By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Many participants speculated that it was the city itself that had created volatility by refusing the march permit on security grounds (a position upheld by the courts last week). An orderly and known route of march would have posed far less of a security threat, they said, than the random convergence of groups from all over the city and cops who often seemed not to have clear instructions about how to handle the flow. Police officers themselves seemed frustrated by the lack of clarity about their ordersand in some cases by their lack of sense. An officer named Villegas, for one, seemed embarrassed as he insisted that five college students trying to join their friends would have to walk several blocks out of their way to find an opening in the obstacle course of metal fencing that had been erected for the occasion. "My wife is out here with my children," he told them, almost by way of apology.
Those who did make it into the pens on First Avenue fanned northward from a stage with a colorful banner proclaiming "The World Says No to War," and hundreds carried signs produced by the organizersUnited for Peace and Justice, a coalition of some 120 groupsbearing that slogan in English, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese. Actors Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon, playwright Tony Kushner, Congress member Nydia Velasquez, and musician Richie Havens were among some 60 speakersvisible on monitors set up every several blockswho fueled the crowd's commitment with analysis, jokes, songs, and prayers. "Peace! Peace! Peace!" intoned Bishop Desmond Tutu, veteran of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement. "Let America listen to the rest of the worldand the rest of the world is saying, 'Give the inspectors time.'" Angela Davis, veteran of America's anti-racist movements, recalled the city's last rally of comparable size, when 1 million rallied for nuclear disarmament in 1982, and asserted that "no weapons of mass destruction should be in the hands of any government."
Miles Joris-Peyrafitce, a 10-year-old from Albany who'd come down with his folks for the rally, had his own rousing words to offer from atop a police horse on First and 53rd. It's a poem he'd written for his fifth-grade class: "These military views are so hazy/ so maybe/ we need to fight against the war in Iraq./ Cuz this war/ is about to erupt./ They say they're trying to find Saddam Hussein/ so they're bombing everyone else by planes./ It's insane."
The message heard 'round the world today is that simple. But does George Bush get it?
"NYC Peace Activists Vow to Face Down Bush's War" by Sarah Ferguson