A Small March for Me, a Giant March for the Antiwar Movement
I guess my weekend began when I stopped off at Arlington Cemetery after landing at National Airport in Washington DC. I didn’t go into the grounds but looked over the graves of the thousands of war dead. As always, it had a chilling and emotional effect. I hadn’t planned to go there, it just kind of happened.
Saturday morning I was back on the Metro heading towards the antiwar protest in downtown Washington. The train was crowded with thousands of people carrying signs and distributing literature. It was but one of many heading toward the Ellipse and Washington Monument grounds. A few acres of land that would soon be filled with tens of thousands of antiwar folks.
After disembarking the Metro train I followed the surge of people to the rally area. The first familiar face I ran into was an old adversary who was attending the rally against the antiwar rally sponsored by a variety of right wing groups such as Free Republic. We exchanged hellos, checked in on what we had been up to since the last time we saw each other, shook hands and parted ways. That rally never saw more than 300 people,
The rally was a rally. Lots of speakers-some who droned and some who spoke clever words. A missing child who was found. Thousands of fliers and newspapers distributed expressing seemingly every political and religious viewpoint in the western world. Impatience grew as the speakers went on. By noon folks were lining up on Constitution Avenue, ready to walk. US Labor Against the War brought in a twenty thousand strong contingent from their feeder march. That began the march.
I stuck around the rally for a little while, looking for a good spot to integrate myself in. After the march had been moving for an hour or so I joined it. About an hour later our section of the march had made the three blocks to the White House and were stopped in front of it. The Bread and Puppet Theater was intermittently falling to the ground in simulated bombing raids. The wraith-like puppets the players held reminded me of the object of Munch’s painting "The Scream." Drums crescendoed and voices trilled, then a loud beat on the bass drum and the bodies fell to the ground. Further back the first contingent of Iraq War vets stopped and shouted "Shame!" at the White House. Then came the Gold Star Moms and some Vets for Peace. The crowd was typical of the past several years of protest-multi-hued, all genders,, and all ages. I don’t know how large it was but I was in Lafayette Park in front of the White house for more than three hours and the march was still coming. 300, 000 sounds like a reasonable number.
Signs and t-shirts linked the catastrophes of Iraq and Katrina together. My favorite were the t-shirts that said "Make Levees, Not War." I stood next to a man holding a sign with he picure of Hugo Chavez on it. Many marchers raised their fist when they saw it-Viva Chavez! His appeal is spreading beyond the orders of Venezuela. The march ended with a funeral procession, where marchers carried flag-draped coffins the entire way. Fortunately, the temperature was only in the low 80s and not the 90s like the day before.
By the time I returned to the Washington Monument grounds for the antiwar concert, the DelRays were playing some rousing music and were joined by Wayne Kramer, formerly of the agit-rock group the MC 5. Speakers followed. Then came Cindy Sheehan. Her presence brought the crowd to their feet. After listening to her talk, I realized that while she may only be an average public speaker, she is an incredibly powerful witness. She was then given a star quilt presented by some of the elders of the Lakota Sioux nation. Steve Earle came on and played a few songs from his latest disc and then came the couple, whose political hiphop got the grandmother in front of me dancing. The show went on. I headed out an hour or so later to catch the train. As I did, I walked through the 1912 crosses erected at Washington DC’s Camp Casey-the Iraq War’s growing annex to Arlington Cemetery.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: email@example.com
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
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August 17, 2005