[sixties-l] US marchers take to streets in echo of 60s (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Sun Jan 26 2003 - 17:02:35 EST

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    Date: Tue, 21 Jan 2003 16:23:26 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: US marchers take to streets in echo of 60s

    US marchers take to streets in echo of 60s


    As opposition grows, Bush's ratings slump

    Matthew Engel in Washington
    Monday January 20, 2003
    The Guardian

    The spirit of the 60s returned to the streets of Washington at the weekend
    with a massive protest aimed at stopping the war in Iraq. The rally, the
    centrepiece of a day of worldwide demonstrations, was the most impressive
    show of opposition to President George Bush's policies in the 16 months of
    global crisis.
    Mr Bush was at the presidential country retreat, Camp David, while the
    hordes trampled the National Mall close to the back garden of the White
    House. But the roars of the crowd will have reached him even there, not so
    much because of the numbers of the protesters, but because of a growing
    sense that public opinion in general may be shifting in their direction.
    While the rally was taking place, a new Time-CNN poll was released, showing
    the president's approval rating down to 53%, its lowest in any survey since
    September 11 2001, with barely half supporting his foreign policy and only
    27% believing the economy will improve in the next 12 months.
    Traditionally, national pessimism dethrones presidents.
    On the Mall there was great pessimism about the future of mankind, but the
    optimism about the future of the cause was palpable. After a year of
    chuntering, the president's opponents have begun to find a means of
    expression. With the Democratic party still fearful of directly opposing Mr
    Bush, it is starting on the streets rather than inside the political system.
    In the absence of turnstiles and ticket sales, exact numbers on these
    occasions are notoriously elusive. Police did not quarrel with the
    organisers' estimate of 500,000, though that seemed excessive. Certainly,
    there can hardly have been less than 100,000, especially bearing in mind
    the day's one undeniable statistic: the temperature never rose above -4C
    (25F), and the grass in front of the Capitol where everyone gathered was
    more like tundra. Many local people appeared briefly, heard a couple of the
    three dozen speeches, then retreated to their central heating.
    Some people, however, had come too far to make that an option. Adam
    Dekeyrel travelled down with two busloads of protesters on the 22-hour
    journey from Rochester, Minnesota. He insisted they were the vanguard of
    popular feeling: "There's a lot of people staying at home afraid to say
    anything," he said. "They're not likely to get involved because they don't
    know how to get involved."
    Other coaches came from across the eastern half of the US, with 22 from the
    small state of Vermont alone. There were protests in San Francisco
    (organisers' estimate: 200,000 people; police estimate: 55,000) and in
    smaller cities, most of them as frigid as Washington, across the country.
    There was a small pro-Bush counter-demonstration on the Mall involving
    about three dozen people. There were no clashes - only two arrests were
    reported all day - but the minority did somehow look colder than everyone
    else. They invoked the patriotic dead by standing near the Vietnam war
    memorial, but many soldiers who fought in Vietnam were also there, on the
    other side of the argument.
    "In the history of the US we do not start or initiate conflict," said Mike
    Blankenship of North Carolina, a former marine. "This runs counter to
    everything that's American."
    "We did at least go into Vietnam with the idea that we were fighting for
    liberty, even if it was a bad idea," said Charlie Shobe of Maryland. "This
    one there's no doubt we're going in for oil."
    The No Blood for Oil theme ran through many of the placards held by the
    demonstrators. Others invoked the memory of Martin Luther King, whose
    birthday is celebrated as a public holiday in the US today.
    The anti-war rally was organised by International Answer (Act Now To Stop
    War and End Racism), whose leading light is Ramsey Clark, himself on the
    far side of the fence during the Vietnam war when he was Lyndon Johnson's
    attorney-general. Answer was organising small and unfocused protests less
    than three weeks after the September 11 attacks, but its appeal has grown
    exponentially since Iraq took centre stage. There was a big protest in
    Washington last October, almost ignored by the media. Stung by criticism of
    their coverage then, the main US papers yesterday gave this event lavish
    Despite Mr Clark's presence, Answer's roots are on the extreme left of
    American politics, and they have had trouble attracting frontline
    politicians to their platforms. The main speakers in Washington were Ron
    Kovic, the anti-war activist who was author of Born on the Fourth of July,
    Jessica Lange, the actor, and the Rev Jesse Jackson, the bandwagon-jumper.
    The headliners in San Francisco were the 60s folk singer Joan Baez and
    Martin Sheen, who plays the president in The West Wing but does not aspire
    to be one.
    The next breakthrough will come if one of the real Democratic aspirants for
    the presidency chooses to take over the Sheen role. The Rev Al Sharpton, a
    declared candidate but not a serious one, was a speaker on the Mall.
    However, it is no longer unthinkable that, say, John Kerry, the
    Massachusetts senator and Vietnam veteran, might be emboldened enough by
    the polls to assume leadership of the anti-war movement.
    The president's iron grip on Americans' patriotic impulses is undoubtedly
    weakening. As one anti-war poster in the Mall put it: "It's OUR flag too."

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