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Visualize World Peace

"I felt like I needed to exercise some of my privileges as an American citizen, which, you know, you sort of take for granted sometimes. I feel very strongly against the war, although I've been wondering whether or not, you know, protests are, you know, effective at getting something done. But I still think it's one of the most important things you can do as an American citizen."
--Zach Samalin, college student, Baltimore
"Why not? You know, strength in numbers! People just need to voice their opinion, you know?"--Elias Ariston, college student, Baltimore
"I think that the war in Iraq is not about terrorism but about oil, and I have a problem with a few thousand or several thousand civilian Iraqi dead for our oil companies. That's really about it."
--Erica Morgan, college student, Baltimore
"For the past decade, I've heard accounts of religious peace activists who have visited Iraq, and they've talked about the sanctions and the devastating effects that the sanctions have had on the Iraqi people. Iraq is suffering enough, and I think that President Bush should definitely not wage war on Iraq.

"I'm a member of the United Methodist Church, and the bishops [on the General Board of Church and Society] and the United Methodist Women have issued statements against going to war. Incidentally, George Bush is a . . . says he's a Methodist, too, so I hope he listens to the rest of his church."
--Kim Leith, librarian, Baltimore

"I'm going to Washington today because I think it's so important that there be a mass movement in this country for peace. I feel we're isolating ourselves from the world, as a nation, and we're embarking on the new Crusades, and that we need to find a unified voice for peace.

"I was involved in the peace demonstrations back in the '60s . . . I'm really appalled that there's not a much greater outcry at this time. . . . We need somebody like Paul Wellstone, or someone who's not afraid to speak their conscience and come forward as a leading figure, as an anti-war candidate, as Eugene McCarthy or George McGovern did, or Bobby Kennedy did.

"I feel like, as a nation, we're so complacent right now. We've lived through this period of incredible affluence, and I think that it's not going to be the young people that are going to create this movement, as it was back in the '60s; I think it's going to be people my age or older--I'm in my 40s--people who've been through it before."
--Scott MacLeod, musician, Baltimore

"As soon as we found out this was happening, there was no question [of not going]. I don't believe the polls that say that the majority of the people in the country are for going to war--I don't know those people. So, it's important to show that we aren't those people.

"I think it can have an influence. At least, if nothing else, [we can] show the rest of the world that when the media talks about 'America,' they're not talking about the American people--they're talking about some bigwigs in government that have some kind of agenda that we don't necessarily understand or agree with."
--Molly Cantor, potter, Leverett, Mass.

"The reason I'm here is because I feel like the United States should really work through the United Nations. I feel like if the US goes to war unilaterally, that will just set a precedent that would lead to a future of chaos and violence and war around the world."
--Evan DuVerlie, carpenter, Leverett, Mass.
"I guess I'm coming out today because I don't believe that war on Iraq is either just or justified, and I think it's important to stop this before it starts."
--Marissa Hoftiezer, college student, Baltimore
"I'm here to hopefully stop the war--that's the hope--and get our country to stand up for human rights and the kind of values that I think our country is about, which [are] equality and compassion."
--Mark Giffen, elementary school teacher, Baltimore
"I think it's important to make a statement and to be one of a number of people who speaks out. I have no idea how . . . one could measure the impact of demonstrations, and yet, in the long run, I feel that during Vietnam all that public presence made a difference. I feel that, right now, the voices against this impending war are much stronger and much more multiple than at the beginning of the Vietnam War, despite the polls.

