Peace Rallies Against A
War on Iraq
Wars are a poor choice for carving out peaceful tomorrows. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
One early and cold Saturday morning, on January 23, thanks to the great organizational skills of Kathleen Sullivan of Educators for Social Responsibility, a New York group went on a bus - one out of hundreds - to Washington, D.C., for the peace rally commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr., which turned out to be one of the largest in the United States since the Vietnam War. On board were among others: Alice Slater (GRACE), Felicity Hill (UNIFEM), Matthew Dean (Physicians for Social Responsibility), representatives from Hague Appeal for Peace and Educators for Peace, high school students, artists, musicians, teachers, workers, and more. In short, it was a broad crowd from all parts of society, which also met our eyes when we arrived to the capital; after a long, sleepy and yet enthusiastic bus ride, where everybody had an opportunity to speak of their reasons for joining the peace march. It was truly a coming together of the different com-munities that constitute this country, including the press and governmental representatives, coming from literally all over the country, especially the East Coast. We met a young teacher and mother, who had driven all the way from Binghamton, NY (about eight hours drive) with her eight year-old son just to participate in the march.
Some estimates say there were about 200,000 people, some up to half a million, but no matter, Pennsylvania Avenue, which runs along Capitol Hill, was a sight for sore eyes, completely filled to the brim with a peaceful wave of singing, silent or talking marchers, and their show of colorful and provocative banners and signs. It stretched so far that for a five foot six inch person it was impossible to imagine, let alone see, the end of the march in either direction. It wasnt just that people had come all the way; it was their enthusiasm, their common spirit and hope for a peaceful way to solve the Iraqi conflict, their understanding of the issues, their united voice, and not to forget, their will to withstand the terrible chill of a cold winter.
On February 15, another chilly winter day, New York City hosted another grand peace demonstration organized by United for Peace & Justice, along with cities all over the globe literally millions of people worldwide were out in the streets voicing their wish for peace, opposing the downward-spiral of the war promulgators. Since the city decided not to give the demonstrators a permit to march, 400,000 people quickly ended up spilling out of the boundaries of the designated area given to the demonstration on First Avenue between 49th and 59th Street.
12 people assembled in the LCNP office and then joined a feeder march starting at 59th St. and Central Park West. When nearing First Avenue on Third and Second Avenues, we were slowed down by the crowds and never actually made it to First where the stage was located. Police barricades blocked our way, and no one knew how or if there was any way to get to the rally. First Avenue ran as far as the 80s with people, and Second and Third Avenues continuously filled with crowds of marching people, who had no where else to go, while the police attempted to herd and control them. Eventually, mounted police were brought in to clear Second Avenue. As a result of one aggressive move like this, about 25 people were arrested according to live WBAI radio reporting. That being said, the demonation was altogether peaceful, and again a broad spectrum of people showed up, including all the major NGOs, uniting to speak a different truth of how the world can be different - a world without wars as is the main objective of the UN Charter.
It is these moments when people come together joining their best, breaking the boundaries of disbelief, that will be remembered the most, because needless to say however you look at it, we are all voicing our opinion in the name of peace.
Nya Gregor Fleron is LCNP program associate and a fiction writer.