September 24, 2005 in Washington, DC...from my perspective
There were signs that made you laugh (a man carrying a sign with a picture of a strawberry and the words "Just another Fruit For Peace") and some that made you cry (an African-American woman with her son, carrying a hand-lettered sign that read "No Iraqis left me on a roof to die"). There were more handmade signs than I've ever seen before.
There were more people per square inch than you can imagine. There was a mile-long march that took five hours for everyone to complete. There were chants, drums, trumpets, saxophones, whistles, flutes, tambourines, and spontaneous cheers that erupted every couple of blocks. There was more focus, passion and seriousness of purpose than I've seen at any of the 6-7 DC rallies/marches I've attended. At the same time there were more smiles and expressions of love than I've ever seen or experienced in such a large gathering of "strangers"...even on the Metro subway train where we were packed tight as sardines in a can.
Cindy Sheehan spoke, the Rev. Jesse Jackson preached, Joan Baez sang, Sweet Honey In the Rock performed, and lots of us late-night folks danced. There was a Code Pink pre-rally rally at 10:30 AM at the Freedom Plaza (14th & Pennsylvania), the MAMMOTH official rally at 11:30 AM at the Ellipse, a peace & justice festival with tents and booths under the Washington Monument from 10 AM-10 PM, a march route that took us by the White House for the first time in years, and an Operation Ceasefire concert on the Mall with the largest stage and speakers I've ever seen, including two mammoth screens so even us folks way at the back could see and hear the wonderful performances and speeches that ran from 5 PM-1 AM.
There was also row after row after row of white crosses, Stars of David and crescent moons planted in the ground beside Cindy Sheehan's "Bring Them Home Now! Tour" tent on the Mall. More than 1,900 young American men and women dead in Bush's war on Iraq, and that doesn't begin to mark the uncounted--over 100,000?--Iraqi women, children and men dead. And the numbers grow every day.
There were WW II, Vietnam and Iraqi veterans, Gold Star families who have lost loved ones fighting in Iraq, untold numbers of peace groups marching together, grey-haired Vietnam-era activists, young people with black bandanas covering their noses and mouths, families with small children, high school and university students, busloads of folks from Florida to Vermont and Virginia to Oregon, and individuals from every state in the nation and many other countries. There were Muslim women in scarves, a stiltwalker whom I've seen for years at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and an Ann Arbor woman in a wheelchair whose bare breasts were taped over in strategic places with blue duct tape that matched her outfit.
There was the man dressed in military fatigues, carrying a "Troops Out Now!" sign, who when I asked if he had fought in Iraq said, "No, but my two brothers are over there now. I'm here for them." There was the white-bearded man dressed in a suit and tie who sat in a wheelchair at the Constitution Avenue side of the Ellipse holding a sign that said, "WW 2 Vet For Peace." There was the man who walked by me on the march carrying a sign that said, "To our soldiers: Thank you for your blood, sweat, tears & service--but it is time to come home. We will work to bring you HOME!"
There were the mixed feelings of pride and shame I always get when I march by the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House where my father had an eighth floor corner office as Executive Secretary of the National Security Council during the Truman and Eisenhower presidencies...pride that I am now doing all I can to stop US imperialism and war-mongering, and shame that my idealistic, ambitious father didn't seem to recognize how he was adding to those disastrous American attitudes and actions.
Lisa, Jessi (from Lansing) and I (from Detroit) had a wonderful but long 11 and 1/2 hour journey to DC on Friday and again today (Sunday) with stops for food and such. We stayed in a pleasant, reasonably-priced Holiday Inn in Chevy Chase, MD just blocks from a Metro Station. We three got along great even though we didn't get enough sleep and had a VERY long, VERY active day on Saturday. Like so many others in DC on this grey, occasionally damp day, this was Lisa and Jessi's first-ever antiwar demonstration. We all agreed we wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Who knows? Maybe we'll look back and say, "Remember September 24, 2005? That was the day the people rose up and STOPPED Bush's war on Iraq!" May it be so.
--posted by Patricia Lay-Dorsey