[sixties-l] Antiwar Protest Largest Since 60s (fwd)

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Date: Mon Oct 28 2002 - 13:58:40 EST

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    Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 10:18:54 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Antiwar Protest Largest Since 60s

    Antiwar Protest Largest Since '60s


    Organizers Say 100,000 Turned Out

    By Monte Reel and Manny Fernandez
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Sunday, October 27, 2002; Page C01

    Tens of thousands of people marched in peaceful protest of any military
    strike against Iraq yesterday afternoon, in an antiwar demonstration that
    organizers and police suggested was likely
    Washington's largest since the Vietnam era.
    Organizers with International ANSWER, a coalition of antiwar groups that
    coordinated the
    demonstration, had hoped for a turnout rivaling that of its pro-Palestinian
    rally in April that
    officials estimated at about 75,000.
    Organizers said they easily eclipsed that figure yesterday, assessing
    attendance at well more than 100,000. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey
    also said he figured yesterday's rally turnout exceeded that in April, but
    he didn't provide a specific number.
    "We think this was just extremely, extremely successful," said Mara
    Verheyden-Hilliard, a D.C.
    organizer with International ANSWER, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.
    "It absolutely
    shows that when George Bush says America speaks with one voice, and it's
    his voice, he's wrong."
    After a rally that lasted more than three hours at Constitution Gardens,
    near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the march began at 21st Street
    and Constitution Avenue. Using 17th, H, 15th and E streets NW,
    protesters circled the White House and returned to their starting point.
    Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds filled the streets for several blocks. When
    marchers at the front of the procession returned to Constitution Avenue on
    their way back, they had to wait to allow demonstrators at the tail of the
    march to pass.
    Demonstrations in other cities, including Rome, Berlin, Copenhagen,
    Denmark, Tokyo and Mexico City, were held to coincide with the
    Washington march, and in San Francisco, thousands marched through
    Protesters arrived by the busload, by car and by Metro early yesterday
    morning, some carrying signs and later joining in chants that echoed a
    common theme: A war against Iraq would be unjustified, and there is no
    consensus for it.
    "Nebraskans for Peace" and "Hoosiers for Non-Violence" chanted alongside
    silver-coiffed retirees from Chicago and a Muslim student association from
    Michigan. Parents could be seen enjoying a sunny, picnic-perfect afternoon
    by pushing a stroller with one hand and carrying a "No War for Oil" sign with
    the other. Police on horseback monitored nearby.
    The tone of the rally was far different from the District's last major protest
    the September demonstrations during the annual meetings of the International
    Monetary Fund and the World Bank. During those events, anti-globalization
    protesters had intended to paralyze the city with disruptive throngs, but
    numbers were much smaller than expected, and they were dominated by a
    massive police presence. More than 600 people were arrested during the
    IMF and World Bank protests; yesterday, police reported three arrests.
    Several groups, including the Anti-Capitalist Convergence that organized one
    of September's protests, mounted an independent march that fed into
    yesterday's rally and said everyone had agreed upon a non-confrontational
    goal from the outset.
    "I don't think police want problems, and I don't think we want problems
    either," said Pat Elder, 47, a Bethesda antiwar activist who participated
    in the
    unpermitted feeder march.
    The morning began under hazy skies on the wet grass at Constitution
    Gardens, as thick mud sucked at the heels of the arriving demonstrators and
    the nearby Washington Monument appeared truncated by fog. But by noon
    the skies cleared and most of the lawn was shoulder-to-shoulder with people
    listening to Jesse Jackson, actress Susan Sarandon, singer Patti Smith and
    former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, among other speakers.
    Several speakers referred to Vietnam era protests, and organizers were eager
    to compare the current movement with the one that peaked with a rally of
    between 250,000 and 500,000 people in Washington in 1969. The last
    large-scale peace protest in Washington was in 1991, when about 75,000
    demonstrated during the height of the Persian Gulf War.
    Unlike those protests, yesterday's rally was different in that it preceded
    and many interpreted that as an indication of a potentially powerful movement.
    "During the Vietnam War, no demonstration of comparable size took place
    until 1967, three years after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution [that gave
    Lyndon B. Johnson congressional authority to expand the war in Vietnam],"
    said Brian Becker, co-director of the International Action Center, one of the
