Revolutionary Worker #1193, March 30, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org
New York, March 19
All these weeks leading up to the war, I've been feeling closer and closer to the people of Iraq. Talking and reading about what their daily routines are like, what their days must be like now. Hearing people who've gone there talk about the people they met who they may truly never see again. I see their smiles, their homes and shops in my mind's eye. Then I picture their city in ruins. Dust and rubble. No cars or people out on the street and U.S. troops with machine guns on every corner.
That past image is not very difficult to picture. All around me in New York City, are National Guard. What's weird is that it's getting less surprising to see them, even though there are many more with the increased "alert." Instead of two, I see 8 or 10. Here for "our protection" they stare us down. People I talk to say they feel like they need to carefully remove their wallets from their pockets and not stare at the Guards too long for fear they'll make eye contact. I'm starting to expect to see them, used to their presence. Being in occupied Baghdad feels that much closer than before, but I can't totally place myself there. I can still go home and not see military men outside my door. I can walk around without being stopped and searched before getting around--for now. But in Baghdad, there really is no safe place.
Today was the first day of some organized protests, before the bombings were set to start. Some students walked out. Some people didn't go to work. About 300 people gathered at Union Square to march to Times Square. There are dozens of middle school anarchists--with masked faces and makeshift drums-- learning to play and run together.
Emotions are running very high. People are anxious and tense and expecting the worse, internally flinching. Some people feel very discouraged because the war has started despite all the protests, while others--particularly the youth--seem to be struggling with this new-found responsibility of resisting the war. They are struggling to not give up but also to take things higher--do things that inspire others to be daring.
I take the train to go home, wondering what the days will bring. As I emerge from the subway station, my phone tells me I have a dozen messages. The U.S. has started bombing. Knowing I am able to go home and sleep in my own bed, I cry.
The war is everywhere. On every TV and radio in every store I pass or enter. Everyone is watching the CNN graphics of airplanes taking off and tanks going everywhere. Relegated to a video game for war coverage on the news.
Shock and Awe continues to be promised to us, like the ending chorus line in a musical. But its effects have already begun to take hold, there as well as here. I overhear words everywhere like "Saddam" and "MOAB" and "bunker busters." Someone says they hope the war gets over quickly so there's the least amount of bloodshed--but only people who don't live where the fighting is going on can rationalize that way.
Since it's the day after, today thousands of people join together at Times Square. There are pens set up for people to line up in and cops everywhere but there are so many people all around, they don't fit. I hear about a march of hundreds of youth that took over the streets, running, suddenly converging on Times Square. Police ran amok, and people got seriously beat up, tear-gassed and arrested. Two entire high schools--including one in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, walked out, including some of their teachers. One of the students told me that they just ran into the hallways, running and yelling, "Walkout! Walkout!" and pushed their way passed the security guards who were definitely no match for them. We are starting to go from protest to actual resistance, causing trouble for the warmakers and the police who protect and defend them. I hear pigs say, "I'm not giving any mercy" and "bomb the fuckers."
Shock and Awe has officially begun now. I overhear someone say, "This isn't war. This is an invasion. If this were war, there'd be fighting here, too."
Watching the news, seeing the sunset-lit bomb-made clouds bursting with debris over the Baghdad skyline, I scan for any sign that this is a city other than the buildings. But the camera doesn't even let you see the streets, never mind people; injured, running--what?
But we also see pictures of protests from the thousands in the streets of Chicago to what looks like riots in the streets of Cairo and Yemen. We hear about takeovers and arrests all over San Francisco and it gives us here in NYC so much heart and encouragement! I hope the discouraged people I talked to today got to see that. A lot of them were saying their coworkers and friends are nervous and scared and confused. Even if they're against the war, there's this underlying feeling that this city would be the first one attacked in retaliation and there's a feeling of betraying your city if you protest.
Getting up early, we head into the city to get ready and join up with the big protest and march planned for the day. The day is warm and sunny after days of pouring, thunderous rain. From the train, the view of Manhattan looks smoky in the haze.
Tens of thousands are expected today, but when we arrive, there's clearly way more than that! Over 40 blocks are filled with protesters! Escaping from rehearsal for a family wedding, I head downtown with my mother--who has never before been to a protest. As we walk, we enter a part of the crowd that is boisterous and musical and filled with lively chants I've heard time and time again. They're holding homemade signs I've seen at dozens of protests. But with my mother along, they look refreshing and new to me. I feel like I'm seeing them for the first time through her eyes. She wants to watch first before joining, and I see tears streaming from her eyes. She grabs my shoulder and squeezes my hand. Dad would be mad if he knew she was here. I see all the hope and potential for these people and the beauty of standing with the people of the world for the first time with new eyes.
Later as dusk fell, I joined up again with my friends in Union Square, a lot of the rebel youth, sharing stories, battle scars and joking around. As we sit there, my friend turned to me and said, "Is that chanting? Do you hear people yelling?" We listen--and amidst the traffic we hear whistles and chanting!
More youth had taken the streets and were running our way! We all jump up, clearing the park, running to meet them in the middle of Broadway and 14th Street! Running and jumping. And then we were off again.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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