By MICHAEL SCHREIBER
Several hundred thousand people marched across the United States on Oct. 26, demanding “No War on Iraq!”
The largest demonstration took place in Washington, D.C., where organizers stated that close to 200,000 rallied and then marched around the White House. At the same time, 80,000 to 100,000 marched through downtown San Francisco.
The Oct. 26 protests, initiated by International ANSWER and endorsed by some 4000 organizations, were the largest antiwar actions to take place in this country since the Gulf War.
It is significant that the huge turnout took place before a shooting war has even begun. Brian Becker, co-director of the International Action Center (a component of International ANSWER), pointed out in theWashington Post that “during the Vietnam War, no demonstration of comparable size took place until 1967, three years after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” [which gave President Johnson congressional authority to expand the war].
People of all ages and from all walks of life came to Washington to add their voices to the protest. Banners proclaimed, “Parents for Peace,” “Psychologists for Peace,” “Hoosiers for Non-Violence,” and “Farmers Against War.” Many participants displayed their concerns on home-made signs: “Iraqis are People,” “Don’t All Children Deserve a Future?” “Drop Bush Not Bombs,” and “Regime Change Begins at Home.”
The mass outpouring far exceeded the preparations of the rally organizers. The New York Times (Oct. 30) reported that activists “expected 30 buses, and were surprised by about 650 coming from as far away as Nebraska and Florida.”
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” a college professor from Springfield, Mass., Nick Camerota, told the Boston Globe at the Washington march. “We’re seeing something large and loud that’s happened quickly, and we’re hearing from a much broader spectrum than ever before.”
A rally took place near the Vietnam Memorial in front of a huge banner stating, “No War for Big Oil.” Speakers included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, actress Susan Saradon, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, singer Patti Smith, Global Exchange leader Medea Benjamin; writer Alice Walker, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Longshore Union (ILWU) Local 10 Secretary-Treasurer Clarence Thomas-who led the crowd in chants of “Hands off the docks! Stay out of Iraq!”
In San Francisco, buses and cars arrived from throughout California and all around the West. The Bay Area rail transit system, stressed to the breaking point, added extra trains to attempt to handle the crowds. Finally, the toll booths were opened and made free of charge to all passengers.
Protesters filled Market Street, a six-lane thoroughfare, and spilled over onto the sidewalks as they marched. At its height, the march stretched 1.7 miles from the Ferry Building to the Civic Center.
Speakers at the Civic Center rally included Daniel Ellsberg (who released the secret Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War); Vietnam veteran activist and author Ron Kovic; Dr, Helen Caldicott; actor Mike Farrell; ILWU Local 10 President Richard Mead; United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta; Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Cal.); state Sen. John Burton; International ANSWER organizer Richard Becker; Green Party candidate for California governor Peter Camejo; and Socialist Action National Secretary Jeff Mackler (who also spoke for the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal).
Smaller Oct. 26 marches and rallies took place in communities from coast to coast. Close to 4000 rallied at the Federal Plaza in Chicago, 12,000 in St. Paul, Minn.; 5000 in Seattle; 2500 in Portland, Ore., 1000 in Madison, Wisc.; 1000 in Albany, N.Y.; 300 in Salt Lake City; and 300 in Duluth, Minn. More than 2000 antiwar activists marched through the rain in Augusta. Maine, and 2500 marched to Donald Rumsfield’s summer home in Taos, N.M.
Over 2000 ringed the Colorado state capitol in Denver on Oct. 26, and two days later, 1000 Denver antiwar protesters again gathered to confront President Bush as he campaigned for Republican Party candidates.
On Nov. 3, some 15,000 filled Boston Common in a New England regional antiwar protest endorsed by a wide range of peace groups and political organizations.
Oct. 26 antiwar protests also took place throughout Europe and Asia, from Berlin (where 30,000 marched) to Tokyo to Copenhagen to Mexico City.
The Netherlands saw numerous demonstrations, including large ones in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Signs opposed Dutch participation in any U.S.-initiated war in Iraq. Members of the Socialist Party carried placards portraying George Bush as “Boes,” a cow-like character in a Dutch comic strip.
Over 2000 rallied in Stockholm on Oct. 26 while protests took place in several other Swedish cities. On Oct. 27, about 3000 marched in Madrid and several thousand in Barcelona. On Oct. 31, some 10,000 rallied in Athens, and antiwar rallies took place on the same date in Manila and London.