Last Saturday, demonstrators in Harlem braved hand-numbing cold and rain to raise their voices against the war. Organized by the Black Solidarity Against the War Coalition, the crowd was comprised largely of people of color, and their placards and chants stopped local residents in their tracks. It was the most successful demonstration in the city to date to organize blacks and Latinos against the war.
Demonstrators assembled at Marcus Garvey Park, at Madison and 122nd Street, and marched in a circuitous route through Harlem’s busiest streets to the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building. What was initially a crowd of only a handful grew to 1500 people, with large numbers from the Muslim community and various unions. Demonstrators walked almost three miles, drawing curious gazes from onlookers in shops and on stoops, and from residents perched in windows above the street.
Harlemites opened their doors to the commotion and the cold to accept flyers, talk to marchers, and some even join the procession. A 25-year-old woman who jumped in the march from a beauty salon told the Voice that she did so because “the ones that are going to be suffering after the war are the blacks.”
At the State Office Building plaza, speeches echoed off of adjacent buildings and filled the streets. Congressman Charles Rangel, Roger Toussaint, head of Local 100 of the Transit Workers Union, spoke, along with Council members Bill Perkins and Charles Barron. Calls for Black Power punctuated a clear message: Harlem is against the war and the Bush administration should refocus on domestic issues.
Judging by the enthusiastic response, Barron seemed to capture the sentiments uptown: “This is not a war about stopping terrorism, because some of the greatest terrors have occurred right here in America—when they do not educate our people, house our people, clothe our people, or employ our youth. It’s disgusting that we have to sit here and see a single black youth, or Latino youth come home in a body bag. . . . Our youth joined the armed services to get better education, not to be somebody’s cannon fodder for oil.”