WASHINGTON – George W. Bush’s rush toward war on Iraq ran into a human wall Jan. 18 as anti-war protesters packed the streets of Washington, San Francisco, Tucson, Portland, Oregon, Toronto, Canada and 20 other cities chanting “Peace now!” and “No blood for oil!”

The nationwide and worldwide protests honored the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose Riverside Church Speech, April 7, 1967, helped transform the anti-Vietnam war movement into a majority movement.

France reflected the surging worldwide peace sentiment announcing Jan. 20 that it might veto a UN Security Council Resolution authorizing a military attack on Iraq. Russia, China and Germany, also demanded that Bush give the UN arms inspectors time to complete their work in Iraq.

“The world is cold, but our hearts are warm,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson, told the half million protesters on the icy Capitol Mall. Bush has bowed to demands that he negotiate with North Korea, Jackson pointed out. Why not negotiate with Iraq as well? “We’re not talking about peace and security,” he said, “We’re talking about oil and hegemony.”

Actor Jessica Lange praised the crowd for coming from as far as Minnesota and said, “I address this assembly as a mother, an American woman, determined that the legacy passed on to our children is not shame, greed, bloodshed.” She accused the administration of using the Sept. 11 terrorist attack to “keep us mesmerized with the war, the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act. … It is an excellent cover, as they turn back the clock on civil rights, women’s rights. We cannot be silent.”

Fred D. Mason, president of the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO, told the crowd that workers “want jobs and an economy built on peace, not war and destruction.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said, “Bush can’t wait to launch this war. There is still time to stop his destructive course. … It will cost billions of dollars desperately needed here at home.”

More than 200,000 rallied in San Francisco. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said, “The silent majority has become the vocal majority … George Bush has awakened a sleeping giant in our country.” She denounced Bush’s decision, to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn affirmative action. The people, she vowed, will “take back the Congress and the White House in 2004.”

Walter Johnson, leader of the San Francisco Labor Council AFL-CIO, announced that 50 unions were marching against the war. Labor, he said, “is not going to remain silent.”

Dolores Huerta, a co-founder of the Farm Workers Union, chastised Bush for “stealing the elections and now stealing our tax dollars to carry out war abroad and here at home against the poor, against immigrants, against women.”

The two-mile march to the Navy Yard in Washington began at 1:30 p.m. This reporter stood on M Street outside the Navy Yard for four hours as it flowed by filling the street curb to curb. As twilight fell, the rearguard of the procession was still marching, African American, Arab American, Latino, Asian and white.

Senior citizens, students and youth, people in wheelchairs, religious contingents, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish under a sea of banners and placards. “Osama bin Laden, Pinochet, both creations of the CIA” chanted one big contingent. Nearly 1,000 workers marched behind the banners of Labor for Peace and Service Employees Local 1199, hospital and health care workers. “Money for schools, not for war!” they chanted.

Jay Melendez held one end of a banner that read, “Paz Para Vieques.” When they are getting ready for war anywhere, “they first practice their bombing in Vieques,” Melendez told the World.

Bob Tancig of Gainesville, Florida, came on one of four buses from the Sunshine State. “We’re here today to say: War is not the answer,” he said.

Sam Webb, national chair of the Communist Party USA, marched with members of the Party and the Young Communist League. “There is such a powerful upsurge of peace sentiment across the country that the House and Senate, and even the White House, will have to take note of it,” Webb said. “There is another demonstration coming up at the United Nations in New York, Feb. 15. We must do everything we can to insure that it too is a huge success.”

Denise Dreher of Biddeford, Maine, came with 500 other Maine peace activists. A member of Pax Christi, she told the World, “We are on the verge of a great catastrophe and we must speak out for peace.”

Jamie Robertson, a college teacher from Wadena, Minn., wore a Sen. Paul Wellstone sticker on his jacket. “We brought 20 buses from Minnesota,” he said. “We knew Paul and Sheila would have been here marching if they were alive. Everyone is proud that Paul was our Senator. We want to honor his memory.”

Ade Abdalla of Detroit came on one of the 20 buses from Michigan. He blasted Bush for asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn affirmative action at the University of Michigan. In his speech on the Mall, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark called for Bush’s impeachment. “I agree with that. Bush should be impeached,” Abdalla said.

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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