WASHINGTON — With Jesse Jackson and Susan Sarandon in attendance among others, tens of thousands of people from all over the country converged on Washington, D.C. Saturday to protest President Bush’s proposal to conduct a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. 196 Ithaca residents and Cornell University and Ithaca College students were also in attendance, thanks to a bus trip sponsored in part by an anonymous donor.
“Anybody who felt strongly was able to go on the bus,” said Jim Semp, an local resident who helped organize the 24-hour turn-around trip to and from Washington. Three buses were originally scheduled to leave Ithaca on Saturday morning at 1 a.m., but as word of mouth spread, a fourth bus was added to accommodate requests for seats.
“Our efforts to organize the trip were well under way by the third in September,” Semp said. He added that he believed about another 200 people from the Ithaca area had driven themselves down from Ithaca for the protest.
The protest began at 11 a.m. with a rally sponsored by the anti-war group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Several people spoke at the rally, including Susan Sarandon, the Pretenders’ Patti Smith, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, as well as representatives of several anti-war organizations.
Old and young people alike attended the rally, as well as parents who brought their children.
“Bush has never been to war. It’s all about the money,” said Nathan Alft-Lafond, 12, a resident of Voorheesville, N.Y. who attended the rally with his father.
War veterans of both the Gulf and Vietnam Wars were also in attendance.
“The reason you’re here is the same reason I joined the military — I love my country,” said speaker Charles Sheehan-Miles, member of Veterans for Common Sense and veteran of the Gulf War.
A veteran of the Vietnam War, Dick Reba, said, “I’ve been in a war. I don’t believe it’s worth the cost.”
Yale freshman Abe Koogler held a sign saying, “In Paul’s memory,” one of many signs that evoked the memory of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), who died with his wife and child in a plane crash on Friday. Wellstone was a vocal opponent of U.S. military involvement in Iraq.
“I find this war extremely dangerous on every level,” Koogler said.
A small group of Iraqi-Americans held a pro-war protest near the rally sight on 17th Street and Constitution Avenue.
“We think every day Saddam stays in power, he kills more Iraqis,” said Aziz al-Taee, spokesperson for the Iraqi-American Council, according to the Associated Press.
By 2:30 p.m. when the march began, hordes of people had gathered around the stage set up for the speakers.
“I see nothing but people all around me,” said Lynn Stewart, a lawyer who spoke at the rally.
The marchers made a ring around the White House, yelling out slogans such as, “No war for oil,” and “Down with Bush, not with bombs.”
“It was really inspiring to see all those people united,” said Liz Paddock ’03. “Wave after wave after wave of people marching. It was just amazing.”
Archived article by Maggie Frank