Protesters turned out in the thousands Saturday, demanding Bush and his administration find a peaceful alternative to war against Iraq.
An estimate put the number of demonstrators at 25,000. People gathered in unified protest in cities around the nation including Washington, D.C., which drew a crowd of more than 30,000 and San Francisco, where estimates had the number near 50,000.
Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker agreed with Associated Press estimations of the headcount.
“Those that policed it (the protest) said it was one of the largest protests in Portland,” Kroeker added.
The Portland crowd varied in demographics, ranging from retired veterans to middle-aged workers and parents with their children to students of all grade levels, but there was one common thread throughout: the desire for military operations against Iraq to cease.
People began gathering around the site at 11:30 a.m., where statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt stand tall. Organizations such as Oregon Peace Works and Northwest Veterans for Peace set up tables to explain their causes. One table held a pile of picket signs adorned with anti-war slogans such as “You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb the world to peace” and “Drop Bush not Bombs.”
By 12:30 p.m., there was a crowd farther than the eye could see, with people standing shoulder to shoulder waiting to hear what the speakers had to say. One speaker spoke about his brother, who had been murdered in Nicaragua in the 1980s for protesting U.S. support for the terrorist contra war against the people of Nicaragua and the economic warfare that accompanied it. He said he never quite knew what his brother’s life was about until now, as he realizes how important it is to voice one’s disapproval of questionable government behavior.
Petitioners zigzagged through the crowd, spreading news and gathering signatures for various efforts. One such tactic was the signing of postcards addressed to Mayor Vera Katz and the Portland City Council that urged them to present a resolution to Oregon’s state Legislature opposing pre-emptive war against the people of Iraq. The resolution voiced the concern that Portland cannot afford the cost of a U.S.-sponsored war, which could cost upwards of $200 billion.
Many protesters wore clothing adorned with U.S. flags. One sign held by a protestor read: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism,” a quote from Thomas Jefferson.
Among those in attendance were students from Portland State. Sophomore Jeff Zendel, who said he attended the smaller rally in October, was very excited to be a part of the movement for peace.
“I am here in support against the war, and as an advocate for diplomacy,” he said.
Accompanying Zendel was friend and fellow student Erin Devaney, a freshman majoring in history.
“I have never been to a rally before, and I feel it is crucial for people to get together when they disagree with the government,” Devaney said. “The president is supposed to follow the majority, and it feels like he’s only following the minority.”
Devaney also commented she is opposed to the war against Iraq because it is not a defensive war but rather
“I had known about the rally for a couple weeks, but when I saw the fliers I knew that it was going to be big,” said Kelvin Nicholson, a sophomore business major at Portland State. “I knew it was something I wanted to experience.”
A speaker announced that in Vancouver, Wash., 350 soldiers from Fort Vancouver took to the streets as well on Saturday morning to protest hasty military action against Iraq. This announcement drew large applause and much cheering from the vibrant crowd.
As the speakers delivered their final words, anxious marchers began chanting “March now!” At 1:30 p.m., the streets became consumed by more than 20,000 people following a police escort, chanting “No war, peace now!” Bystanders cheered on the marchers. Some played music and others danced in costumes while the masses walked by. One man stood quietly to the side of the street with a solemn reminder on the sign that he held. It read: “The children are watching.”
Global anti-war protests, city and number of protestors
Portland, Ore. 25,000
Washington, D.C. 30,000
San Francisco, Calif. 45,000
Des Moines, Iowa 125
Venice, Fla. 400
Damascus, Syria tens of thousands
Cairo, Egypt 1,000
Tokyo, Japan 5,000
Christcurch, New Zealand 400