is What Democracy Looks Like:
New Yorkers Say NO to War on Iraq (March 22 2003)
Browse photos of the March 22, 2003 New York City
anti-war March. Read more articles in the War section
of this site.
knew it would be big when I saw all those people with signs get on the
F train in Brooklyn. At the next stop a woman entered and began haranguing
the people in the subway car about our invasion of Iraq, not realizing
that all but a handful were already partisans of her cause. She mistakenly
told everyone to go to the anti-war rally in Bryant Park.
I had picked up a leaflet advertising the march only two weeks earlier — usually
these things take months to organize. By the time I exited at 42nd St., where
the leaflet said the march would begin, the car was full of people dressed for
protest; at the platform many more exited from the other cars. The march wasn’t
even scheduled to start for another 45 minutes.
There was no rally in Bryant Park; there was no rally, period. The police hadn’t
wanted any march at all, just a gathering like the overcrowded mosh pit near
the UN in February. Organizers convinced the police to permit people to walk
the two miles down Broadway from Times Square to Washington Square Park. There
was no rally there either; just a loudspeaker telling everyone to disperse. Nonetheless,
marching is much more satisfying than just standing around, and much less conducive
to mischief making.
I don’t know when or where the march started. I never saw a front line.
Rivulets of people flowed from side streets onto Broadway to join the stream
of humanity. There weren’t many barricades, or cops channeling the crowd,
so the stream eddied onto the sidewalks. Occasionally someone with an armband
would stop a section to create more space in front. On some side streets I could
see lines of police with motor scooters, waiting for something to happen.
I walked fast, threading my way through the loosely packed crowd, occasionally
stopping to take a photo. I was trying to get to the front line in order to photograph
it. Somewhere in the 30s I found what looked like a front line, right behind
a large banner saying “The World Says No to War.” But there were
tens of thousands of people in front of it, as well as behind. This, and similar
signs in numerous languages, were among the few formal, printed, posters. Most
signs were hand-made, attesting to the spontaneity of the march and the strong
personal feelings of the marchers.
When we reached Union Square I saw a long 3-foot-high lane barricade which made
a good photo platform. Of course dozens of other photographers had the same idea
so finding a spot with a clear view required some precarious stretching and balancing.
However, when I yelled at someone with a great sign to stop, they willingly did
so, and turned my way.
What was most impressive about this crowd was its diversity. Those marching against
the war in Viet Nam were mostly young; the age range in this crowd was wide.
There were the usual left-wing sectarian groups but their signs were dwarfed
by the more personal signs carried by ordinary people. Some were held by teenagers;
some by seasoned protestors. One man told me he had carried his sign in protests
against the 1991 Gulf War; one woman had saved her generic peace poster from
Viet Nam days.
When I reached Washington Square a marshal was dividing the line in two, one
line going on the north side of the park and one down the east side. From these
streets people went home or wandered around the park, looking at each other’s
signs. Earlier a group had sat down in the street running north of the Square and refused to move. Several
dozen were arrested. I saw a small group sitting in the middle of that street,
but the only traffic they disrupted were other marchers; they left when the police
asked them to.
took two years of organizing marches against the war in Viet Nam for the numbers
to reach those achieved in only six months against this war. Estimates on the
number of marchers ranged from 100,000 to 250,000 depending on who did the counting.
Although I didn’t see the whole thing — in fact because I didn’t
see the whole thing — I lean toward the larger numbers. I walk fast; for
I can usually see the entire march, sometime twice. Even though I left Times
Square early, I never reached the front line.
There were marches on this day all over the world; New York’s was the largest,
even though New York City was still feeling the effects of the September 11,
2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
York remains a wounded city. The collapse of the World Trade Center left 2,874
people dead and about three dozen orphaned children. The subways under
and near the WTC site are now running, and most local businesses have re-opened,
but the economic effects were widespread. Over 90,000 private sector jobs were
lost in the year following the attacks. The GAO estimates that September 11 cost
NYC 1.6 billion dollars in revenue in 2002, and will cost another 1.4 billion
in 2003. New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey also lost billions of dollars
as people. This means that thousands of government employees will lose their
jobs and services will be curtailed. President Bush promised 10 billion dollars
in assistance, but it hasn’t been forthcoming. Federal money was used to
attack Iraq in the guise of preventing another September 11, not to help those
victimized by the attacks.
Despite these losses and despite the wound, New Yorkers turned out in large numbers
to tell the world that the war on Iraq was not the response they wanted. Attacking
Iraq won’t prevent another terrorist assault; it might well make it more
likely. Killing Iraqis won’t bring those killed in the WTC back to life;
nor will it punish those who did the damage.
Photos of the March 22, 2003
York City Anti-War March
by Jo Freeman
Please click on thumbnails to view the complete image