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Parent Article: Boston Rallies Immediately Against the War (english)
report on Boston march (english)
21 Mar 2003
Modified: 10:11:39 AM
I arrived at the march just as it was leaving Government Center, to find a large (thousands) group of people marching with a heavy police escort, both on motorcycles and also walking among the crowd. The crowd continued to march, meekly following the police, who were blocking off streets as we went, and had a group of about five cops following the dozen Bloc who were walking together at that point. There were a group of people who seemed to be from the organizing group (ANSWER/UFP, I believe, though I'm not sure) who were walking at the front of the march, trying to force people to stay behind the banners and not walk anywhere they weren't told to. I was disgusted by this behavior, as were a few others, but the majority of people followed the directions like sheep. Some of the organizers were actively collaborating with police as to keeping the crowd contained and ineffective, and one even told the police they should keep a close eye on the people in black masks, as they would be creating trouble. To be honest, I wanted to jump the man and ask him where he got off conspiring with police to keep certain "unsavory" protestors from behaving as they wished.

At Copley, the group marched in and kept chanting things like "This is what democracy looks like" and "Whose streets?Our streets!". More like "This is what a Huxleyan police state looks like" and "Whose streets? The cops' streets!". There was a sound truck present, which gave the sanctioned speakers a chance to drown out the voices of anyone else who was trying to talk to the crowd. There was a point where I almost left because it seemed like everyone was pleased with walking along with a police escort to a park, patting themselves on the back for making a difference. Fortunately, there was a movement back to the streets after about half an hour or so.

Groups moved out of the park, with a large contingent of black bloc, probably around fifty or so, marching wrapped in a protective banner, with about twenty police walking right on the other side. We moved across and down Newbury Street, recieving little resistance from the police until we reached Mass Ave and a move was made towards the onramp to I-90. We made it about halfway down before police started rushing in to block the marchers. If the crowd had moved faster, or rallied and made a break for the highway, it would have been unstoppable. As it were, people got scared by the flashing lights and running cops and froze halfway down, giving the police a chance to drive in more motorcycles and literally layer them three deep across the ramp, effectively blocking it.

A group then decided to sit down in protest, as the police were starting to get rough with people, pushing and throwing them back and being threatening with their clubs. The group sitting grew to roughly thirty or so as police began pushing protesters back up the ramp. The sit-down caused some confusion among the police as to how to deal with it, and all motion stopped for a minute or two as the situation was analyzed by both sides. After this short standoff of ten or fifteen minutes, the sitters got up and moved with the rest of the group back up the ramp, realizing that there was no way they could make it down onto the highway with such a strong police presence now in front of them.

Once back on Mass Ave, protesters began moving down towards the bridge to Cambridge. One protester was arrested, for a reason unknown to me, with the police taking them down on the side of the street and cuffing them as protesters chanted "shame, shame". This did nothing to deter the police, and the arrestee was taken away, with no attempts at unarresting or such made by the crowd.

Upon reaching the bridge, protesters proceeded onto it, with a few motorcycle police escorting (i.e. riding through the crowd). That was an amazing experience, being out there over the Charles River, with both parts of the city off in the distance and two or three thousand fellow peace activists out. There was some nervousness for a short time as we saw large numbers of police lights gathering at the far end, and realized that we were boxed in behind by police cruisers. As it turned out, it wasn't a setup for a mass arrest, merely the hand-off from Boston Police to Cambridge Police. The march continued down Mass Ave for some distance, eventually reaching Harvard Square, where the tired but elated protesters gathered to hear a few people give spontaneous speeches and drum up a storm. The crowd dissipated after about half an hour, heading out onto the T and down various streets. The police had had Harvard Square surrounded as we were present there, but there was no movement on their part, and no provocation on the parts of the protesters.

Throughout the march, I met a large number of friendly and dedicated activists, people ranging all over the charts in age and political beliefs, and all were helpful and supportive, happy to be out voicing their dissent. At one point, a State Police officer on a motorcycle even told me that I would be surprised to know how many of them (police) agreed with us. He told me that just like we had to do our duty by being out there in the streets protesting, he had to do his by keeping us safe and preventing us from breaking the law. I thanked him for his candor and fairness, and it did a little to restore my belief in the essential humanity that everyone posesses, even police.

While this march was not a rowdy or violent one, it was widespread and forceful in it's strength. I travelled with one group, I assume there were a few all over the city, as we got split at a few different points throughout the night. Normally I'm an advocate of more disobedient and direct action when it comes to protesting, but in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. The evening certainly had its flash points, like at the onramp to I-90, but overall, it was an inspiring and uniting evening, the initial march and the organizers disgusting behavior not withstanding. Even the police didn't seem particularly opposed to our being there, though we didn't test their cooperation as much as I feel would have been appropriate. Hundreds of people came out of their homes and businesses to show support, and even the people stuck in their cars as we passed were friendly and positive to the cause. Hopefully this will be something we'll see a lot now that the war has begun, popular dissent taken to the streets where the world can see. More planning and organization in affinity groups would be good, especially if we are to take actions like blocking the Mass Turnpike, which I was disappointed to see fail. See you all in the streets again soon, like in New York this Saturday!