"Ever since September 11, I've really felt that it was just so clear how important it was to work for peaceful means, and to not think in terms of retaliation, because it just seems more and more clear to me that violence begets violence. And yet the seemingly instinctual or automatic reaction of our leaders is [to] just be more strong, be more of a bully."
--Elizabeth DuVerlie, public health and development consultant, Baltimore

"I'm hoping that there's some kind of media coverage, because there seems to be a bit of a blackout lately with the TV and the radio. We think the government is not showing a lot of the protests around the country--and even around the world--against this war on Iraq. So hopefully today, now that the sniper's been caught, there'll be a lot more coverage. Maybe that will help."
--Jeane Lauber, librarian, Baltimore
"I don't like Iraq. I think it's horrible. . . . But I don't think we should spend our time and money on trying to take [Saddam Hussein] down when this country needs so many other things."
--Gordon Silesky, retired printer, Pasadena

By Lauren Goodsmith | Posted 11/6/2002

Saturday, Oct. 26, 9 a.m., Baltimore--A crowd of 200 or so gathers in and around the All Peoples Congress building on East 31st Street. The group is diverse and animated. Outside, people chat, many of them clutching homemade posters; inside, last-minute ticket buyers sign up for the $10 round-trip All Peoples-sponsored ride to Washington for the anti-war demonstrations or peruse activist literature. The three yellow school buses waiting just down the block are joined by a fourth.

9:37 a.m., en route. Bus captain Jeff Bigelow circulates a sign-in sheet and provides information about the drop-off/pick-up location at 21st and Constitution--"the same spot as all the other thousands of people from all over the country are being told," he adds with a grin. The short orientation shifts to rallying talk, and we imagine our small group joining with the passengers of all those other buses, coming together, as Jeff puts it, to make our message as loud as we can.

11 a.m., Washington, D.C. We ran into traffic on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, but here we are, not a minute to spare before the event's official start. Constitution Avenue is lined with buses for as far as we can see. There's no room for ours along the curb, so it double-parks and we clamber out.

We join the stream of people crossing the street and make our way to the rallying area, the green swathe adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The field is mucky and roiled in places; it rained all through the night. But now the sun has emerged, and from the slight rise at the muddy meadow's edge, you can see the scope of the crowd, see the air bristling with posters, banners, puppets, and placards right up to the distant stage.

Over the next several hours, many speakers address the crowd. We hear eyewitness accounts of the effects of the sanctions on Iraqi civilians and impassioned addresses by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and actor/activist Susan Sarandon. The Rev. Jesse Jackson makes the point that Saddam Hussein's reprehensible record isn't a premise for war but an argument for an international criminal court--an entity to which the United States consistently refuses to subscribe. There is a moment of silence for the late senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone. Between speeches, members of International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), the event's organizers, assess the size of the crowd. A hundred thousand. A hundred twenty, and rising. ("There are buses from New York still on the way in!")

At last, it's time to get moving. Everyone throngs back toward Constitution Avenue to start the looping promenade past the White House. The somber figure of an Iraqi woman, wielded by members of Paper Hand Puppet Intervention, towers over marchers' heads. Saffron-robed monks take measured steps in their "Peace Zone," and fuschia-wigged performers chant, "All war, all the time," and flourish a banner reading an absurd response to an absurd war. Along the length of the march, other chants and choruses go up from individual groups, shifting and fading and dying away. Then, somewhere just past the halfway point, a common cheer rises, spreading along the crowd's entire length and shaking the air. Later, we hear that the front of the march, on its long, circular route, had met the rearguard and had to wait for it to pass before proceeding.

5:30 p.m. After some searching, we meet up near the designated spot. (Bigelow, the bus-captain, was right--there aren't many other yellow school buses.) We're eager to hear the news coverage of the event, and our driver tunes in to National Public Radio's All Things Considered. We sit listening to the various top stories of the day, including a segment on the progress of the World Series. Finally, we hear the story we've been waiting for, but when it's over, we stare at one another, dumbfounded. According to the NPR reporter, "fewer than 10,000" had attended the event.

Although NPR later corrected its mistake, stating that protest organizers estimated the crowd at 100,000, it's still frustrating, incomprehensible. But in another way, it doesn't matter. We all know what we've seen.

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Walk Softly (11/25/2009)
Middle East scholar Juan Cole argues against sending lots of troops to Afghanistan

Iraq War Hits Home Hard (5/22/2008)

More from Lauren Goodsmith

Peace Train (11/6/2002)

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