Among the approximately 150,000 people who took to the streets of New York on March 22 to protest the US invasion of Iraq were six Nation interns. When they weren’t busy passing out Nation buttons, distributing free copies of the mag or chanting and marching, they wrote the following “postcards” about what they saw.
The anti-Bush sentiment was thick. Signs showing George Herbert Walker Bush with a pint-sized W on his lap noted: “Junior needs a time-out!” Meanwhile, chanters complemented the images: “George Bush, we know you! Your daddy was a killer, too!” or the very popular, if not especially rhythmic: “George Bush! Pull out! Just like your daddy should have!”
Perched on her grandma’s shoulders, an apple-cheeked 5-year-old flashes a peace sign. Squinting in the sunlight, she periodically switches arms so she doesn’t get tired. Nearby, a prepubescent curly-haired boy proudly raises a sign reading “Murder Is Not Patriotic.” He wears a tie-dyed shirt adorned with a peace sign fashioned from duct tape. (“He wore this at the last antiwar protest,” says his mother. “Duct tape was the big thing then.”)
I feel a tapping on my hip. A tiny, pigtailed child holds her hand out for one of the buttons I’m distributing. She wears a sign around her neck. “I’m Only Six, and I Know War Is Wrong” is written in her own scrawl. I give her the only button I have left. “Daddy, what does ‘Leave no CEO Behind’ mean?” she asks. “I’ll explain that to you later, honey,” says her father wryly. “We’ll talk about that sometime soon.”
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Creativity, sharp-edged humor and a profound sadness blended together in the spirited march that rolled down Broadway.
A woman dressed in a black veil carrying a sign reading “Today I Weep for My Country” stood in sharp contrast to the inspiring call of a conch shell emanating from a young girl standing on a fire escape near 11th Street.
In a sign of a truly modern-day peace movement, one group near the front of the march, the Uptown Youth for Peace and Justice, called out chants to hip-hop-style beats: “We got to beat, beat back the Bush attack.” And later, another group called out “D-A-D-D-Y, we know how you got your job, your daddy, hey hey, your daddy.”
At an island between Fifth Avenue and Broadway, a crowd gathered to watch a song-and-dance performance of the Missile Dick Chicks. Seven women dressed in red white and blue with large silver rockets protruding outside their pants parodied the Bush Administration and its hyper-capitalist ethos in a remade song, “Shop in the Name of Love.” And the ladies showed nothing but love to police officers who hassled the women to leave the island and continue marching. They blew kisses at the men in uniform, fondled their missiles and called out, “I love you. I love you for being you,” before rejoining the crowd that moved unimpeded toward Washington Square Park.
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The evening news only got it half right. Last Saturday in New York City, tens of thousands of people asked for peace. Marching from 42nd Street (the heart of the theater district) to Washington Square Park (the heart of Greenwich Village), crowds flowed down Broadway on a warm day in early spring. Later that evening, Tom Brokaw accurately referred to the protest as an antiwar march. He went on, however, to contrast it to “promilitary” counterdemonstrations held around the country. To the mainstream media, it seems, one is either antiwar or promilitary. Not so. On the streets of New York, signs and chants proclaimed several variations on “Support Our Troops! Bring Them Home.” One demonstrator held a sign suggesting that Americans should “Sacrifice Our SUVs” rather than our country’s young men and women. Some demonstrators carried American flags, while others held signs proclaiming themselves patriots. “Dissent,” proclaimed one “Protects Democracy.” Still other signs issued statements like “‘Yee-Ha’ Is Not a Foreign Policy” and “Mainstream Media–Pentagon Puppets.”