David McReynolds, Sun Mar 23, 2003
The week didn’t start that well. Two days before the first bombs fell, the civil disobedience actions began – I was one of over 40 arrested at the US Mission to the UN (and released early – I think the cops were needed for St. Patrick’s Day duty). The day after the bombing began we all went to midtown to try and close Times Square. It got closed OK, but it was raining hard and bitter cold.
After an hour or so of marching around with soggy signs, and everyone’s shoes sloshing in cold water, we broke up, while far off in San Francisco something like 1200 people were arrested in the largest CD of the week. (In Chicago my old friend Quinn Brisben, of the
Socialist Party – our candidate for President a couple of races back – got arrested by the cops because they wouldn’t accept his explanation that he needed his portable chair for demonstrations because his health wouldn’t let him stand – Quinn, I should note, was in
Baghdad only a few weeks ago, as one of many who wanted to establish human links with the “enemy”).
Saturday, March 22, was the day when United for Peace and Justice had called for a mass legal march through the heart of Manhattan. How many would turn out? War had begun, Congress had voted almost unanimous support, the corporate controlled media was giving us
“24 hour a day Rumsfeld”, the puppet master who has Bush on a string. Would people turn out?
Our small group of folks from War Resisters League, along with folks from the Socialist Party, led by Greg Pason, the SP National Secretary, started out at 40th Street and joined what was a march that covered the street, from sidewalk to sidewalk, and could barely move because of the sheer numbers.
We were blessed by a sunny sweet day in spring, the weather Gods on our side, calling the city to march. But so many! Wave after wave of the official blue and white United for Peace and Justice posters and hundreds upon hundreds of hand made posters, furious and funny. One woman carried a poster saying “The Only Bush I Trust Is My Own” (in San Francisco a ten year
old boy was carrying one that read “If Bush Is On Earth, Who Is Running Hell?”). There were outrageous costumes, funny hats. Every sect in town was there with their papers and leaflets – and God bless them all, every last rigidly correct little leftist sect. The veterans were there. The old folks were there, balanced by thousands upon thousands of students. Survivors of
the sixties, battered by time, some bearded, some sagging a bit, were in the line of march. More than one poster said “This Is What Democracy Looks Like”.
Ralph DiGia of the War Resisters League – who had gotten a remarkably good profile in that day’s issue of the New York Times – marched with the WRL contingent, one of many in their 80’s (Ralph is 88) who didn’t stay home.
There were a few hecklers but more people who opened their windows and cheered us on. Block after block after block the river of humanity poured down from Times Square to Washington Square, a solid line of people covering every block for the whole distance, where it finally dissolved (there were a few inevitable arrests – you can’t expect less when you have close to a quarter of a million people).
The meaning of this demonstration and the many others across the United States, make it clear that the public is not behind Bush. The pro-war demonstrations organized in NYC on Sunday rallied only a few hundred. This is not a popular war. The opposition has not been
struck dumb by the “Shock and Awe” attacks – rather, those who oppose the war have been struck with shame by the horrific air attacks on Baghdad.
The hundreds of thousands who demonstrated weren’t radicals – they ranged from Republicans to Socialists,from Quakers to Catholics to Jews, young, old, straight, queer, black, white – we were all there. This is, truly, what democracy looks like – and not the corporate media of Time/Warner and Fox News.
In the days and weeks ahead it is certain that there will be wide public support for efforts to bring peace immediately to Iraq, to focus on regime change here, to support the United Nations if the General Assembly can be convened.
Bush and those who write his speeches have not won. We have not lost. Now is a time when silence is treason against the future. Or, in the words of a button my old friend Maggie Phair had made up: “In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary
act . . . George Orwell”.