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News ::
Regional Peace Rally in Boston Draws 30-50,000 (english)
29 Mar 2003
Modified: 01 Apr 2003
A rally and march in Boston against the war with Iraq on Saturday, March 29, drew an estimated 30-50,000 people from across the region. The major themes of the rally were that this war is bringing destruction not liberation to Iraq, that the best way to support American troops is to bring them home, and that this war is resulting in major cuts in social services in the US.
Regional Peace Rally in Boston Draws 30-50,000
By Matthew Williams

Boston, MA; Sat., March 29, 2003—The Boston Common was awash with people from all over New England in a peace rally today. With the crowd at its height stretching beyond the organizer’s range of vision from the stage, they estimated it at least 30,000 people, probably 50,000. Following a number of speakers and multicultural artistic acts, the crowd marched through Boston, going down Beacon St., turning at Hereford St. and returning up Boylston St., where large numbers of Saturday shoppers saw them. The major themes of the rally were that this war is bringing destruction not liberation to Iraq, that the best way to support American troops is to bring them home, and that this war is resulting in major cuts in social services in the US.

The rally took place on the Common near the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets. The crowd extended so far that from the back of the rally I could not hear the speakers on the stage. The people in back did not seem greatly concerned. There were two drum circles near the back, as well as members of the Spartacus League (a sectarian Trotskyist group) trying to hold their own mini-rally and to lecture people. People gathered around the drum circles and largely ignored the Spartacists.

One of the speakers, Chuck Turner—a Boston City Councilor and long-time community organizer—told the activists, “You are the face of America.” For once, I think was no mere rhetorical exaggeration. Although white people were perhaps over-represented, this was still the most diverse rally I have ever been at. From looking at the various groups and reading their signs, the crowd included people of all races, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, union members, farmers, teachers, the able-bodied and those in wheelchairs, gray-haired elders and young children, a black bloc of anarchists and, yes, even a small group of “Republicans Against the War”. People of color—especially young people of color—were heavily represented among both the speakers and the rally’s organizers.

One of the first speakers was Rana Abdul Aziz, a young Iraqi woman who is a student at Tufts University. She grew up during the Iran-Iraq War and fled with her immediate family to the US shortly before the first Persian Gulf War, which she watched with horror on television. Proclaiming, “I am the Iraqi whose voice has been denied,” she emphasized that she loathed Saddam Hussein’s regime, but that “my world’s problems will not be solved by war.” Speaking of the bombing, she said, “It was only in their houses that Iraqis could find peace. Now those refuges too have been violated.” There are already over three hundred verifiable civilian deaths from the US bombing in Iraq, with the hospitals flooded with many more wounded, according to Voices in the Wilderness members in Baghdad.

As Aziz spoke eloquently, a man climbed up a lamp-post and, apparently not listening to a word she was saying, began heckling her, demanding, “Bullshit! What about 9-11?” (Fortunately, he was far enough back that Aziz probably did not even hear him.) This and some of the signs that counter-protesters along the march route held, such as “Get rid of Saddam—Liberate Iraq”, show the apparent ignorance of many avid supporters of the war. Although the CIA has searched hard for some link between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda, they have found none; indeed, Osama bin Laden has several times called for the overthrow of Hussein’s secularist regime. The expectation that Iraqis would greet the American army as liberators (instead of the hostility with which they have frequently been met) is rooted in ignorance of the devastation thirteen years of sanctions have wrought on Iraq. After the first Gulf War, in which the US government deliberately destroyed most of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure—bridges, sewage treatment plants, water purification centers, electrical generation plants, etc.—through heavy bombing, Iraq was unable to repair all this damage. The sanctions, as enforced by the US and British governments, barred the import of the spare parts necessary to repair the civilian infrastructure on the grounds that they might be used for military purposes. As a result, Iraq’s economy is in shambles, one-third of Iraqi children suffer from malnutrition, and the population is dependent on government rations. According to conservative estimates, 300,000 children under five have died from the effects of sanctions. Many have argued that the sanctions have thus made the Hussein regime stronger, not weaker. People who have traveled to Iraq on humanitarian missions have told me that, while ordinary Iraqis hate Saddam Hussein, they hate the US government even more.

