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Washington Post: 100,000 at demo

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    100,000 Rally, March Against War in Iraq By Monte Reel and Manny Fernandez Washington Post Staff Writers Sunday, October 27, 2002; Page A01 Tens of thousands
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26, 2002
      100,000 Rally, March Against War in Iraq

      By Monte Reel and Manny Fernandez
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Sunday, October 27, 2002; Page A01

      Tens of thousands of people marched in peaceful protest of
      any military strike against Iraq yesterday afternoon, in
      an antiwar demonstration that organizers and police
      suggested was likely Washington's largest since the
      Vietnam era.

      Organizers with International ANSWER, a coalition of
      antiwar groups that coordinated the demonstration, had
      hoped for a turnout rivaling that of its pro-Palestine
      rally in April that officials estimated at about 75,000.
      Organizers said they easily eclipsed that figure
      yesterday, assessing attendance at well more than 100,000.
      D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey also said he figured
      yesterday's rally turnout exceeded that in April, but he
      didn't provide a specific number.

      "We think this was just extremely, extremely successful,"
      said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a D.C. organizer with
      International ANSWER, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.
      "It absolutely shows that when George Bush says America
      speaks with one voice, and it's his voice, he's wrong."

      After a rally that lasted more than three hours at
      Constitution Gardens, near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial,
      the march began at 21st Street and Constitution Avenue.
      Using 17th, H, 15th and E streets NW, they circled the
      White House and returned to their starting point.
      Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds filled the streets for several
      blocks. When marchers at the front of the procession
      returned to Constitution Avenue on their way back, they
      had to wait to allow demonstrators at the tail of the
      march to pass.

      Other demonstrations in cities including Rome, Berlin,
      Copenhagen, Denmark, Tokyo and Mexico City were held to
      coincide with the Washington march, and in San Francisco
      at a sister march, thousands marched through downtown.

      Protesters arrived by the busload, by car and by Metro
      early yesterday morning, some carrying signs and later
      joining in chants that echoed a common theme: A war
      against Iraq would be unjustified, they said, and there is
      no consensus for it.

      "Nebraskans for Peace" and "Hoosiers for Non-Violence"
      chanted alongside silver-coiffed retirees from Chicago and
      a Muslim student association from Michigan. Parents could
      be seen enjoying a sunny, picnic-perfect afternoon by
      pushing a stroller with one hand and carrying a "No War
      for Oil" sign with the other, and police on horseback
      monitored nearby.

      The tone of the rally was far different from D.C.'s last
      major protest -- the September demonstrations against the
      annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the
      World Bank. During those events, anti-globalization
      protesters had intended to paralyze the city with
      disruptive throngs, but their numbers were much smaller
      than expected, and they were dominated by a massive police
      presence. More than 600 people were arrested during the
      IMF and World Bank protests; yesterday, police reported
      three arrests.

      Several groups, including the Anti-Capitalist Convergence
      that organized one of September's protests, mounted an
      independent march that fed into yesterday's rally and said
      everyone had agreed upon a non-confrontational goal from
      the outset.

      "I don't think police want problems, and I don't think we
      want problems either," said Pat Elder, 47, a Bethesda
      antiwar activist who participated in the unpermitted
      feeder march.

      The morning began under hazy skies on the wet grass at
      Constitution Gardens, as thick mud sucked at the heels of
      the arriving demonstrators and the nearby Washington
      Monument appeared truncated by fog. But by noon the skies
      cleared and most of the lawn was shoulder-to-shoulder with
      people listening to Jesse Jackson, actress Susan Sarandon,
      singer Patti Smith and former Attorney General Ramsey
      Clark, among other speakers.

      Several speakers referred to Vietnam era protests, and
      organizers were eager to compare the current movement with
      the one that peaked with a rally of between 250,000 and
      500,000 people in Washington in 1969. The last large-scale
      peace protest in Washington was in 1991, when about 75,000
      demonstrated during the height of the Persian Gulf War.

      Unlike those protests, yesterday's rally was different in
      that it preceded war, and many interpreted that as an
      indication of a potentially powerful movement.

      "During the Vietnam War, no demonstration of comparable
      size took place until 1967, three years after the Gulf of
      Tonkin Resolution [that gave President Lyndon B. Johnson
      congressional authority to expand the war in Vietnam],"
      said Brian Becker, co-director of the International Action
      Center, one of the groups that make up International

      But if the passions of the Vietnam era led to protests
      that often trembled on the edge between control and chaos,
      yesterday's event suggested that this movement is burning
      at a lower flame.

