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Largest antiwar rally in Boston since Vietnam
Protesters keep the pressure on

By Elizabeth Schulte | April 4, 2003 | Page 11

IN THE largest antiwar rally in Boston since the Vietnam War, some 25,000 people from around New England came out to protest war on Iraq on March 29. The rally, organized by United for Justice with Peace, drew a diverse crowd--including students, veterans, organized labor and parents of military personnel.

"I want to look back and know that I did something, and I want the rest of the world to know that we're not all for the war," said Patty Grant of Boulder, Colo., who protested the Vietnam War as a college freshman and came to Boston to join her daughter at the protest.

For many, Saturday's protest was their first. Protesters carried signs such as "No Blood for Oil," "Don't Give Smart Bombs to Dumb Presidents" and "George W. Bush is Pro-life: Offer Not Valid in Certain Areas," as they marched from Boston Common to Boylston Street. There, they staged a massive die-in.

This comes a week after a huge 250,000-strong protest rocked New York City, with protests of tens of thousands in San Francisco and Chicago. Antiwar activists must continue to organize more large demonstrations like these to tell George Bush: We won't stop protesting until you stop your war.

Student activists are organizing for April 5 regional protests in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Oakland, Calif., called by the Campus Antiwar Network to demand money for education not war, opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and no racist scapegoating.

In New York City last week, more than 1,000 activists gathered near Rockefeller Center to take part in a protest that snarled Fifth Avenue for more than half an hour. More than 200 protesters were arrested after they staged a die-in in the street and refused to move.

Organizers chose the busy Midtown location because of its proximity to studios and offices for AOL/Time Warner, News Corp., the Associated Press, General Electric and NBC. Protesters chanted "CNN! NBC! Get out of bed with the military!"

Some protesters were held for more than 16 hours before they were released. "It's great that there's all these things I supposedly fought for like democracy and freedom of speech," said Eric, a former Marine who fought in the first Gulf War and also served in Panama, "and now I'm getting assaulted by the police for speaking out."

The event was part of a citywide day of direct action in New York that included student walkouts at several campuses. On March 27, 1,000 New York University (NYU) students walked out of class and then rallied at Washington Square Park. After the rally, they marched to NYU's student center, where hundreds sat-in on the grand staircase while hundreds more rallied outside. Students presented the administration with demands to take a public stand against the war, end all military contracts and stop helping the NYPD police protesters. At Columbia University, 1,000 students walked out of classes and rallied against the war on March 26.

In Los Angeles, 1,500 people gathered in Leimert Park in the predominantly African American Crenshaw district on March 29 for a spirited antiwar rally sponsored by the International Black Coalition for Peace and Justice. Organizers included Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, as well as several local churches and the University of California-LA's African Student Union.

Organize debates and teach-ins

ANTIWAR ACTIVISTS are organizing teach-ins and debates--to strengthen our arguments around the war on Iraq and convince a wider audience to join the movement to oppose this brutal war.

In New York City, Columbia University's faculty held an antiwar teach-in on March 26. Some 30 people spoke, including Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Hamid Dabashi, Roger Normand, Barbara Fields, Eric Foner and Todd Gitlin. Some 3,000 people attended event, coming and going throughout the evening--from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Topics ranged from the war, civil liberties, the presidency, the Middle East, the media, the Bush Doctrine, pre-emptive war and more. Participants took up many questions within the movement, such as whether antiwar activists should call themselves patriots or whether mass protests make a difference.

"We must act now to insure George W. Bush is not in office in 2005 to carry on with his crusade. Blocking traffic, and making drivers angry at the antiwar movement, will not accomplish that," argued former 1960s student leader Todd Gitlin, who was met with hisses from the crowd. "Nothing will prevail unless the spirit of protest transforms into a spirit of politics," he continued, sparking more debate.

More debates and teach-ins that argue out all the issues that effect our movement are important if we are to build the strongest opposition to this war. Activists are organizing debates with pro-war forces--to publicly expose them and bring a wider layer of people around the growing antiwar movement.

Hollis Architzel, Petrino DiLeo, Sue Fitzgerald, Yusef Khalil, Meneejeh Moradian and Gillian Russom contributed to this report.

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