The performances on stage were as multicultural (if not more so) than the crowd, including folk music, hip-hop, and traditional Palestinian music and dance. The Palestinian dance, known as the dabke, was set to a song that, according to troupe member Tareef Kawaf, says, “Arabs are not terrorists, but a diverse group of people of many religions who share a love of their land.”

On the march one of the most popular chants, especially when passing the occasional pro-war counter-protesters, was, “Support our troops—Bring them home!” There were a number of people in the rally bearing signs with pictures of loved ones in the military in Iraq, bearing such messages as, “Our son is a Marine. Stop Bush’s war for oil and empire.” One of the speakers was Moonamum Jones, a Wompanoag Indian and Vietnam veteran whose son is now in the army in Iraq. Jones said, “If you go to any black, Latino, Native American or for that matter white working class family’s home, you will probably see a picture of a young man or woman in uniform. Those are our children coming home in body-bags.” Because of a lack of other available jobs, many poor people—a disproportionate number of who are people of color—enlist in the military, hoping to make a better life for themselves. Some have referred to this as the “economic draft”. They rarely learn skills that have any use in the civilian work-world though, and must risk their lives for wars planned by members of the elite whose children are rarely enrolled in the military. Veterans from the first Gulf War continue to suffer from Gulf War syndrome, an ailment most likely caused by the use of Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons, which are radioactive—and are being used again in this invasion.

The march through Boston was lead by members of Veteran for Peace. The organizers were hoping to have the world’s largest die-in on Boylston St. As organizer Gavin Sherman put it—referring to the Bush administration’s contempt for world opinion, which is overwhelmingly against the war—“Bush said to the world, ‘Drop dead.’ Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.” However, it turned out to be a bit too complicated to pull off. Only the first couple hundred people in the march lay or sat down in the street, with the tens of thousands of people behind them remaining standing. In any case, given that it was during a permitted march, it would have been only a symbolic statement (albeit a powerful one), not an act of civil disobedience. Despite the grim state of the world and occasional drizzle, the mood of people at the rally and march seemed upbeat. The police presence was light, except for the helicopters flying overhead—only one at the start, but four by the end.

Many of the speakers pointed out that even as money is being poured into this war, social services at home are being cut. MC Ama Nyameke said, “Youth programs, education, etc. are being cut. Why don’t they cut the ROTC?” This was also reflecting in signs such as, “Make jobs, not war,” and chants such as, “Money for jobs and education, not war and occupation.” Many fear that the combination of social service cuts and military spending will push the US and world economy even deeper into recession. As jobs dry up, there will be even more pressure on poor youth to join the military in search of a livelihood. As a result of the Bush administration’s massive tax cuts, they are actually spending more money on the war than they are bringing in to fund government activities. Even if the war is over quickly (which seems increasingly unlikely), massive funds will still be needed for the military occupation of Iraq, creating a long-term drain on the American economy.

Turner emphasized to the activists that stopping this war would not be an easy struggle, but that it was necessary: “Regardless of what the media says, we are the true defenders of America. We are defending this country from the military-industrial complex, which is sending our young men and women off to fight for oil and world domination. We need to take back our government from the military-industrial complex. When we take back our government, we will destroy our own vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.” Turner’s words point to the hypocrisy of the American government’s position. While it has yet to be proven that the Iraqi government still possesses weapons of mass destruction, the US government not only has the world’s largest stockpiles, but has consistently undermined various nonproliferation treaties, including refusing to allow international weapons inspectors into the US. It is perhaps for such reasons, as well as this war, that the majority of people in the world seem to see the US government—and not Hussein’s regime—as the major threat to world peace now.


To find out how to help organize against the war, contact the rally’s organizers, United for Justice with Peace (, a Boston-area coalition with many local chapters. For more information on the US/British war against Iraq, see ZNet (, the Middle East Research and Information Program ( and Voices in the Wilderness (


Police Presence Light? (english)
29 Mar 2003
The police presence may have been light for the rest of you, but for those of us carrying anything resembling a red or black flag, we had about 35 cops--with no badge numbers--dressed in black that followed us throughout the entire rally. They surrounded us on the common during a spokescouncil meeting. Entirely uncalled for.
See also:
Pro-War Group Yells Slurs (english)
30 Mar 2003

The peace rally today was a huge success, and perhaps the sheer number of peaceful activists is what got the anti-peace, pro-war people angry.

