On October 26, 2002, over 200,000 people converged on Washington, DC to demonstrate their opposition to Bush's war on Iraq. Besides the usual suspects, many people attended who were not previously active in the anti-globalization movement, excited by reports that this would be the largest anti-war march since the Vietnam War. Upstate New York was well represented. The more traditional activist towns like Ithaca and Syracuse sent buses and vans, but so did Albany, Canandaigua, Geneva, Oneonta, Rochester, and Utica.
Two main events were planned in DC for the weekend, and people made the most of the rally and march organized by the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition. Signs and banners abounded, including a beautiful "No Blood for Oil" banner held by Syracuse University and SUNY ESF students. Drum and dance circles celebrated the day and our connections. Street theatre and puppetry denounced violence, including a tableau complete with violin and coffin mourning victims from Colombia to 9/11 to Afghanistan. The crowd included new and long-time activists, children, students, parents, elderly, people of different ethnicities and nationalities. People talked, listened, danced, or just enjoyed the increasingly sunny day on the Mall.
The speakers reflected the mainstream appeal of the anti-war protest. Well-known figures on hand included Susan Sarandon, Al Sharpton, former US attorney general Ramsey Clark, and Clarence Thomas (Secretary-General of the International Longshore Workers Union Local 10). Jesse Jackson, who felt the Gulf War had been justified, illustrated the fact that even non-pacifists oppose the potential war on Iraq. Ben Cohen, founder of Ben & Jerry's, gave an economic argument against war: Bush is willing to spend $270 billion destroying Iraq, yet $8 billion a year would feed all the hungry people in the world.
After the rally, a vibrant, dynamic march wrapped around the White House. This wasn't Seattle, but it wasn't trying to be. People returned to their communities with stories of celebration and empowerment. This event was part of a resistance that is greater than any one group, event, or day of action. Hopefully, in the end, it will be greater than the forces of greed and destruction.