Five-college students travel to D.C. to protest military action against Iraq
International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), a coalition of antiwar groups, coordinated the rally and media sources have estimated a total attendance of 100,000 to 200,000.
The rally began at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Constitution Gardens, near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Reverend Jesse Jackson and actress Susan Sarandon, among others, gave speeches until 2 p.m., and then the assembled protesters began to march towards the White House. Marchers circled the White House and then returned to their starting point, according to The Washington Post.
“I was impressed to hear Reverend Jesse Jackson speak against the war in Iraq � Jackson is an incredibly powerful speaker, and to have his presence and his words was just the sort of high-level support the event needed,” said Nadine Quintana-Krupinski ’03.
“People often say, ‘Young people are our future,'” said Jackson, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. “But I beg to differ. Young people are our present. As young America moves, so the whole world moves.”
“I think the most focused and positive moment was when Jesse Jackson was speaking,” said Matthew Jones ’05. “Everyone was in tune to the podium and listening to his every word.”
“I was amazed at how many people I could see in all directions � it was very uplifting and got me excited for the march,” said Jones. “When we finished the march, we walked back to the beginning and there were people just starting to march.”
Students described a peaceful but energized atmosphere. “The atmosphere was pretty varied. Cheers would randomly pop up in pockets and people would join in, [chanting] ‘One, two, three, four, we don’t want your racist war’ and ‘No blood for oil, American troops off Iraqi soil,’ among others,” said Jones.
“The best sign at the rally was one on the side of the march that said ‘vote,'” said Beatriz Wallace ’04.
Students also commented on the varied types of people who attended the rally. “There was tremendous diversity over economic, racial, religious and generational lines,” said Ryan Schenk ’04. “I was moved to be amongst such an overwhelming number of people, many of whom traveled great distances, who were able to take a stand against a war that the administration is forcing upon America.”
“What impressed me most about the rally was the sheer number of people that gathered to send the message that they disagree with Bush’s war and the mass media’s attempt to convince people that this war is in the best interest of the American people,” Schenk said.
The groups at the march varied from the Young Anarchists to Colombian Union activists, according to Jones.
The entire protest was carried out peacefully. “The only police we encountered were the various ones on the sidewalks monitoring the march, and the horse police barricade in front of the White House lawn,” said Jones.
Schenk said that when phone calls and letters to people who had the power to stop the drive to war were ineffective, he felt compelled to demonstrate his opposition to Bush’s war in the form of a public protest. “I don’t oppose the idea of a war in Iraq that would depose Saddam and the system that he has created; however, as we can see from Afghanistan, a war in Iraq would not leave the Iraqi people any better off then they are now,” said Schenk. “Bush’s war is about oil. National security can be achieved through inspections.”
According to Jones, the rally was a project that has branched out from the hard work of members of the Progressive Students Alliance.