This past weekend saw numerous antiwar protests nationwide as well as New York City’s first-ever organized march against the USA PATRIOT Act. A number of Nation interns dispatched themselves to both Washington, DC, and midtown Manhattan to participate. Their reports are below.
“I love free speech,” President Bush joked to the Australian Parliament last week after several vociferous interruptions of his speech by dissenting Members of Parliament. If Bush enjoyed the “free speech” that he was treated to in Australia (where he was heckled both in and outside of Parliament), then Saturday’s demonstration in Washington, DC, must have positively delighted him. “We’re gonna push Bush out the door, we’re gonna push Bush out the door!” chanted members of SEIU Local 1199, who were among the tens of thousands who descended on the Capitol to protest the US occupation of Iraq and, by extension, the President himself.
Rounds of “Hell no, we won’t go, we won’t fight for Texaco!” and “Hey Bush, we know you, your daddy was a liar, too!” were chanted by the marchers as they filed down Pennsylvania Avenue. Others took a more polite approach: “Fuck you, George Bush” opened and closed a spirited rap song performed at the pre-march rally by a member of New York’s Uptown Youth for Peace and Justice.
Equally blunt was a massive fuchsia banner dropped by the group Code Pink from a building along the march route which read, “Bush Lied: Fire Him.” While the demonstration’s estimated 10,000-30,000-person turnout paled in comparison to the 100,000-strong crowds at last year’s antiwar demonstrations, the marchers, led by the families of soldiers in Iraq, presented a clear and cohesive message: return the troops to their homes and then kick the President out of his.
KATE M. LEVIN
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Under a mild blue sky, on the side of the Mall between the Washington Monument and the White House, the mood of the crowd of tens of thousands was easygoing and wry. Early on, the quiet crowd woke up into amusement when a contingent of Raging Grannies sang several choruses of “Georgie Porgie, you’re all wrong; bombs are not the answer. You can take your stupid war and stick it up your pantser.” A protestor held a sign: “The only Bush I trust is my own.” During the afternoon, presidential candidate Al Sharpton exhorted, “Don’t give Bush $87 billion. Don’t give him 87 cents.” Only a handful of posters in support of Sharpton or Dennis Kucinich referred to the upcoming presidential primaries but anti-colonialist, socialist and green stances were widely reflected in the handmade signs held by protestors and by the tables selling literature, buttons and bumper stickers. Whatever one’s political stance, it was lovely to be in a gathering with strong and good intentions.
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New York City’s first march ever against the USA Patriot Act began with a rally at Union Square, followed by a march to Columbus Circle. Organized by The Loyal Nine, a group recently formed for the sole purpose of advocating the repeal of the Patriot Act, the protest exhibited striking diversity and creativity. Despite small numbers, it suggested the potential of this movement to grow.
Protesters hailed from all over the New York area. Many college and high school students traveled from upstate schools upstate like Sienna College in Loudonville, NY , SUNY Albany, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. They also came from across the political spectrum. The Manhattan chapter of the Libertarian Party was well represented. Among its supporters in attendance was an executive from a major commercial bank. The NRA brought members as well.
The signs and outfits were equally varied. One young man dressed all in black wore a sandwich board proclaiming on one side “Fascism is Terrorism” and on the other, “A Nation of Sheep, Owned by Pigs, Ruled by Wolves.” Bob Lesko of New York City was there dressed as “an iconic freedom fighter from the 1776 war,” tri-cornered hat included. In the same vein, other signs declared their holders to be “Patriots against the Patriot Act.”
Many speakers at the rally expressed support for Resolution 909, a New York City Council resolution that would instruct the NYPD not to comply with aspects of the Patriot Act. One member of the crowd explained that “coming from the city that was attacked,” New York’s adoption of Resolution 909 “would send a strong message to Washington.”