16, 2003 Dear Family and Friends, I wish you had been in New York City
to witness the march yesterday. The date of February 15, 2003 will be
written in history. Worldwide, an estimated 10,000,000 persons on five
continents took their signs to the streets in 603 cities. In NYC, estimates
ranged in the hundreds of thousands. I was privileged to ride a bus from
Portsmouth, N.H. to Shea Stadium, NYC, chartered by New Hampshire Peace
Action. Others parked at Yankee Stadium. Local leaders Dave Diamond and
Amy Antonucci made the arrangements for us, with help from the UnitedforPeace.com
website in NYC.
for peaceful marches included what to wear for the cold (wool socks, not
cotton), what kinds of signs were allowed ("no sticks"), a list of hundreds
of stores offering restrooms ("portapotties are a security threat"), and
what one could say if frisked or arrested ("I do not consent to this search").
After all, even magic markers have been used by courts to convict persons
of destruction of property ("graphitti"). We had to wait in line a half
hour at Shea Statium in Queens, just to reach the subway platform. The
turnstiles were open: a free ride, announced the police. Loudspeakers
at Grand Central cautioned us to buy tokens for the return now. As we
finally disembarked at 51st St., we had no choice but to join the crowd
streaming at a slow pace up town.
The streets and
sidewalks were so full that you could not walk downtown to 49th to 51st
on 1st and 2nd Avenues, where the appointed pens were located. Yes, pens,
or portable metal fences. That is what the Commissioner of Police arranged
for the hundreds of demonstrators they expected. Once in them, we were
not to be allowed to go out and return, hence we were told to limit our
liquid intake, despite the dangers of dehydration on this frosty day.
Instead, however, the tens of thousands in the streets overflowed the
pens and had to be directed away from the congested area.
The Police Department
had refused United for Peace's application for a parade permit, and a
judge denied the appeal during the previous week. Notwithstanding, four
avenues (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Lexington) were so full that law enforcement
shifted from enclosure of a permitted "rally" to containment of a "march,"
directing the flow away from the designated open areas within view of
the overhead screens. We listened as we walked, amid the din and chants,
to dozens of invited speakers (90 seconds allotted to each) on battery-powered
FM radios, opening with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and followed by Harry
Belafonte, Danny Glover, Julian Bond, Phyllis Bennis, Susan Sarandon,
Pete Seeger, Rosie Perez, Angela Y. Davis, Dennis Rivera, Ruth Messinger,
Welfare Poets, Kim Gandy, poets from Def Poetry Jam, the president of
the City Workers Union, and many more.
crowd would erupt into a cheer, or a roar, or a peace chant. As we felt
the pulsing energy of the crowd, we looked around at the bobbing signs.
Everywhere were United for Peace signs with English on one side and a
foreign language translation on the other: "El Mundo Dice No a la Guerra."
Every age was marching. A backpack with a tiny child bore the sign: "Children
for Peace." Another said, "Iraqi Grandmothers Love their Grandchildren
too." "You were lying then, and you are lying now," read the sign of a
Vietnam Veteran. "Mothers for Peace" was another. "War Kills the innocent.
Arlington, Vt. Quakers." We saw Moravians for peace, socialists for peace,
and Sufis for peace. We saw anger: "Bush + Dick = Fuck.," "A Village Idiot
from Texas sent to Washington," and "You Have No Mandate for War." We
saw reason: "Peace is Patriotic Too," "Wrong War, Wrong Time, Wrong Reason,"
and a favorite, the large photos displaying Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld
with Pinnocchio noses.
The side streets
had been cordoned off with portable metal fences watched by officers.
Traffic was at a standstill from about noon to close to 4 PM. A very diverse
police force (men, women, many ethnicities, striking to us white folks
from New Hampshire) controlled that crowd on Third Avenue with quiet good
nature. Six mounted police on horses with blue helmets cleared a path
for a bus and later an ambulance. Police were polite and non-confrontative,
conveying when asked what they said they had heard: that we could walk
across town further up. We stopped for a knish and coffee and restrooms
first. Temperatures were around 10 degrees, so the hospitality of this
bagelry was much appreciated.
Finally we joined
the crowd streaming back down 1st Avenue to view speakers on the overhead
screen mounted near the 59th St. Bridge. What
did I learn from that march? That the peace movement, the largest since
Franco was deposed in the 1960's, larger even than during the drafting
days of Viet Nam, is broad and deep. And it is international. This march
was full of thoughtful people, respectable people, young people, old people.
A checklist sign stated: "Bush's Armageddon: They can buy, fly, & kill:
But they have one defect. We can think." Another questioned: "WTC + ?
= Invade Iraq." "U. S. Labor is With You France and Germany." A poodle
had a cardboard sign, "War is Unhealthy for Pets & Other Living Things."
Some questioned "How many Iraqis struck the WTC? Answer: Zero." My sign
read: "Blix: No W.M.D.s [weapons of mass destruction]. What now?"
I regretted that
the media, so far, have not reported on the voices that we heard and saw
today. In our bus, one Quaker journalist suggested that we each write
about our experience to family and friends. Make the case, one by one,
that "A million bitter enemies will be born of this war," yet we could
wage "Peace by Example." Let's encourage regime change at home: "Bush,
Get Elected." Or make them feel the sacrifice: "Draft the Bush Twins."
Or try "Peace by Diplomacy." "Not in My Name [with photos of dead child
in missile attack on Basra]. Abandon the "War for Oil" and "No more Blood
for Oil." How about this one: "How did Our Oil get Under Iraq?" Humor
and outrage is alive and well in the United States. But so are corporate
power and special interests in government.
William R. Woodward
Durham, New Hampshire
Department of Psychology
University of New Hampshire Durham, N.H. 03824 firstname.lastname@example.org;
603-862-3199(O); 603-862-4986 (FAX); www.unh.edu/psychology/ Faculty.html
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