NEW YORK – Braving frigid cold, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators rallied near the United Nations, Feb. 15, to protest George W. Bush’s threatened war on Iraq and to support UN efforts to stop the war. The rally here was part of a coordinated one-day protest in 600 cities across the nation and around the world.

According to Indymedia estimates, 11 million people marched and rallied against the Bush war plans, making it the largest peace outpouring in world history. Over 1 million rallied in U.S. cities and towns. About 300,000 marched in San Francisco, Feb. 16, the largest anti-war mobilization ever in the Bay Area. (See story page 3.)

Thousands were never permitted past police barricades to join the rally. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the federal Dept. of Justice won a court decision, which denied a permit for a march through mid-Manhattan. Their scheme to reduce the turnout did not succeed, though. Police estimated 500,000 participated and CNN reported 700,000.

The New York City protesters came on hundreds of chartered buses, cars and trains from the Midwest, New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions. The subway system was clogged as New Yorkers poured in from every borough.

It was a multiracial crowd, students, young couples with children, and people of many faiths, and nationalities, the mainstream of America. Thousands carried “No war for oil” placards. One featured a photo of George W. Bush with the top of his head missing and the mock headline, “Empty Warhead Found in White House.”

Members of hospital workers, Local 1999, marched with the labor contingent that brought many thousands to the rally. Hospital worker Maritza Boyce told the World, “Congress should hear us. War on Iraq will divert the resources we need at home. We need universal health care not war.”

Derrill Bodley, a founder of Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, told the crowd he had confronted George W. Bush during a memorial near Shanksville, Pa., on the first anniversary of his daughter, Deora’s, death on United Flight 93 Sept. 11, 2001. “I said, ‘Mr. President, I urge you to listen to the world leaders who are strongly advising against going down the path of war.’ Today, they are joined by millions of people around the world. We say no! Not in our names!”

Julian Bond, Board Chairman of the NAACP, told the crowd the NAACP last October unanimously approved a resolution “to oppose a unilateral attack on Iraq.” He assailed Bush’s drive toward preemptive war. “We answer, ‘No!’” Bond thundered. “Not when Iraq does not appear to present any imminent threat to our nation … Years ago from a church not far from here, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. warned that the bombs dropped on Vietnam will explode in the streets of America … Our struggle is right here at home, not in Iraq. We need peace, not war.”

King’s son, Rev. Martin Luther King III, also spoke from the platform. Afterwards he told the World, “I think it is wonderful that the United Nations is standing for peace. Hans Blix says he has found no evidence to support Sec. of State Powell’s claims. Blix says they need more time for inspections. There is sanity at the UN.”

Peace leaders from other countries addressed the New York crowd. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle against racist apartheid, drew thunderous cheers. “Peace! Peace!” he cried. “Let America listen to the rest of the world: ‘Give the inspectors time!’”

Amit Mashiah, a sergeant in the Israeli Army, told the crowd he is one of 525 members of “Courage to Refuse” Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied Palestinian lands. “We are explaining to our people how immoral the occupation is, that peace is the way to achieve our goal,” he said.

The first U.S. soldier to refuse to serve in Iraq also spoke. Army reservist Ghanim Khalil told the crowd the war on Iraq “will lead to hundreds of thousands of dead or wounded, all for the gain of a few powerful people.”

Elected officials addressed the crowd, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) who was greeted with cheers for her resolution to repeal the Oct. 16 resolution authorizing war on Iraq. “I come here because I am a fighter for peace,” she said, pointing out that UN Inspector Hans Blix a day earlier told the UN Security Council the “inspections are working.”

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies reported that she and a delegation of mayors met with UN Sec.-Gen. Kofi Annan, Feb. 14, on behalf of 92 cities that have adopted resolutions against war on Iraq. Bush refused to meet with them. “It is George W. Bush who is isolated, not us,” she said. “The people of the world are saying no to war.”

Reflecting the optimism of this historic and growing movement, Actor Danny Glover told this reporter, “I’m very hopeful we can stop this war. This is just one step in building the movement. This is our planet, our world. We are many.”

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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