Near the Park Street T stop in the far corner of Boston Common, a group of about fifteen pro-war supporters gathered with signs containing slogans like "What About 9/11?" and "If You Don't Support The President, YOU Are A Terrorist."

Of course, everyone is free to express their own views, and there is nothing theoretically wrong with protesting against a peace rally. As I passed by the pro-war group, they chanted "Martin Sheen Is A Commie!" and then changed to "You Are Commies!" as more peace protestors came out of the nearby T station.

However, as I walked quietly past the group one of my friends, an Asian guy, a loud shout was yelled in our direction.

I was initially surprised that the group chose to yell at us, since neither one of us was carrying a peace poster or wearing any anti-war propaganda.

"Go back to your own [expletive] country!" a male voice screamed at my friend's back. I turned my head to look at the man who had yelled, and he was glaring at me through slitted eyes. The men on either side of him violently shook their American flags at me in anger.

Following my friend's lead, I simply continued walking, blood boiling, ignoring the hate slur.

It was interesting frame this derogatory comment in the context of this anti-peace rally group consisting mainly of white males.

I believe that everyone, of course, has the inherent right to make their voices heard, loud and clear. However, when mean-spirited, disgusting racial slurs are screamed at passing pedestrians and strangers, tact should be used. No one should have to tolerate such belittling racist commentary, and I would hope such revolting behavior will not happen again at any kind of rally I attend. It is quite easy to express your political views without throwing personally insulting slurs at complete strangers.
plainclothes cops, "freedom of speech" (english)
30 Mar 2003
Modified: 31 Mar 2003
In response to Squirrel:

Police in the Black Bloc?
Riding behind the main Boston police station on the way to the rally I saw two surly and snide looking police dressed all in black, with no badges, and with black backwards baseball caps, get into a minivan, looking like they were going to do a job that they relished. I suspect the went to the rally and were among the "minders" of the red and black. It bears repeating: don't expect all cops to look like cops. Know the people you work with.

To Erin,

I understand what you say about freedom of speech, but I don't support it on a philosophical level, because to me, speech is a special form of action and nobody claims to support freedom of all actions, like murder or assault or sexual assault. Speech is hurtful, contrary to "sticks and stones", names do hurt people and support a culture of hate and violence against people for who they are, especially in the dimensions racial, gender, and sexual preference.

I think there is something inherently wrong with protesting for a war. Of course it's their opinion, but I don't think they're aware of the implications of what they're supporting. I don't think our best tactic is to try to shut them down directly, but this is not on philosophical grounds based on "freedom of speech" but only because ridiculing and outnumbering them works a lot better, and shutting them down would have a bad backlash in this mainly liberal culture.

But the most important thing I want to say is that there's a HUGE connection between being prowar and being a blatant racist, and there were definitely outright white supremacists among the pro-war people. There were people with white supremacist patches or buttons on their backpacks, and one skinhead pushed a black man, at which point a white cop grabbed two black cops and asked them to come over and help the other white cops stand around these skinheads, to prevent any more physical violence. I still remember the smug smirk on the one white supremacist's face, while he told the cop "They're there expressing their views and we're here to express our views." But his views lead to untold violence and a culture of oppression. Ironic that he was the one to initiate the only physical violence that occured in that incident.

So, I respect your comments, but when you write "I believe that everyone, of course, has the inherent right to make their voices heard, loud and clear," I have to differ with you. If there is racist rhetoric posted on a billboard I will proudly deface it. If there are white supremacists making it know that non-White people are hated and should live in fear of violence, they're not free in my mind to voice their opinion loud and clear. On the contrary, people with a more developed conscience are obliged to address this issue seriously, and to work against those people actively, and not allow their voice to be broadcast "loud and clear" under the rubric of freedom of speech...

