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News ::
13,000+ New Englanders Rally for Peace in Boston (english)
03 Nov 2002
Modified: 05 Nov 2002
On Sunday 11/03/02, over 13,000 people from across New England gathered on the Boston Common for a peace rally and march through Boston. A great diversity of signs, some of them highly creative, voiced people’s opposition to a war on Iraq. Some carried signs calling for working through the UN for weapons inspections and against a first strike, while others were simply opposed to all war.
13,000+ New Englanders Rally for Peace in Boston
by Matthew Williams

Boston, MA; 11/03/02--Over 13,000 people from across New England gathered on the Boston Common for a peace rally, starting at 1:00 and running until about 5:00. The rally was organized by United for Justice with Peace, a coalition of Boston metro area peace groups. In addition to numerous speakers and musical performers, there was a lively march through Boston--down Tremont Street, turning around at Copley Square, and coming back up Boylston St. Although predominantly white, the crowd included people of all ages, from small children to the gray-haired. A great diversity of signs, some of them highly creative, voiced people’s opposition to a war on Iraq. Some carried signs calling for working through the UN for weapons inspections and against a first strike, while others were simply opposed to all war; most of the rally’s speakers fell towards the second end of the spectrum.

Howard Zinn, an eminent radical historian whose own experiences as a bomber during World War II turned him against war, asked the gathering, “Are we going to overthrow Hussein and create a democracy? That would be something new in our foreign policy. We have supported military dictatorships and overthrown democratic governments often in the past. If our government wants democracy in Iraq, it should lift the sanctions and in their own time Iraqis will overthrow Hussein. When you go to war against a tyrant, you are killing the victims of that tyrant.” Zinn was referring to the US government’s bloody track record in foreign policy, which includes the overthrow of an elected socialist government in Chile and nationalist one in Iran, replacing them with brutal dictators--Pinochet in Chile and the Shah in Iran. Hussein himself was a US ally through his worst atrocities--including gassing both Iranian soldiers and Iraqi Kurds--until his invasion of Kuwait upset the balance of power in the Middle East. The Gulf War killed thousands of civilians and devastated Iraq, destroying the civilian infrastructure as the US government deliberately targeted hospitals, roads, sewage treatment plants, and electrical generation plants; the sanctions have prevented Iraq from rebuilding.

As I came out of the subway stop at Park St., I was immediately greeted with a crowd. A large group was gathered around members of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, playing a guitar and singing such songs as “Ain’t going to study war no more”. I continued on to the Boston Common bandstand, where the Joint Chiefs were playing reggae. Shortly thereafter the speakers got under way. The gathering was huge--organizers placed it at well over the 10,000 they had been expecting; an IMC audio reporter’s grid count put it at 13,400 and police estimated 15,000. Actor Tim Robbins--star of the Shawshank Redemption and director of Dead Man Walking, as well as a long time peace activist--noted, “It took years of involvement in Vietnam to build up to this number of people at protests. To have this many before the war has started is essential.”

Layla Cable, a Boston-area teacher with family in both Kuwait and Iraq, told of what her relatives endure under sanctions. “My uncle went in for a minor eye surgery and died three days later from an infection because of the lack of antibiotics. My cousins’ children don’t want to go to school. They say that they don’t see the point--there are no jobs and no food. Imagine a war on top of that.” By conservative estimates, the sanctions have killed 300,000 children under five through malnutrition and lack of basic medical care. Although the Iraqi government has been able to import food and medicine under the food-for-oil program since 1996, the amount is no where near enough and essential items are often placed on hold by the US and British governments. Because of the devastation of the civilian infrastructure, the unemployment rate runs as high as 60% in some areas. As a result, most people are dependent on government-distributed rations--provided by the food-for-oil program--for their survival.

