's true, this was not a forum for debate, it was the coming together of a
    point of view.
    A sign, held by a middle-aged woman: You Can't Kill An Ideology With Bombs!
    A couple,
    standing close, her sign said Preempt War while his read Preempt Bush. This
    was not a
    gathering to explore the issue but a rally to motivate for action.
    Two hours into the rally, the central event occurred, the public recitation
    of a "Pledge of
    Resistance." (www.notinourname.net) The entire crowd of 25,000 stood and
    eagerly read
    from thousands of green colored brochures: We believe that as people living
    in the United
    States it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our
    government, in our names.
    Not in our name will you wage 'endless war'^.
    "I'm outraged," said Melissa, who came to the city from New Jersey with her
    friends just
    to attend the rally. "Bush does not speak for my generation. Almost
    everyone in my
    high school thinks he only speaks for the oil people, for business. I hope
    we stop this
    As the fast pace of speakers settled into a rhythm and the warming sun
    soaked up the
    demonstrators' energy, people started looking at each other as much as at the
    speakers. And at that sea of endless signs. There were the predictable
    ones: No War
    Against Iraq; No War For Oil; Not In My Name; Not With My Money. All very
    explicit. There
    were the more unique signs: Kill SUVs, Not People; There Is A Terrorist
    Behind Every Bush!;
    The Emperor Has No Brains. And probably my favorite, Take The War Toys Away
     From Junior.
    Appropriately, this sign was held by a sweet looking grandmother.
    "When you have war abroad," Melissa repeated after a speaker, "you have
    at home. That's right, they go together!"
    As the final hour wound down, people began to filter away, walking east
    across Fifth
    Avenue and west into the Park. "Racial, ethnic profiling is a serious
    problem," a woman
    in her early 30s said while heading into the park. "But I'm against the
    laundry list of
    grievances," responded her partner who wore a No War On Iraq T-shirt.
    "Especially when
    they don't show the connection to the war." The chill of the New York
    autumn had
    returned; he slipped on a jacket, across the back it read: Organize Yes We
    Can, The
    AFL-CIO Organizing Institute.
    The rally did include a long list of complaints against the U.S., some
    related to the War
    on Terror, others only to Iraq, some not related to either, such as police
    brutality. But
    this was a rally not to organize, but to inspire. To inspire 15,000
    Americans, empower
    15,000 Americans. The message that war with Iraq would be wrong and is
    came through clearly and strongly, a crucial message today.
    Stewart Nusbaumer is editor of Intervention Magazine.

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