I felt these comments needed to be made.
Photo (english)
30 Mar 2003
This photo shows the two alleged white supremacists I described in the incident above, who were standing about 40 feet from the main pro-war rally. The one without the beard (on the right) is the one who is alleged to have shoved or hit a peace protestor. I say "alleged" only because I didn't see it with my own eyes, but I do not doubt it. Whatever happened caused the cops to rush over quickly, and a lieutenant or some high ranking cop to grab a couple african-american cops from the main police line to reinforce the presence around these two people here. I was listening as the event was described to two National Lawyers Guild Legal Observers, and it was reported that these two individuals had white supremacist buttons or patches on their backpacks.
Photos again (english)
30 Mar 2003
Trying to upload those photos again. I hope it works this time. It said it uploaded correctly last time but when I went to the page and refreshed, my comment with there but not the photo. There should be 2 photos in this comment, 76 and 52 KB in size.
Photos again (english)
30 Mar 2003
Trying to upload those photos again. I hope it works this time. It said it uploaded correctly last time but when I went to the page and refreshed, my comment with there but not the photo. There should be 2 photos in this comment, 76 and 52 KB in size.
Protest Tactics (english)
30 Mar 2003
I noticed a great difference in the protest tactics shown on Saturday. United for Peace wasn't very active. They led us along a pre-planned route and had a sit-down in a closed street. I ask everyone who organized/supported this, what difference does that make? President Bush isn't going to look at Boston and say, "oh no, they sat down in a closed street with the police's permission, i better stop the war." He's going to think, "hey, who cares what they say, as long as they don't disrupt the country." We have to sit down in open streets, stop traffic, shut down the city. THAT is when politicians will listen. When we cooperate with their system, they will not listen. When we disrupt the system, throw our bodies upon the machinery, they will HAVE TO listen, or else, we have to let them know, they're system will stop working. Lying down in a closed street and obeying the police when they tell you to get up because the street is opening is not going to make any difference. Direct action is the only way. When civil disobedience is backed up by such large numbers, the police cannot do anything about it. We had such a great turnout on Saturday, but the numbers were never put to good use. Even Gandhi would have practiced more direct action than the people out there. Come on people, wake up, you're voice won't get heard unless you give the leaders a reason to listen.
See also:
sorry for the duplicate photos (english)
30 Mar 2003
Sorry to be dominating this thread in terms of space taken up. Maybe an IMC folk could delete one of the duplicate photos, please????? I have no way to delete it or I would.
Re: Protest Tactics (english)
30 Mar 2003
Brian -
Re: your comments re: wasting the number of people.
One goal of the march was to attract people from all walks of life. I was there with my 3 year old daughter. We participated in the 'die-in'. I don't think it would have been good judgement on my part to participate in a civil disobediance action with her even though I understand and respect where you are coming from. I think the rally was successfull and hope similar rallies happen in the future.

Any info on how to handle rallies with small children and the implications of civil disobediance actions on them?

Workflow and information systems architect with recent experience in Brio
Enterprise server administration, Oracle PL/SQL, and many years of
experience with managing and developing on a large scale CRM system.
One suggestion... (english)
30 Mar 2003
Modified: 06:56:00 PM
Re:Any info on how to handle rallies with small children and the implications of civil disobediance actions on them?

One suggestion: March peacefully with respect for others, even those who don’t agree with your position and who might need to use a public street to attend to a family emergency, etc.

Blocking streets is not non-violence. It is aggressive, non-democratic and selfish behavior.
What's not democratic about blocking streets? (english)
30 Mar 2003
What is democratic about the U.S. government and Bush administration?

Demos = people. Kratos = rule.

When the workings of the machine become so odious... you know the rest.
Civil Disobedience (english)
30 Mar 2003
thanks for the backup for children and civil disobedience, i see where you're coming from...i know if i had a kid then i wouldn't wnat to be illegaly blocking the streets unless i was positive that i wouldn't be arrested.....People with kids could even just stand on the sidewalks and offer verbal support for those in the street....and as for blocking streets being undemocratic and selfish, i find politicians methods of running this country undemocratic and selfish, not the people's vain attempts to be heard by a system that will not listen
What's up with ANSWER? (english)
30 Mar 2003
Modified: 11:54:27 PM
So what IS up with the ANSWER group? It looks like they purposefully slowed down the middle of the march for the sole purpose of appearing to lead the pack. What's with that?

