RW ONLINE: Feb. 14-16: The World Says No to War in Iraq
Millions March Feb. 14-16
The World Says No to War in Iraq
Revolutionary Worker #1188, February 23, 2003, posted at rwor.org
February 15 and the surrounding days: Huge rivers of humanity poured through
cities across the world. The marches were so large that precise estimates are
impossible to make--but clearly, millions of people spoke out together saying
"No to War on Iraq."
Many have remarked that these days of protests manifested one of the most
powerful acts of world-wide political resistance in history. In city after city,
the crowds vastly overshot the expected turnouts--sometimes by five or ten
It has been estimated by march organizers that people acted together in over
600 places across the world. Millions have been drawn into outraged political
protest. Many have taken special responsibilities to target their "own"
government. They have publicly and forcefully rejected the claim that this war
would be for their interests. Again and again, people raised banners, songs and
slogans that insisted this attack on Iraq was motivated by oil and imperialist
geo-politics--not by any official desire to make the people "safe."
People defied police and the war- makers, they mocked the small-minded
cruelty and swagger of President George Bush. And they expressed together their
profound and moving solidarity with the besieged and threatened people of
These actions were especially powerful in those countries where governments
are pressing for war, including the U.S., Britain, Italy, and Spain. In the U.S.
close to a million people demonstrated in one hundred cities and
towns--including major marches in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia,
Miami, Seattle, Portland OR, San Francisco and other cities. The days of action
were organized by United for Peace & Justice, a broad coalition of antiwar
Across the planet, millions expressed anger--and a profound sense of betrayal
and disgust--at the relentless pursuit of war by the U.S. government and allied
The following are sketches from this world-wide experience of protest.
New York City:
The authorities tried to forbid a march past the United Nations and denied
the people any legal permit to take to the streets of Manhattan. The response of
hundreds of thousands of people was simply defiant: Over 60 different groups
announced plans for banned feeder marches, and moved in groups of hundreds and
thousands through New York streets to the rally site.
The NYPD declared the highest level security alert--using the language of
"anti- terrorism" directly against the protests of the people. Police formed
barricades, shut off some subways, and tried to divert the marches. And
everywhere, this city became a moving sea of antiwar activity. New York City,
Ground Zero of September 11, issued its powerful rejection of the government
plans to make Baghdad a Ground Zero in 2003.
Andrew Rice, whose brother David was killed in the World Trade Center, told
the press: "Any idea that we should kill innocent Iraqis to avenge 9/11 is
cynical and wrong. We can't exploit our anger to murder children halfway around
Over 500,000 converged toward the United Nations, packing the east side of
Manhattan for 30 blocks, and spilled westward across three or four major
avenues. They were greeted by enthusiastic speakers: Author Arundhati Roy phoned
her message from India. Actors Rosie Perez, Susan Sarandon, Ossie Davis and
Danny Glover rose to speak. Families For Peaceful Tomorrows, whose loved ones
died in the attacks on September 11th, opposed the war. From the podium:
singer-activist Harry Belafonte, Miles Solay of Not in Our Name, Rep. Sheila
Jackson-Lee; Julian Bond, Chair of the NAACP; a former Israeli Army officer who
refused to fight in occupied Palestine; Richie Perez, National Congress for
Puerto Rican Rights; Rev. Al Sharpton; Bishop Desmond Tutu; and Leslie Cagan,
Coordinator, United For Peace & Justice. The singer Richie Havens and poets
Steve Coleman and Suheir Hammad moved the crowd with their art. Blocks from the
rally site people watched on big video screens and tuned into radio WBAI.
Blocks away, where the crowds spilled deep into Midtown Manhattan, mounted
police viciously attacked. Over 300 people were arrested.
RW correspondent Osage writes: "At times, the cops on horses would
charge through, trampling crowds they had cornered as other cops pummeled them
with their clubs." Rebel voices from the youth feeder march chanted "Fuck this
police state!" and "Whose streets? Our streets!" And next to them, fellow
marchers, less used to conflict with the cops, added, "You're not heroes to me
anymore!" Someone shouted: "Get those animals off those horses!"