      "Here I'm not being spit on, people aren't throwing
      tomatoes at me and Joan Baez isn't singing," said protest
      veteran Dot Magargal, 77, from Media, Pa. "People just
      want to come out and say that not everyone wants to go to
      war. This is a lot of people, a lot of voters, and it has
      to count for something."

      For those looking for symbols often associated with
      left-wing demonstrations -- Grateful Dead T-shirts,
      dreadlocks, anti-corporate slogans, Socialist newsletters
      -- plenty could be found. But it wasn't necessary to comb
      through the fringe to find people who didn't fit the mold.
      Many said they were first-time protesters who had never
      attended a rally. Some said they were against all war, no
      matter the circumstances, and others said they were simply
      against the possibility of an Iraq invasion.

      "I've never in my life done anything like this before,"
      said Marie Johnson, 31, of Columbia. "What I wanted to do
      was say that even though Bush puts forth that everyone
      supports going to war against Iraq, some of us don't. I
      just thought it was important for me to do something to
      show how I felt."

      Peggy McGrath, 59, said she hoped that Bush would look out
      of the windows of the White House to see that thousands
      disagreed with him. She said she remained optimistic that
      he might change his mind, especially if enough people
      voiced opposition.

      "I think there's actually been a shift already in Bush's
      rhetoric in the last two weeks," said McGrath, who was on
      one in a caravan of eight buses from Chicago. "The hope is
      that maybe he'll see this, and maybe it can be stopped
      before it's started."

      Bush, however, wasn't at the White House. He and first
      lady Laura Bush flew yesterday from their Texas ranch to
      Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where the president was attending
      the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Among other
      things, Bush was seeking to rally fellow leaders behind
      his Iraq stance.

      The president had some support at the rally from a group
      of about 100 counter-protesters who gathered at 17th
      Street and Constitution Avenue. Along with activists from
      the national group Free Republic, a group of Iraqi exiles
      chanted slogans against Saddam Hussein. In one of the few
      points of tension during the day, police stepped into a
      scuffle between peace activists and counterprotesters and
      led away two of the former.

      One who joined the counter-protesters, Imam Husham
      Al-Husainy, explained that he came to Washington from the
      Detroit area with about 40 Iraqis to present the view of
      people who had suffered under Hussein.

      "Most of these people across the street, they don't know
      the reality in Iraq," Al-Husainy said.

      Although the main protest message was focused on opposing
      war in Iraq, a few other causes slipped into the mix. Many
      of the same people who marched for Palestinian rights in
      April joined yesterday's march, waving Palestinian flags.
      But like others who had become activists for other causes,
      they said opposing the war was what brought them out

      "I don't come here to carry signs for fun," said Ribhi
      Ramadan, 36, who brought his family of seven from
      Paterson, N.J., to the protest. "I support not just
      Palestine, but everywhere that's threatened by war."

      Luigi Procopio, 45, a social worker from the district,
      wore a pink triangle with "$ FOR AIDS NOT WAR" written on
      it. He said even though he normally focuses his activism
      on issues in the gay community, he and at least a dozen
      friends came to protest the war in Iraq.

      "It's time, man. . . .it feels imminent," he said.
      "Congress has just rolled over."

      Some protesters said they had been worried about
      attendance before they arrived at the rally. Larina Brown,
      22, a student from the University of Minnesota-Morris,
      said she had feared that she and the 30 friends she
      traveled with would be greeted by scant crowds.

      "It's a relief, really," Brown said. "I really wanted this
      to be a big statement, to show it's not just radical,
      anti-American people who go to these things."

      Most of those who arrived in the morning on buses climbed
      back aboard shortly after the rally ended. By 5:45 p.m.,
      the streets were almost deserted, and protesters had put
      downtheir signs and were sitting on park benches snacking.

      Mark Zheng, 33, of Amherst, Mass., stopped to take a photo
      of two friends in front of a fountain in Lafayette Square.
      Zheng, from China, had been at the Tiananmen Square
      protests. He said he was impressed by the orderliness of
      the march.

      "I think maybe people have different thoughts on things,
      but one thing is clear," he said. "Peace."

      Staff writers David A. Fahrenthold, Ylan Q. Mui and Mary
      Beth Sheridan and special correspondent Liz Garone in San
      Francisco and wire services contributed to this report.
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