There was a forest of signs. There was the old favorite, “No blood for oil.” Others held American flags with the stars replaced by a peace sign. Many of the signs were electoral in orientation, including not just those supporting Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for governor of Massachusetts, and Randall Forsberg, the write-in candidate challenging Senator Kerry because of his pro-war vote, but others reading “Regime change begins at home: Vote.” Others were more creative and a great deal of work had obviously gone into some. My favorite was one reading, “Remember Vietnam. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Unfortunately, those of us who remember it are condemned to relive it with them.” There was also a small group with different variations of the anarchist black flag.

Both Stein and Forsberg spoke are the rally. Forsberg said that a new war would devastate not only Iraq, but would harm the US as well: “A war on Iraq would not only be wrong, a war on Iraq would be dumb. It would wreak havoc with our economy by driving up oil prices, throwing the stock market into turmoil, eliminating the capital investment we need to create jobs. It will send us into a depression, not just a recession.” Episcopalian bishop and monk Thomas Shaw warned of other dangers besides economic ones: “What is driving this war is fear and anxiety. Saddam Hussein has replaced Osama bin Laden as our demon. Our government tells us that if we eliminate Hussein our lives will go as they did before September 11, and we can continue to consume a disproportionate share of the world’s resources. But if we continue of this course, we will not be able to continue on with our lives. We will create more terrorists. The people of the world who hate us will still hate us.”

As a break from the speakers--and to keep everyone warm in the chilly fall air--there was a permitted march through the streets of Boston, lead by Buddhist drummers from the Peace Pagoda in Leverett. At the points I was able to take a good look from the middle of the march, I was unable to make out either its start or its end. Some people simply chatted, while others chanted such things as, “Hey Bush, we know you! Your daddy killed for oil too!” Iraq contains the world’s second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, where the US already has large numbers of troops stationed, propping up its Islamic fundamentalist monarchy. Despite the rhetorical claims of the Bush and Blair administrations, there is no concrete evidence that Iraq actually possesses nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. The Bush administration, however, has been intent on setting up military bases in oil rich regions; the war on Afghanistan resulted in US bases throughout oil rich Central Asia.

Robbins said, “I do not like fundamentalism of any kind--in al-Qaeda or in our government. Our government’s fundamentalism is business fundamentalism, the unfettered expansion of economic system across the globe. Our resistance should be resistance to placing profit over human life. That is what is going on in this war--business. The economic scandals surrounding Halliburton and Harken have disappeared from the papers.” Most members of the Bush administration have ties to major oil companies, including Vice President Cheney’s to Halliburton and President Bush’s to Harken.

The march eventually returned to the Boston Common. The official program continued with more speakers. Off to the side, a large group gathered to drum and dance, periodically calling out “No attack on Iraq!” and generating a lot of good energy. As MC Brian Corr of Peace Action and the American Friends Service Committee said to loud applause, “We are going to stop this war before it starts. We are not going away.”

****

To get in touch with the rally organizers, United for Justice with Peace, see their website at http://www.unitedforjusticewithpeace.org. For more information on Iraq, see the Iraq Action Coalition website http://www.iraqaction.org or ZNet’s Iraq Watch page, http://www.zmag.org/CrisesCurEvts/Iraq/IraqCrisis.htm.
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Comments

Who is jon chance (english)
04 Nov 2002
and why does he feel compelled to post comments that are unrelated to the story at hand? Does anyone else find this annoying and a bit off?

Not to split hairs but I didn't think the anarchist group was so small compared to, say, the Buddhist group's crowd for example... there were plenty of the red and black there including radical cheerleaders and a Lucy Parsons Center crowd and NEFAC folks. Sure, maybe they numbered less than people holding those electoral signs, as this march was annoyingly close to an election. But thanks for a good detailed report.
Police estimated 15,000 (english)
04 Nov 2002
The police estimated and the Boston Globe reported 15,000 people at the protest. Given this the true numbers are likely to be higher. A large turn out for a regional event as is happening at similar events all over the country.

Let's all remember that it's going to take more than a walk through downtown to stop the war and we need to keep talking to our friends and neighbors about the war and the conditions that propel it.
back to the matter at hand... (english)
05 Nov 2002
All posts that were not directly related to Sunday's anti-war march have been removed from this thread. If the need arises, they can be re-posted to a different location.