I was in the front part of the march for most of the route, but when we got close to returning to the park, I turned back to see how far back it went.

I got to what I thought was the "end" of the crowd pretty quickly, and I was surprised, because I thought there were way more people there.

And then, a block away, there was the "front" of another group! Forming a solid line across the whole street, moving very slowly, was ANSWER.

I don't understand why they didn't maintain the same pace as everyone else to keep the march together. I thought it looked pretty stupid.

Does anyone have any information or insight into this?



p.s. On the numbers reported in the media, I think they're undercounting again. The rally covered about the same area as the last MassCann Freedom Fest that I was at, and there were close to 50,000 there.
30 Mar 2003


comments (english)
31 Mar 2003
To Brian: In this day and age, if you're anywhere near
any 'real' civil disobedience [i.e. CD that hasn't been
pre-coordinated with the police], you can't be positive
that you won't be arrested. Witness this recent report
in Counterpunch:

Ross Levy, a San Francisco architect, said he and
his young son were caught up in the protests on
March 20 after stepping off a streetcar on Market
Street. According to Levy, a news photographer who
was about to get arrested, threw Levy a bag of
undeveloped film prompting police to forcibly pull
his son Emett from his shoulders, knock Levy to the
ground, and step on his head. Levy suffered a head
wound, and the entire incident was captured by tv
cameras and broadcast.

I agree direct action is called for, but I think it
mostly has to be at different times than the family-
friendly protests.

To chaos: I think you hit the nail on the head. If
"appearing to lead the pack" wasn't their sole purpose,
it was at least a desirable (to them) side effect.

They've done other things like this. When they
co-sponsor an event, they make sure the other groups'
web sites link to them, but they tend not to return the

Divided & Conquered (english)
31 Mar 2003
"Right" vs "Left" = Divide & Conquer.

"Republican" vs "Democrat" = Divide & Conquer.

"Conservative" vs "Liberal" = Divide & Conquer.

"Capitalist" vs "Communist" = Divide & Conquer.

"White" vs "Black" = Divide & Conquer.

Who benefits? The World Banksters.


Stop whining about blue-collar cops who are just following orders in an attempt to "keep the peace".

Arrest the criminals posing as "our government" and fix the system.
See also:
author audience media: united message? (english)
31 Mar 2003
(from a newcomer gifted with a firm grasp of the obvious ; )

seems to me that anyone against Bush's War on Iraqis was welcome this past saturday in Boston.

That's around 50,000 Authors, with many different Messages aimed at various Audiences using a few different Media.

And what a beautiful sight we were!

As noted above, authors ranged from "Republicans against the war" through... how far "left"?!

We all can attempt to communicate to different audiences.

e.g. I took a guess that on-lookers were saturday shoppers (and IF i hit the jackpot - TV viewers), "mainstream" (whatever that is), so I tried a message they might relate to with "support the troops" and a hook of "bring them home".

Other protestors may "preach to the choir", and this can also serve a purpose - encouraging those who are already convinced that the war is outrageously wrong to go a little further, perhaps revving people up for civil disobedience.

The intended audience shapes the message.

The medium also shapes the message.

My wife, a graphic artist, observed that a few people waste their time with an essay or a manifesto on a 24"x36" poster - who's going to read that?!

Posters and T-shirts need to be short and simple. Graphics should be high contrast. Her poster: "Why?"

For some, that is enough to plant a seed of doubt... plus it's got a range of over 300 yards!

The media was also music - I got a kick out of the brass band dressed in hazmat suits... which brings up costume as a medium.

Picasso's "La Guernica" seems to be making the rounds. Coordinated posters show cooperation, which is also a message in itself.

If I may say "we" and "our" for a moment:
Perhaps diversity is our strength.

I can choose to focus on what we have in common: desire to stop the war. Unity.

Or I can pick on how we differ: you're against the war for the wrong reasons. (wrong meaning, not like me). Division.

Unity or Division is a choice. (And there are many opportunities to make that choice throughout each day.)