Children from the grade school P.S. 3 brought a 15-foot balloon of the earth
patched up with duct tape. "We're trying to fix the world," one 10-year-old girl
RW correspondent Bill Swain interviewed one middle class woman who
said: "I think it's about empire. That's what really frightens me. There is
really a shift. Bush is trying to destroy the world. I think we have an
extremist government that was not elected. We came because we wanted to show the
rest of the world and the people in Iraq that there are many people in the U.S.
who don't support these policies. I want the people of Iraq to know that it is
not the American people."
The heart of Hollywood in Los Angeles was packed with people as over 70,000
joined one of the most massive anti-war protests in the history of the city.
Highlights included the participation of actors, writers, musicians and veteran
activists, including Gore Vidal, Ed Asner, Mike Farrell, Martin Sheen (with
fellow cast members from "West Wing"), Alfre Woodard, Tom Morello, Anjelica
Houston, David Clennon, William Baldwin, Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, Christine
Lahti, peoples lawyer Leonard Weinglass, James Cromwell, and Michelle
"Act like it's a globe, not an empire"-- seen on a banner created by
A contingent organized by the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade marched
under red flags--their banner read: "The world belongs to the youth, not the
U.S. imperialist murderers." Their chant caught on along the march: "Rise up
with the people of the world."
The LAPD later attacked and brutalized a radical contingent that separated
from the main march-- arresting at least seven.
Other cities in the U.S.
In city after city, broad numbers of people came together--including many who
had never protested before, with highly visible participation of radical youth,
immigrant and Arab communities and veterans of the 1960s.
- In Seattle, our RW correspondent estimated that 40-50,000
participated. In Chicago, almost 10,000 reportedly gathered in the heart of
the South Asian community--opposing war and expressing solidarity with
immigrant communities under siege.
- As we went to press on February 16, our correspondents in San Francisco
wrote that the main plaza in San Francisco's financial district was completely
packed, with the crowd spilling onto Market Street for blocks.
- Thousands marched in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in Portland,
- In Austin, Texas, thousands turned out to denounce Bush. "We're saying
`No!' to the boy from our hometown," University of Texas professor Robert
Jensen said to applause.
- In Colorado Springs, Colo., police fired tear gas at anti-war protesters
after they blocked a major thoroughfare. About 3,000 protesters emptied into
the street after a rally at a neighboring park.
"The World Says No To War"
- In Britain, organizers estimated that as many as one or two million people
filled the streets of London--the largest demonstration in British history.
They skewered Prime Minister Blair as a lapdog and partner-in-crime of U.S.
imperialism, and sharply rejected the intense moves toward war on Iraq.
- The prowar governments of Spain and Italy received unmistakable
repudiation from the people. Over 2 million antiwar marchers filled Rome. In
Spain, over one million marched in Barcelona and another million in the
capital Madrid. And almost every other city and major town in Spain reported
massive marches filling their streets.
- Berlin: close to 500,000 gathered at the heart of the German capital.
- Paris was filled with protest. Some estimates said 300,000, others said
more than twice that many. Many demanded that the French government stop its
slow creep toward endorsing a war in March--and use its veto in the UN
Security Council to deny the U.S. any figleaf of international approval.
- Other cities worldwide with tens or hundreds of thousands of people
protesting included: Seville, Melbourne, Athens, Montreal, Dublin, Brussels,
Lisbon, Amsterdam, Toronto, Stockholm, Los Angeles, Glasgow, Oslo, Seattle,
Montevideo, Stuttgart, Thessaloniki, Copenhagen, Berne, Switzerland, Sao
Paulo, Vancouver, Goteborg, Tokyo, Budapest, Vienna, Lyon, Perth, Montpeilier,
Luxemburg, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Helsinki, Mexico City, Canberra,
Trondheim, Kolkata, Johannesburg, Minneapolis, Zagreb, San Diego,
Philadelphia, and Edmonton.
- In Tel Aviv, several thousand bravely took to the streets. Thousands
marched in Istanbul, Turkey. In Baghdad, many thousands marched to express
their courage and determination in the face of U.S. war threats. In Singapore,
people tried to march, and the police simply arrested every single person.
There were reports of street-fighting in Athens, Greece.
For first hand reports from RW correspondents see the new RWOR Online
resource page at rwor.org/resistance/ (in Spanish rwor.org/resistencia/)
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker
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