    groups that make up International ANSWER.
    But if the passions of the Vietnam era led to protests that often trembled on
    the edge between control and chaos, yesterday's event suggested that this
    movement is burning at a lower flame.
    "Here I'm not being spit on, people aren't throwing tomatoes at me and Joan
    Baez isn't singing," said protest veteran Dot Magargal, 77, from Media, Pa.
    "People just want to come out and say that not everyone wants to go to war.
    This is a lot of people, a lot of voters, and it has to count for something."
    For those looking for symbols often associated with left-wing demonstrations
    -- Grateful Dead T-shirts, dreadlocks, anti-corporate slogans, Socialist
    newslettersplenty could be found. But it wasn't necessary to comb through
    the fringe to find people who didn't fit the mold. Many said they were
    first-time protesters who had never attended a rally. Some said they were
    against all war, no matter the circumstances, and others said they were simply
    against the possibility of an Iraq invasion.
    "I've never in my life done anything like this before," said Marie Johnson,
    of Columbia. "What I wanted to do was say that even though Bush puts forth
    that everyone supports going to war against Iraq, some of us don't. I just
    thought it was important for me to do something to show how I felt."
    Peggy McGrath, 59, said she hoped that Bush would look out of the
    windows of the White House to see that thousands disagreed with him. She
    said she remained optimistic that he might change his mind, especially if
    enough people voiced opposition.
    "I think there's actually been a shift already in Bush's rhetoric in the
    last two
    weeks," said McGrath, who was on one in a caravan of eight buses from
    Chicago. "The hope is that maybe he'll see this, and maybe it can be stopped
    before it's started."
    Bush, however, wasn't at the White House. He and first lady Laura Bush flew
    yesterday from their Texas ranch to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where the
    president was attending the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
    Among other things, Bush was seeking to rally fellow leaders behind his Iraq
    The president had some support at the rally from a group of about 100
    counter-protesters who gathered at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue.
    Along with activists from the national group Free Republic, a group of Iraqi
    exiles chanted slogans against Saddam Hussein. In one of the few points of
    tension during the day, police stepped into a scuffle between peace activists
    and counter-protesters and led away two of the former.
    One who joined the counter-protesters, Imam Husham Al-Husainy, explained
    that he came to Washington from the Detroit area with about 40 Iraqis to
    present the view of people who had suffered under Hussein.
    "Most of these people across the street, they don't know the reality in Iraq,"
    Al-Husainy said.
    Although the main protest message was focused on opposing war in Iraq, a
    few other causes slipped into the mix. Many of the same people who marched
    for Palestinian rights in April joined yesterday's march, waving Palestinian
    flags. But like others who had become activists for other causes, they said
    opposing the war was what brought them out yesterday.
    "I don't come here to carry signs for fun," said Ribhi Ramadan, 36, who
    brought his family of seven from Paterson, N.J., to the protest. "I support
    just Palestine, but everywhere that's threatened by war."
    Luigi Procopio, 45, a social worker from the district, wore a pink triangle
    "$ FOR AIDS NOT WAR" written on it. He said even though he normally
    focuses his activism on issues in the gay community, he and at least a dozen
    friends came to protest the war in Iraq.
    "It's time, man. . . . It feels imminent," he said. "Congress has just
    rolled over."
    Some protesters said they had been worried about attendance before they
    arrived at the rally. Larina Brown, 22, a student from the University of
    Minnesota-Morris, said she had feared that she and the 30 friends she
    traveled with would be greeted by scant crowds.
    "It's a relief, really," Brown said. "I really wanted this to be a big
    statement, to
    show it's not just radical, anti-American people who go to these things."
    Most of those who arrived in the morning on buses climbed back aboard
    shortly after the rally ended. By 5:45 p.m., the streets were almost deserted,
    and protesters had put down their signs and were sitting on park benches
    Mark Zheng, 33, of Amherst, Mass., stopped to take a photo of two friends
    in front of a fountain in Lafayette Square. Zheng, from China, had been at the
    Tiananmen Square protests. He said he was impressed by the orderliness of
    the march.
    "I think maybe people have different thoughts on things, but one thing is
    he said. "Peace."
    Staff writers David A. Fahrenthold, Ylan Q. Mui and Mary Beth
    Sheridan, staff researcher Madonna Lebling, special correspondent Liz
    Garone in San Francisco and wire services contributed to this report.

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