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Remember Guernica...

New York City Peace March, March 22 2003

Signs... Check! People...Check! Smile...Check! Elaine and the march are ready to leave 42nd street!

When you march in a peace demonstration of the magnitude of the New York march today, you begin to have the illusion that it will have an effect on the people in power. But I reminded myself today that I had thought this during the first march as well, and that nonetheless, this afternoon while I marched bombs were dropping on cities, and Iraqis were burning. Time will tell, of course, whether our numbers will grow to the point that governments MUST heed, but I doubt there was anyone in that march who really believed we could soon bring the White House program to a halt. We were there for another reason, actually, to speak out because that is what moral people do in the face of outrage.

Under the scrutiny of both Police and News choppers, the march gathers momentum...and colours!

Our message was the same as last time. Even the printed signs were the same: The “Not in Our Name” globe, “The World says No to War” in English, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew. There were new ones: “” and “No War for Empire.” We saw clever handwritten ones “Bombing for Peace is like Fucking for virginity,” calmly inspiring ones “George: We are not going to go away,” and my favorite, pictures of Guernica (a somewhat esoteric reference both to the Spanish town bombed by the Nazis and the picture - a copy - in the UN that Colin Powell declined to stand in front of when he argued for war.)

Angelique, her sign in arabic and her kafiah
Trying to get a good crowd picture

We were densely packed already at 40th Street (with uncountable thousands of people already ahead of us and the same accumulating behind us, and even after the march “commenced” we stood in place for half an hour while some distant mysterious obstacle held us up. Police (more numerous than in February but more accommodating) gradually drew back their steel barricades as we massed until we filled the width of the entire street. Every few minutes waves of hooting swelled up the line of marchers, a mixture of war whoops and ululation. Drummers kept up a constant throbbing, giving us a sense of urgency even while we stood still, and the people chanted, old VietNam chants and new ones with rhymes on Iraq and Oil.

Great Crowd....
Great Atmosphere!

The warm weather brought a welcomed exuberance that had been missing in February, and some clowning: a hairy flamboyant drag queen (whose message was obscure) and a troupe of burlesque dancers/singers with “political” penises.

The view towards 34th street...
The view down Broadway and a sign which says:

I am neither shocked nor awed

I am grief-stricken and furious

The high point of my personal journey down Broadway this afternoon was my TV interview. Not with US network TV, but better. Angelique suddenly spotted a reporter from Al Jazeera and we migrated to the side where he stood. I said to him “I am so glad you are here to see us, to show that this too is America,” and he put his microphone in my face and told me to say it again. I did, with their camera rolling (and a number of other observers who didn’t mind being second-hand interviewers, filming at the same time.) He asked me how I could reconcile the peace march with the pictures everyone in the world was seeing on television of the bombs dropping, and I told him that I could not, that watching those scenes made me cry with shame. I said that our government was doing a terrible thing, and not with the permission of the majority of Americans, and it would take a very very long time to repair it. I had a lot more buzzing in my head, but by then tears had welled up in my eyes and my voice choked off, so I had to stop. The reporter thanked me and Angelique and I walked away, only gradually grasping that my old wind-blown face would soon be seen by millions of Europeans and Arabs, but by practically no Americans. Well, there was not a single syllable of what I said that I would have taken back, and that I would not say again to the entire world. I hoped it would sound as sincere when translated into Arabic.

Elaine being interviewed by Al Jazeera

And more interviews....

We marched down to Washington Square Park, (which took about three hours) and at no time did the line thin out. There was no way to determine numbers, other than the sense (as in February) that they were staggering. When we got down to the Village, people leaned out of windows (as they often did during the Gay Pride parade) cheering us on, and it felt good to be reminded that we marchers were only a tiny fraction of the people who were opposed to the war and even in the inevitable victory, saw it as a moral defeat.

The march is passing by the Flatiron building...
Union Square...

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that traveling to the march in both directions we met ordinary people, the kind you never notice even as they walk past you, and they expressed their approval to us. Some understood the greater menace of the current administration and some had only a simple intuition that an attack on a weak non-threatening nation was vicious and not American. That made me feel more hopeful than the march itself, the sense that this sentiment was widespread in the most unlikely people.

We will see.

And finally Washington Square, where the march


As a sign said: "George, WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY!!". So expect more reports of more marches!
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© 2002 by Elaine Sutherland and Angelique Corthals. All Rights Reserved. Last Modified Friday, March 28, 2003