A personal account of the great peace rally, march, and concert. Media: not all the gems are in the first paragraphs, there's a couple at the end. Short piece by Bob Reuschlein, 288-9192 or 848-5248
300,000 for Peace in Washington, DC, 9-24-05
Organizers said 200,000 to the LA Times and police said 150,000, but at the concert they said it had been 300,000. Whatever, it was enormous, streets were packed solid on two sides of the ellipse rally site where speakers went on for two hours or more after being scheduled for one hour. Looking up fifteenth street it was solid for as far as the eye could see. Constitution Avenue was also packed. The MIC was there for Radio America in Madison, Jonathan Laughlin (?) interviewed several people from Wisconsin, including me. A Japanese television reporter liked my “Disaster” sign and interviewed me on my way to the rally, where I was a half hour early. Another person on our bus was interviewed by Australian radio. A theme from the radio interviews was why not stick to the main event theme of “Bring the Troops Home Now”. My reply was that, to get at empire from the source, you must cut the military budget. For the Japanese, I went on about how neglect lead to 9-11 and how extensive were the warnings and how easily it could have been prevented, or stopped in the hour and a half after the hijackings, but Bush wanted a Pearl Harbor.
Beginnings People loved my “Chicken Hawk in Chief” T-shirt, voted best tshirt on our bus of 57 coming from Dutch Mill Road park and ride on the beltline. Several people took pictures at the rally of my shirt, even my sign, occasionally. Mike Miles said there were 14 buses from Wisconsin. That’s 700 people plus more than arrived other ways including one UW-Madison student I met who flew. Maybe a thousand from Wisconsin, who knows. I sat on the bus next to Michael Fields, one of three people from Caledonia, MN who said La Crosse is where they get groceries. Next to me across the aisle was Joanne Storlie from Marshall who took a petition sheet for the Madison referendum, and behind and across from me were a couple from Rockford. Only a half dozen of us were from the City of Madison, so I got only two signatures, three more had already signed, and then me, the “Verona area” Madisonian. The bus leaders, Fran Zell and Tom Bosley, were from Evansville. We weren’t so much a Madison bus as a suburban rallying point for people within a hundred miles or so. The advice to put my city and state on my sign was useful, as many people from UW or Wisconsin identified with it along the parade route. I brought along 300 copies of my favorite handout and hawked it with the phrase “jobs lost in the military buildup” or other lines as I saw fit. It was the right amount, as I saved the last dozen for those I talked with or repeat requests from the bus. I had passed out copies to the busload at the start of our trip.
Signs The signs were great, endless in variety and creativity. But only at the end of the march did I sit down by the side of the road and jot a few down:
"Make Levees Not War"
"May the power of love overcome the love of power"
"Go Solar Not Ballistic"
"We can bomb the world to pieces, we can’t bomb it to peace"
A woman talking to a woman next to me told of her son Sam, birthday 21 coming in October, heading off to war. A Homeland Security police vehicle drove against the flow of the march in front of me as I watched and thought that was rude. A helicopter circled over the rally and a speaker said “they should be rescuing someone, not spying on those exercising their first amendment rights.”
"Love him or hate him, a chickenhawk awol cheerleader will never win this war"
"Build New Orleans Up and Bring the Iraq War Down"
"Worst President Ever"
"War is costly, Peace is priceless"
"Feed People’s Needs, Not the War Machine"
At the concert, an athlete spoke out, Ethan Thomas of the Washington Wizards. This is a rare thing, for an athlete to get political.
"Therapy Not Bombs"
"Give Peace a Chance"
"Frodo Failed Bush has the Ring"
My own sign said
“Military Buildup Causes Jobless Recovery”
on one side and
“Disasters: 9-11, Iraq, Katrina, Bush, jr.”
on the other. I thought it would be interesting to see what won if the crowd had a choice of label to apply, given the three choices of: "Impeach", "Worst President Ever", "War Criminal". Sentiment and speeches reflected all three. When my section of the parade reached the White House on Pennsylvania Street, it broke into the chant “Shame, Shame, Shame”. A man was sitting on top of the White House wearing black, and I wondered if he was a police sniper.
Sharing on the bus ride home one young man expressed his mixed feelings about the anti Israeli sentiments at the rally. Another person was impressed with the compassion. Others were impressed with the inter generational nature of the crowd, the wide span of ages involved. Some youth were committed for life to the peace movement, but worried about their peers. Don’t our soldiers deserve the right to life? There was a picture of and embryo, and next to it a soldier says
“I was once an embryo, don’t I still deserve the right to life?”
One woman on our bus was a startlingly close look alike with Cindy Sheehan. Some speakers at the rally included George Galloway, Cindy Sheehan, Joan Baez, Jesse Jackson, Ramsey Clark, Ralph Nader and George Martin of Milwaukee. Some late saw Ralph Nader in a bar. Counter Recruitment and Education were big issues. The Police were well behaved and looked the other way sometimes. One sign said
“Compassionately Impeach Bush”
One teacher brought a contingent of 11 from UW-Platteville and said to them “you’re part of history now.” One suggested that recruiters should be banned from campus if caught lying. One rider was from the Belleville school board. Megan Yost, former candidate for the legislature from the Poynette area, commented on how the reflecting pool stench would now leave a bad impression on foreign visitors. How can we be a great nation and let our capital maintenance go?
UNITED FOR PEACE & JUSTICE | 212-868-5545
Hal Snyder, M.D.
Sent: Sun 9/25/2005 1:31 PM
To: PDI Subject: [PDI] report from D.C. 9/24
We got back this morning from the DuPage County bus trip to the D.C. mobilization against the war. Many thanks to Gary, Nayana, Kevin, David, John, and so many others for organizing the trip. It was a great experience for me, my daughter, and my grandson.
We arrived at the ellipse in Washington to find a crowd as far as the eye could see. While waiting for the march to start, we heard speeches from George Galloway, who told us of a London anti-war demonstration happening the same day, Ramsey Clark, George Martin, and others.
The march started around 1:30 p.m. We moved very slowly, probably because of the large number of groups feeding into the march (in fact, when we peeled off around 4 p.m. to make it back to the bus, the march was still going on and we had covered about half the route). We could still see masses of people still pouring onto the ellipse forty-five minutes after starting.
There was a robust diversity among the groups present, with variety, originality, passion, and humor in the posters and banners. Our slow-moving procession was a river of humanity filling the city street. Bystanders frequently joined in as our chants and cheers rang out and were echoed by the majestic stone buildings on either side. Helicopters buzzed overhead.
When we approached the White House, protesters perched atop the colonnades across the street cheered us on. One couple - possibly from Billionaires for Bush - stood above the crowd dressed in posh evening wear, acting as if to disdain the entire proceedings. Volume and energy of the demonstration reached a crescendo as we passed by the White House, where many chose the opportunity to express exactly what they thought of its present resident.
This was a massive demonstration. I have not been home long, but the media I have seen seem to under-report the event. Too bad; they should have been there. We shook the city.
Informant: Bob Reuschlein