The September 24 “End the War in Iraq! Bring the Troops Home!” demonstration drew an impressive throng of protesters. Washington police agree that it met the organizers goal of 100,000, but most people think it far exceeded that number. Organizers estimate 300,000. There is no way to really know because there were several feeder marches that merged into the main march at various points. And the main march was so slow moving that many people never left the staging area but remained behind to listen to the speeches and entertainment that continued non-stop all day. The bottleneck came in front of the White House where people stopped to do their thing. For example my section all pointed toward the White House and repeatedly said “Shame. Shame. Shame.”
Protesters carried signs saying “Global Justice, Not War,” “Bush Lied and Thousands Died,” and “Make Levees, Not War.” But my favorite was a homemade sign held aloft by a grandmotherly woman with her sketch of a bandaged child who had lost his arms. The caption read simply, “The cost of gasoline is too high.”
It was a spirited, uplifting demonstration that drew many, many new people to the anti-war movement. And, as Cindy Sheehan said, “for everyone here, there are hundreds who wanted to be here.” And I think that includes many in San Miguel de Allende. Afterwards I talked with two middle-aged couples who had come from east Tennessee. This was their first demonstration. They had come because they felt so isolated in their area and welcomed this opportunity to speak out. Now they feel emboldened to return and talk to their church about the war, and expect to find others who have similarly been “in the closet” about their feelings on the war. And they hope that might even embolden their minister to say something too. That’s how a movement grows –by word of mouth, face to face.
There is the sense that the tide is turning as ordinary Americans are standing up. The polls definitely show that. As Joan Baez told us, “Bush put up a wall of denial and for many years we cracked our heads against it. Then Michael Moore opened some fissures in it, and now the Gold Star Families for Peace (families who have lost a loved one in Iraq –www.gsfp.org) opened those fissures and Cindy Sheehan stepped through.” And I might add, hundreds of thousands more are following. As Cindy said in her short speech, “We’re going to get our country back!”
And now protesters are returning to their communities to do precisely that. Harry Targ had come with a group from Indiana. He had slept Friday night on their bus in-route and faced another overnight bus ride Saturday night headed home to West Lafayette. As with so many others, he returns energized for this continuing “struggle for the soul of our country.”