Among the approximately 150,000 people who took to the streets of New York on March 20 to protest the US occupation of Iraq were six Nation interns. After chanting and marching, they wrote the following “postcards” about what they saw.
“Bush claimed to be a uniter,” shouted the young speaker. “He was right. He has united all of us against him.” From my embedded position amid the masses on Madison Avenue and 27th Street, I glimpsed throngs of colorful signs projecting a canon of diverse calls in opposition to the Bush agenda. “Left Behind” signs were pinned to the backs of children who sat atop their parents’ shoulders; hipsters with pink slips thought it time to “give Bush the pink slip”; Haitian and Philippine Americans rallied for an end to US interventions around the world; and “He Lied, They Died” signs bobbed and swayed against a brisk blue sky. This, of course, was the slogan that best captured the meaning of Saturday morning. A backlash of casualties continues daily, as a world on fire copes with the effects of unbridled power and militant retaliation.
Looking back to the 2003 marches in San Francisco, I realize now how much easier it was to protest a war that, though imminent, had not yet begun. Today, shouting for the immediate pullout of all troops seems too simplistic a solution for the complex task of stabilizing Iraq. But such is the nature of the protest slogan. What stands as vital is the collective energy engendered by the river of thousands flowing through New York City. It asserts to those in power that one year later, the people–as diverse in thought, country and age as they are–still, somehow, stand united in the streets.
On the first day of spring , Americans rallied together in New York to mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The lack of cops on horseback probably added to the absence of the tension that marked last year’s protests. Still, the original anger and frustration ran deep among the protesters. The tens of thousands who marched reminding the world that we’re “still” against the war could not be pigeonholed into one, in the unforgettable words of Ari Fleischer, “focus group.” No matter what the agenda–people called not just for troops out of Iraq but out of Haiti, while also demanding the freedom of Palestine and Taiwan–everyone could agree that “Bush and Co.” (Cheney, Rice, Powell and Rumsfeld) needed to be held accountable for the war crimes they have committed. The wide range in ages among the marchers was especially striking. The majority seemed to consist of the standard college-age up to late 20s, but many well-dressed professionals and button-clad elderly were also amply represented.
The protest was saturated with bobbing placards of Bush puppets. Usually he was just pictured as Public Enemy #1. Some more creative signs portrayed him as Hitler, trigger-happy GI Joe. oil-happy GI Joe and, in our very own Nation cover, as the gaptoothed Alfred E. Neuman. The best signs by far, however, was being held aloft by their parents. Hoisted on adult shoulders, a few children, looking bored or dazed, had the phrase “Left Behind” taped to their backs . It may take the average spectator a few seconds to get it; nevertheless, the confusion just reminds us that even we have managed to forget yet another promise our President has made and broken. It was comforting to see that even with all the war talk going on, we can remember our troubling domestic situation suggested by other signs, such as “Money for Jobs and Education, Not War.”