It was an anti-Bush march, not an anti-war or anti-US policy march. It could have been so much more. Even so, it was amazing to see 400,000 or so people marching against Bush. Fox News and others used the absurdly low police estimate of 100,000. Trust me, it was way more than that. I helped organize the Feb 15 2002 ANSWER LA march and rally, and that got 100,000, and this crowd was way larger than that.
The sponsoring organization, United for Justice and Peace, sadly caved in to the demands of NYC authorities at every step. First, they accepted the City demand that the rally be on the remote West Side Highway. When their own base rebelled at that, they dropped the West Side Highway, and attempted to sue for a rally in Central Park. They were rejected by the judge who chastized them, after months of negotiations, for taking too long to decide to file the suit. They then let the City re-route the march so it ended far away from Central Park.
A few telling points.
There was a stage at the beginning of the march. However the seats and mikes faced away from the marchers, and towards the media who were on the opposite side of the street. They never ever spoke to their own marchers. Yow.
At the end, UfPJ was on the bullhorns telling people thanks for coming, now keep marching around Union Square and into the subways, and don’t stay here. (NYPD were holding subways doors open so the ride was free – something no New Yorker remembers ever happening before). Had police been telling people to leave, there would have been resentment, so UfPJ basically was a proxy for the police, telling people to disperse quickly. What an odd thing for march organizers to be doing, especially after they’d been steadily and consistently slapped down by the City for months.
UfPJ, of course, positions themselves as the "respectable" alternative to the ANSWER Coalition, implying if you don’t deal with us, then you’ll have to deal with those crazy radicals at ANSWER. They almost act as a wing of the Democratic Party, and it was clear the Democratic establishment wanted no waves made by this march, assuming that any hint of trouble would hurt Kerry (a debatable point at best.) So UfJP, who needed little prodding on this anyway, did their best to tone things down. No heavy, militant message. Just Dump Bush. As if Kerry would do anything different in Iraq.
Peter Camejo, VP candidate on the Nader ticket spoke in Washington Square Park on Saturday saying, Democrats, just how much of this can you take, just how much will you take, until you understand that Kerry, in many ways, will be no better than Bush and that your Democratic leaders are not listening to you.
Peter was on fire like I’ve never seen him before. He got huge applause. The next speaker, the bland centrist Green Party candidate David Cobb, got scattered boos and no applause. At least some Greens get it! UfPJ and David Cobb, and those like them think they can somehow make the Democratic leadership respect their views, and then prod them towards real change, a dubious conclusion at best.
Still, it was a huge crowd, and the whole world was watching. The march was front page news across the country and the world. A message was sent from NYC, and understood by the planet – there is huge and growing opposition to Bush in the US.
ANSWER LA volunteers handing out placards and flyers. That’s me, second from right.
They fought the Fascists in Spain in 1937. And 67 years later, they’re still active.