Students protest against ‘racist war’
By Lance Kramer
Published on Monday, January 20, 2003
WASHINGTON -- A group of 53 Dartmouth students joined thousands of protestors on the National Mall Saturday in the largest anti-war rally since the Vietnam era.
The rally and following march, sponsored by the national organization Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), drew a diverse group of participants and was the second Washington protest recently attended by Dartmouth students.
Throughout the day, Dartmouth students, along with countless other protestors, could be heard singing "No war in Iraq" to a group of marching drummers and chanting phrases such as "1,2,3,4 ... we don't want your racist war" and "the people, united, will never be defeated."
While protest estimates Saturday ranged from roughly 40,000 to 500,000 people, Sgt. Joe Gentile, director of public information for the Washington police department, said that there was "a good turnout of people" and that only a few arrests were made during the day.
After the speeches, which began just after 11 a.m. and continued until past 1:30 p.m., organizers cleared the stage and began to lead the mass of protesters on a two-mile march through southeast Washington before arriving at the Navy Yard.
Saturday's program included an extensive lineup of anti-war speakers, including notables like actress Jessica Lange, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Vietnam veteran and author Ron Kovic and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Interspersed among the list of speakers were musical performances by artists including British pop group Chumbawamba and singer-songwriter Patti Smith.
"Thank you for having the courage and the citizenship to come here today," said Kovic, author of the renowned book Born on the Fourth of July. "There is part significance for this particular day for me -- 35 years ago on this day in Vietnam I was shot. It has been a long and agonizing process to get to this stage."
While serving his tour of duty in the Vietnam War, Kovic was shot and paralyzed from the chest down.
"There will be a rebirth in this winter of struggle. You will be a part of an extraordinary movement in history. This is our destiny. You were born to be here -- not only to stop war but change the priorities of this nation," he added.
Adam Wilson '02 traveled to Washington to protest in October and made the trip again this weekend to show his support for the anti-war movement. Last term, Wilson helped to plan several anti-war events on campus, including a rally, dine-in and community hour and lunch discussion.
"My biggest objection is that I don't think that fighting a war for oil is any way justifiable; I don't think it's the only reason we would go to war -- but it's part of the equation and it's completely unacceptable," Wilson said.
"One thing I really enjoyed was that you saw every walk of life, with little kids to older people, so many different ethnic groups," he noted.
According to ANSWER, Saturday's rally in Washington was joined by separate protests in San Francisco and in approximately 32 other countries.
"Today's demonstrations shatter the myth that Washington's rush to war enjoys widespread support in the United States," Mara Verheyden-Hillard said in a press release. Verheyden-Hillard works as an attorney with the Partnership for Civil Justiceâ€“LDEF, one of many partners in the ANSWER coalition.
Several Dartmouth students reported seeing groups of counter-protestors in Washington on Saturday. Mark Samco '02 said that while marching, he came across a group of about 10 people on a nearby building's rooftop displaying signs such as "College Republicans support our troops" and "Go home hippies."
The bus, sponsored by "Why War?" left Hanover late Friday night, arriving in Washington on Saturday morning. After a short orientation of the day's events from trip leaders Alex Kirigin '06, Natalie Allan '06 and a representative of ANSWER, the group gathered on the Mall to join in a circle for a brief moment of silent prayer and reflection.
After the march to the Navy Yard, Dartmouth students gathered in the basement of the Church of Brethren on 4th Street for a debriefing session covering the day's event.
The meeting, which included a presentation by a group of Japanese students who had traveled overseas to attend the protest, was also aimed at sharing different methods of student protest and activism occurring across the country.
At the meeting, student speakers from organizations across the nation advocated such action as ways to practice non-violent civil disobedience and getting organized on a campus and city-wide basis.
In addition to Saturday's protest, ANSWER has also planned a national Week of Anti-War Resistance, slated for Feb. 13-21. Kirigin said that "Why War?" will consider arranging another bus ride to a protest scheduled in New York.
Closer to home, today "Bridges for Peace" vigils will take place on bridges over the Connecticut River, including Hanover's Ledyard Bridge.
The vigil, which will run from 12 to 2 p.m., is aimed at linking Vermont and New Hampshire in activism against the war.