Revolutionary Worker #1188, February 23, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org
February 15 and the surrounding days: Huge rivers of humanity poured through cities across the world. The marches were so large that precise estimates are impossible to make--but clearly, millions of people spoke out together saying "No to War on Iraq."
Many have remarked that these days of protests manifested one of the most powerful acts of world-wide political resistance in history. In city after city, the crowds vastly overshot the expected turnouts--sometimes by five or ten times.
It has been estimated by march organizers that people acted together in over 600 places across the world. Millions have been drawn into outraged political protest. Many have taken special responsibilities to target their "own" government. They have publicly and forcefully rejected the claim that this war would be for their interests. Again and again, people raised banners, songs and slogans that insisted this attack on Iraq was motivated by oil and imperialist geo-politics--not by any official desire to make the people "safe."
People defied police and the war- makers, they mocked the small-minded cruelty and swagger of President George Bush. And they expressed together their profound and moving solidarity with the besieged and threatened people of Iraq.
These actions were especially powerful in those countries where governments are pressing for war, including the U.S., Britain, Italy, and Spain. In the U.S. close to a million people demonstrated in one hundred cities and towns--including major marches in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Seattle, Portland OR, San Francisco and other cities. The days of action were organized by United for Peace & Justice, a broad coalition of antiwar forces.
Across the planet, millions expressed anger--and a profound sense of betrayal and disgust--at the relentless pursuit of war by the U.S. government and allied countries.
The following are sketches from this world-wide experience of protest.
New York City:
The authorities tried to forbid a march past the United Nations and denied the people any legal permit to take to the streets of Manhattan. The response of hundreds of thousands of people was simply defiant: Over 60 different groups announced plans for banned feeder marches, and moved in groups of hundreds and thousands through New York streets to the rally site.
The NYPD declared the highest level security alert--using the language of "anti- terrorism" directly against the protests of the people. Police formed barricades, shut off some subways, and tried to divert the marches. And everywhere, this city became a moving sea of antiwar activity. New York City, Ground Zero of September 11, issued its powerful rejection of the government plans to make Baghdad a Ground Zero in 2003.
Andrew Rice, whose brother David was killed in the World Trade Center, told the press: "Any idea that we should kill innocent Iraqis to avenge 9/11 is cynical and wrong. We can't exploit our anger to murder children halfway around the world."
Over 500,000 converged toward the United Nations, packing the east side of Manhattan for 30 blocks, and spilled westward across three or four major avenues. They were greeted by enthusiastic speakers: Author Arundhati Roy phoned her message from India. Actors Rosie Perez, Susan Sarandon, Ossie Davis and Danny Glover rose to speak. Families For Peaceful Tomorrows, whose loved ones died in the attacks on September 11th, opposed the war. From the podium: singer-activist Harry Belafonte, Miles Solay of Not in Our Name, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee; Julian Bond, Chair of the NAACP; a former Israeli Army officer who refused to fight in occupied Palestine; Richie Perez, National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights; Rev. Al Sharpton; Bishop Desmond Tutu; and Leslie Cagan, Coordinator, United For Peace & Justice. The singer Richie Havens and poets Steve Coleman and Suheir Hammad moved the crowd with their art. Blocks from the rally site people watched on big video screens and tuned into radio WBAI.
Blocks away, where the crowds spilled deep into Midtown Manhattan, mounted police viciously attacked. Over 300 people were arrested.
RW correspondent Osage writes: "At times, the cops on horses would charge through, trampling crowds they had cornered as other cops pummeled them with their clubs." Rebel voices from the youth feeder march chanted "Fuck this police state!" and "Whose streets? Our streets!" And next to them, fellow marchers, less used to conflict with the cops, added, "You're not heroes to me anymore!" Someone shouted: "Get those animals off those horses!"
Children from the grade school P.S. 3 brought a 15-foot balloon of the earth patched up with duct tape. "We're trying to fix the world," one 10-year-old girl slyly quipped.
RW correspondent Bill Swain interviewed one middle class woman who said: "I think it's about empire. That's what really frightens me. There is really a shift. Bush is trying to destroy the world. I think we have an extremist government that was not elected. We came because we wanted to show the rest of the world and the people in Iraq that there are many people in the U.S. who don't support these policies. I want the people of Iraq to know that it is not the American people."
The heart of Hollywood in Los Angeles was packed with people as over 70,000 joined one of the most massive anti-war protests in the history of the city. Highlights included the participation of actors, writers, musicians and veteran activists, including Gore Vidal, Ed Asner, Mike Farrell, Martin Sheen (with fellow cast members from "West Wing"), Alfre Woodard, Tom Morello, Anjelica Houston, David Clennon, William Baldwin, Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, Christine Lahti, peoples lawyer Leonard Weinglass, James Cromwell, and Michelle Shocked.
"Act like it's a globe, not an empire"-- seen on a banner created by artists.
A contingent organized by the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade marched under red flags--their banner read: "The world belongs to the youth, not the U.S. imperialist murderers." Their chant caught on along the march: "Rise up with the people of the world."
The LAPD later attacked and brutalized a radical contingent that separated from the main march-- arresting at least seven.
Other cities in the U.S.
In city after city, broad numbers of people came together--including many who had never protested before, with highly visible participation of radical youth, immigrant and Arab communities and veterans of the 1960s.
"The World Says No To War"
For first hand reports from RW correspondents see the new RWOR Online resource page at rwor.org/resistance/ (in Spanish rwor.org/resistencia/)
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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