February 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.
Organizational details 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.
Periodically the 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 woodward@cisunix.unh.edu; 603-862-3199(O); 603-862-4986 (FAX); www.unh.edu/psychology/ Faculty.html

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