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News ::
Saturday's Protest: A Scene of Beauty (english)
31 Mar 2003
Another account of Saturday's protest (I attempted to capture the feeling of it all)
The scene on Saturday of the peace protest in Boston was one of beauty. One image stands out in my mind particularly: as we marched up Boylston street, with a strong warm wind at our backs, I noticed two individuals walking together in the other direction on the sidewalk. It was an older white man, probably in his eighties, and a younger black woman, probably in her early thirties. Each was smiling broadly and holding up a peace sign with one hand. It made me wonder what brought these two individuals together, so different in age, race, and gender, but clearly feeling very much the same at that particular moment. They summed up the whole rally for me. There were people of all ages, all races, from every walk of life, all walking together. And the crowd was so joyful, so relieved to be surrounded by people that feel as they do, that this war in Iraq is wrong.

There were, of course, small groups of people positioned along the way who were in favor of the war. They were shouting things like “Support our troops,” to which the crowd would promptly reply “Support our troops, bring them home.” None of those trying to protest the protest seemed to be having much fun. I am quite certain that each had received a frustrating amount of heckling as the march went by. I saw one man on a second floor porch, leaning over a Marine flag, shouting at the top of his lungs, bright red in the face. He was clearly furious at the protesters, but it was difficult to understand anything he was saying. The protesters just smiled and waved, repeating “Support our troops, bring them home.” Almost all of the signs that the pro-war contingent held either implored the protesters to support the troops or to support the president. The few signs that deviated from the traditional anti-protest rhetoric seemed ridiculous and served to reaffirm the feeling in the crowd that they were right. There was one sign that equated protesting the war and killing U.S. soldiers. One relatively large group of protest protestors, maybe ten or twelve people, amid a sea of at least 7 U.S. flags, shouted angrily at the protesters as they reached the public garden near the end of the march. They seemed to be affiliated somehow with the Marines, since a few of them were in Marine uniforms. One of the signs they held called for the deportation of all the protestors.

It was interesting to me that the dissent from the flanks did not serve at all to dishearten, or even mildly irk the crowd. On the contrary, each pocket of protest protestors seemed to make the crowd stronger, and more unified. Unity was the power fueling this crowd, the unity of purpose. Everyone in the march was confident and sure of one thing: they did not approve of the war in Iraq. They were so confident and sure that when someone disagreed with them they were forced to assume that that person had not looked at the issue in the correct manner, or was not capable of looking at the issue in the correct manner.

The signs that the crowd carried were very much like the crowd, as diverse as nature itself. Some of the signs attempted to articulate exactly what was wrong with the Bush administration strategy, and some tried to espouse a particular moral leaning. There were signs that simply said “Peace” and ones that advocated taking down the entire capitalist institution. But many of the signs were funny, and those are the ones that I remember most of all. I saw one that said “L.A.B.I.A.” which stood for “Lesbians Against Boys Invading Anything.” There are also a lot of funny things that can be done with a name like Bush. There was a massive paper mache sculpture that had President Bush on one side of a head, and Saddam Hussein on the other. This struck me as funny right away, just imagining a group of people trying to construct such a massive structure, and then figure out how they were going to transport it to the rally. It occurred to me that perhaps the humor in the protest was a vital element because it served to enhance that feeling of unity by permitting us to laugh together even in the face of tragedy. It was, after all, the unity that was the most important part, because since we were united under a single purpose we were free to be whoever we wanted to be. We were willing and happy to work together no matter what our differences. It was a scene of beauty.
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