The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Impressions of the New York Anti-War Demonstration

(Kevin Noble)

Sandy Boyer • 20 February 2003

It was freezing cold. The cops kept most people from reaching our “Irish-Americans Against The War” contingent. I couldn’t hear a word any speaker said. And it was a wonderful day.

It started for me at about 8:30 in the morning when I got on the subway deep in Brooklyn. The closer we get to the rally, the more crowded the train became. When we finally got to 51st Street, the stop for the rally, it seemed as if the whole train got out.

I was struck by how young they all looked - most people seemed to be in their early 20’s or even younger. I overheard one woman say they had brought five buses from a college in upstate New York at least three or four hours away. Many people were carrying hand lettered signs with slogans like “No War for Oil” and “Impeach Bush.”

I reached the corner where our Irish contingent was supposed to assemble about 10:15. Only a few of us were there, which wasn’t surprising since we had advertised it for 11. We were right behind the “Friends of WBAI” - the community radio station that broadcasts “Radio Free Eireann.”

By 10:30 the cops told us we had to move over to First Avenue where the rally was assembling or they would arrest us. We got as far as 53rd Street, still two blocks north of the speakers’ platform, but that was as far as we could move. This was still almost an hour and a half before the rally was supposed to start.

A few people managed to find the Irish contingent, mainly by way of mobile phone. A U.S. army veteran wore his medals on his beret. A former nun, who is helping to coordinate the St. Patrick’s Day parade that includes Lesbian and Gay organizations, talked about being a pacifist and the inspiration of the Berrigans. One woman, whose activity stretches back to the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, said to me “I thought we weren’t going to have to march anymore.” By the time someone with our banner reached us, there was no room to unfurl it.

Long before the speakers started, you could see nothing but people when you looked north on First Avenue. We later learned that the crowd went all the way from 51st to 72nd Street, where the cops blocked tens if not hundreds of thousands of more people from joining the rally.

Everyone around us was amazingly friendly. They all seemed to just be happy to be there and inspired by the turnout. We kept turning to complete strangers and saying how great it was. People were handing out leaflets for every imaginable cause and event but most people were just taking them good naturedly.

Again, most people seemed very young but there were a good number of middle aged or even elderly folks there as well. The people around us were mostly white, but on the next block there was a large hospital workers contingent that was almost entirely African-American and Latino.

After a couple of hours of standing in the cold, we made our way to Rocky Sullivan’s Pub - re-christened Iraqi Sullivan’s for the occasion - where we watched the rally on the TV and listened to it on WBAI radio. As the afternoon went on more and more people from the unsuccessful Irish contingent wandered in. There were fierce dissident side by side with people who still have a certain allegiance to the Provos and others who are just human rights activists. Some of us hadn’t seen each other for years. Others had never met before.

We just kept telling each other how great it was and marveling at how many people turned out. The cops would later claim it was only 100,000 but not even the media believed them. One cop told a reporter 500,000. There were probably more like a million counting everyone who was blocked from reaching the actual rally. We’ll never know, but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we succeeded in sending Bush the message that Americans don’t want his war.

All in all, it was a great day to be a rebel.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

20 February 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


The Shadow of the Gunman
Paul Dunne


'Ulster Says No!' to a Bush Bomb Blitz
Newton Emerson


The Rally
Anthony McIntyre


Impressions of the NYC Anti-War Demonstration
Sandy Boyer


In Praise of Father Mc Manus
Congressman Ben Gilman


"Just Get Out!"
Gabriel Ash


16 February 2003


A Plan "B" for Tony Blair and Northern Ireland
Paul Fitzsimmons


Evidence, What Evidence?
Michael Youlton


Choices to be Made
Larry Kirwan


Talking Through His Cassock
Bert Ward


Letter to Uncle
Jimmy Sands


Long Kesh Meets Peterhouse
Anthony McIntyre


Socialists, Leadership and the Working Class
Davy Carlin




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