WASHINGTON – Pennsylvania Avenue became a river of humanity April 20 as nearly 100,000 chanting demonstrators marched from the Washington Monument to the Capitol Building demanding an end to the Bush administration’s “war at home and abroad.”

Cosponsored by a coalition of peace and justice organizations, the march turned out more than twice the numbers organizers had expected, the largest protest yet against George W. Bush’s open-ended “war against terrorism” and his multi-faceted attack on democratic rights at home since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The diverse crowd was swelled by tens of thousands of students from campuses across the nation. Perhaps a third of the participants were Arab Americans, with entire families marching arm-in-arm, holding up Palestinian flags as they chanted, “Stop the killing, stop the crime! Long live Palestine!”

Abdul Raheem, a leader of the Islamic Center in Gaithersburg, Md., said his organization brought four busloads to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinians. “Israel must end its occupation now.”

Mary Carney, who came on one of four buses from Buffalo, told the World she is opposed to the militarism going on right now.

“It shows Bush’s complete disregard for human rights,” she said. “His policies are driven by corporate greed for oil.”

Brenda Stokeley, co-founder of New York City Labor Against the War, marched with a contingent of union members behind a“D.C. Labor for Peace and Justice” banner.

Stokeley, a candidate for American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees District Council 1707 president, said city workers in New York were called heroes after Sept. 11.

“Now we are called ‘greedy’ and told we have to accept givebacks, layoffs and changes in work rules to eliminate the $5 billion budget deficit,” she said. “We have to organize and demonstrate our strength and oppose the concessions they are demanding from us.”

Sally Peck, a member of the Detroit Metro Gray Panthers, who came on a bus with 46 others, blamed Bush’s runaway $397 billion military buildup for the growing local and state budget crises.

“It aggravates so many ills,” she said. “Instead of funding programs like a prescription drug plan under Medicare or public education for our children, we’re killing people with our tax dollars.”

Clarence Thomas, secrectary-treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, was wearing his union jacket, emblazoned with its cargo hook logo. He accused Attorney General John Ashcroft is of pushing a Port Security Act, but his aims go beyond just waterfont workers.

“This is a drive to take away everybody’s union rights and they are using the war on terrorism as a smokescreen,” he said. “They think they have a carte blanche to attack all our civil liberties.”

Thomas said the demonstration was significant because of its diversity, with students, peace organizations, the Palestinian and the Arab commuituy marching together in pursuit of a common goal.

“Bush is becoming isolated. After Sept. 11, people wanted some kind of response but they did not want our civil rights and civil liberties trampled on.”

“The Bush administration has an outlook of unending war,” said Communist Party USA National Chairman Sam Webb, who was leading a contingent of almost 200.

“Certainly if we can’t curb the war danger then it will be impossible to address the pressing needs here at home, whether it is for public schools, healthcare for the 41 million uninsured, housing, day care. All these needs can’t be addressed as long as we are spending nearly $400 billion on military hardware, including new nuclear weapons.”

Webb talked about the importance of the 2002 elections. “The ultraright still dominates the House and wants to retake the Senate. We have to defeat right-wing candidates,” he said. “That will send a signal that people don’t agree with the direction of the Bush administration.”

Ron Daniels, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, also pointed to the November elections and the possibility of breaking the ultra-right Republican stranglehold on the House and Senate.

“We have to invite candidates to public forums and ask their positions on the issues of war and peace,” he told the World. “We have to register people as peace voters and get them to the polls.”

Daniels cited the example of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the sole lawmaker to vote against giving Bush wide-ranging power to wage his war around the world.

“Her victory in the Democratic primary sent a message that people of sanity and rationality can win at the polls.”

Julie Ren, spokesperson for the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, one of the initiators of the April 20 Mobilization said, “Our coalition is gaining strength. This is only the beginning.”

Carol Covington had come from Stroud, England, where she is active in the peace movement.

“We think it is really important to support the American peace movement and the peace movement throughout the world,” she said. “We are going to bring back home the story of this amazing demonstration.”

Jose Cruz, Sue Webb and Terrie Albano contributed to this article.

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com.

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