Peace March Veers Way Left

Black-led protest challenges capitalism, imperialism, and New York's very rich mayor

The march then headed south down Malcolm X Boulevard, past boarded-up brownstones alternating with newly renovated ones, and teams of Latin American day laborers hanging out in front of newly gutted tenements-part of the urban renewal that is sweeping many longtime Harlem residents out.

Though organizers hoped to capture some of the disaffection simmering in Harlem, many locals said they were not aware of the march. "I think it's good, but I think it's a little late. A lot of people done got killed over there already," said Earl Williams, a barber at the Brite Lite barbershop, who is battling to save the 85-year-old shop from the landlord's efforts to triple the rent.

Besides engaging more people of color, the tenor of the Troops Out Now protest was sharply to the left of past large antiwar demonstrations.

Bloomberg out now! Protesters mass outside Mayor Michael Bloomberg's townhouse to denounce the war and New York City budget cuts.
photo: Kazu Ohsugi
Bloomberg out now! Protesters mass outside Mayor Michael Bloomberg's townhouse to denounce the war and New York City budget cuts.

At the Marcus Garvey Park amphitheatrer, where the march assembled, the crowd gave a standing ovation to radical attorney Lynne Stewart, who was convicted last month of aiding terrorists by relaying messages from jailed Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Calling herself a "poster girl for repression at home," Stewart told her supporters, "We are here as the great resistance . . . to this dirty, rotten, self-aggrandizing war made by misguided men in high places."

And a secretary from City College who was arrested during a protest there last week spoke less of the campaign to kick military recruiters off campus and more of the need to "overthrow capitalism."

Other speeches in Central Park included former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who reiterated his call to impeach Bush, a tape-recorded message from death row star Mumia Abu Jamal, and more firebrand rhetoric from Councilman Barron. "It's time to call it like it is: This as a war for oil and for the protection of Israel," said Barron, who vowed to "build a progressive, revolutionary radical new order."

Indeed, the march took on class-war overtones when a still-hardy crowd of 4,000 set off from the park to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's townhouse on 79th Street near Fifth Avenue. The contrast from Harlem was clear as the jeering protesters filed past the Upper East Side's marbled residences, chanting things like: "Rich people, that's okay, you can work for us one day!" and "Money for jobs, not for war!" But the reaction from passersby remained surprisingly positive-including blown kisses and "thank you's" from a well-appointed wedding party getting into limos outside Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church on Park Avenue.

"We came from Wisconsin for my niece's wedding, but we would have joined the protest if we could," said Marlene Dion, a nurse from Appleton, Wisconsin, adding that she was disappointed there were not more antiwar protests where she's from. "This war should never have happened. I'm against anything from this administration."

About 1,500 people made it to the corner of 79th Street and Fifth Avenue-half a block from Bloomberg's residence, which was as close as the cops would let them get. The police, though numerous, remained relatively low-key as speakers assailed Bloomberg and "the wealthy who don't like protests on Fifth Avenue"-a reference to the organizers' battle over the right to march down the avenue, which is reserved for cultural parades.

Brandishing a poster of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Troops out Now leader Larry Holmes justified the attack on Bloomberg as a mayor who, while publicly neutral about the war, has nevertheless done his best to suppress dissent over it in the city. "He's a billionaire and he's close to Bush, and we want that $80 billion that Bush is spending on war-we want that money in New York and all these other cities that are suffering now."

No doubt Bloomberg would also like a piece of that $80 billion as he grapples with steep cuts to federal aid for housing and mass transit, and the shortchanging of homeland security dollars to New York.

But Holmes was adamant: "If Bloomberg is not with us, he is against us."

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