Thank god for long underwear. Oh, and Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies. The Nose mumbled these mini prayers as we waded among the hordes of anti-war protesters that descended on Washington Saturday. The undies were a blessing for obvious reasons (an electronic bank thermometer we spied that morning read 19 degrees). The cookies, which a Nose cohort shrewdly packed along, proved our sole sustenance during the daylong descent into a surging sea of Bush bashers. And what was the horde's head count? As usual, depends on who you talk to. The activist group International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), which organized the rally and march, says half a million soldiers of peace turned out to denounce an attack on Iraq. Capitol police put the numbers at a mere 30,000. Here's all we have say regarding the masses on the Mall: At one point we were so far at the rear of placard-waving throngs that we couldn't see Al Sharpton when he took to the podium. (We hear the Rev. has slimmed down and all, but sheesh.)
The crowd was as varied as it was vast. We spied spiky-haired teens in full, 1970s Sex Pistols regalia, and Franciscan brothers, who looked enviably toasty beneath their ankle-length brown robes. Between the punks and the monks was everybody else: Veterans for Peace, Lesbians for Peace, Teachers for Peace, even Drag Queens for Peace wielding signs fringed with faux fur. Placard messages spanned the gamut from the lapidary elegance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s we must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools to the pithy pointedness of fuck you bush. More than once we saw mug shots of Cheney and Bush labeled the asses of evil.
It was a trying, chilling ordeal of a day which Dubya wasn't even around to see (he was kicking back at Camp David, from what we understand). But then, democracy in action isn't always easy. Or warm.