Are more actions needed to stop (this) war? Always. What else should we do?

Perhaps only each person can answer that for themselves.

Some have the guts to not pay taxes and go to jail. Others have families to support. The means by which one can resist and pressure the system are many.

I don't believe that anyone can predict that this poster, or this photograph, in that article, convinced this person to email those people, who voted this way ... and cascaded into the straw that broke the camel's back and stopped (this particular) war.

One point remains: pick one means of resisting and go for it! Today!

Perhaps each person is like a grain of sand shifting the balast on a scale... what i do with my grain of sand means nothing to anyone else but me. Only if added to the weight of others' contributions does it lead towards a change.

I can't but we can.

And my "drop in the ocean" is still MY drop in the ocean. I still have to answer the man in the mirror: "how do I feel about myself and how I'm livin?!"

- Peace
World Church of the Creator (english)
31 Mar 2003
Modified: 01:14:32 PM
those two skinheads were in fact members of the World Church of the Creator (a white supremacist group whose leader Matt Hale is in jail awaiting trail for planning to murder a federal judge)... they mingled among the anti-war people, not pro-war... they claim that the jews profit from the war, and are using the movement to recruit more members into their racist group...

now more than ever we must be wary of these racist boneheads... said to say but i heard several people, even people of color, say that the nazi skinheads spoke "some truths" and "while i don't agree with everything they are saying, at least they speak to the people and with smart arguments"... people have to understand that they are using rhetoric in a specific way to hide the fact that they believe in racial superiority... that they call people of color "mud people"... that the government is controlled by the jews... that a racial holy war will eventually have to take place... that they unofficially support violence towards racial minorities... that members of the wcotc have murdered on the basis of race...

fascism goes hand in hand with war, with jingoism, with nationalism... do these things sound familiar?...

it's time to drop this freedom of speech bullshit... we must stop this passive relativism that allows racism into our streets and into our movements... the only way to confront these people is to make their lives a living hell, and making sure that wherever they go they are not welcome...

for revolutionary antifascism,

a northeast antifascist thug
boston c.d. (english)
31 Mar 2003
in regards to not being sure you wont' get arrested, i see your point...i'm referring to boston though, and the police in boston are actually really cool about arresting people, and even people lying in the street were just dragged to the side on saturday; no one was arrested...and if you're in the very middle of a giant crowd blocking the streets, chances are a million to one you're not gonna get nabbed.
See also:
Police are not the enemy (english)
31 Mar 2003
So after reviewing all the postings it appears the only time police officers acted in an aggressive/menacing manner Saturday was when those two skinheads acted up, and the police response was appropriate. Once again, police officers do not have to be the bad guys here. Police are concerned with PUBLIC (i.e., "everyone's") safety. Police officers will help you if you need help, regardless of your politics.
northeast antifascist thug is a fascist (english)
31 Mar 2003
Hey, Northeast AntiFascist Thug. For someone against "fascism" you certainly are being hypocritical. Calling freedom of speech "bullshit" IS facism. You are more fascist than these WCOTC people -- at least they support free speech!

If we in the anti-war movement don't defend basic human rights like free speech, then what is the point of any of this?? People like Thug who call themselves "AntiFascist" while advocating censorship are destroying our movement!
"free speech" (english)
31 Mar 2003
Dear James Bond,

Regarding freedom of speech, please see this thread:

There are some finer points to anti-fascist thug's arguments.

And of course WCOTC supports the doctrine of "free speech" -- it is what allows the police to protect them while they advocate racial hatred and violence.

You may call "free speech" a basic human right, but freedom from genocide is also a basic human right. So when someone's exercise of "free speech" is advocating genocide with some degree of success (no matter how slight), you have a conflict and you have to use some judgment. Personally, I would modify "free speech" to exclude hate speech, rather than allowing people to suffer violence but protecting that white supremacists "free speech". But that's just me. You decide for yourself. But if you start advocating ideas of racial cleansing, don't expect to be safe from me.

Photos from Saturday's M29 Boston (english)
01 Apr 2003
Here is a link to some photos I posted from Saturday's protest, especially highlighting the police presence around the black bloc.