WASHINGTON – Demonstrators numbering in the hundreds of thousands marched in cities and towns across the U.S. and around the world Oct. 26 to protest George W. Bush’s drive toward a unilateral war against Iraq.

Organizers estimated that 200,000 marched in D.C., 80,000 in San Francisco, 3,000 in Chicago, 4,000 in Seattle, 2,500 in Portland, Ore., 2,500 in Augusta, Maine, 300 in Salt Lake City, 200 in Tallahassee and 100 in Charlotte, N.C.

In St. Paul, Minn., 10,500 turned out to oppose war on Iraq and mourn the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died with his wife, Sheila, daughter and others in a plane crash last week. Over 2,500 marched on the home of Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld near Taos, N.M.

A montage of handpainted signs and placards carried messages like “Drop Bush, not bombs,” “Nebraskans for Peace” and “No blood for oil.”

“There is still time. We can stop this war,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson thundered as the crowd on the Capitol Mall here cheered. “This time the ‘silent majority’ is on our side. Most Americans do not want this war. If we launch a preemptive attack, we will lose all moral authority. We must have a higher order than a one-bullet diplomacy.”

Bush’s war rhetoric, Jackson continued, “is a diversion, an attempt to change the subject before election day,” covering up soaring unemployment and poverty, budget deficits and corporate crime.

“If we trust democracy, we will take advantage of the right to vote that so many martyrs gave their lives for,” Jackson said. “ Let’s come alive November 5 for Paul and Sheila.”

Michael Letwin, coordinator of the New York City Labor Against the War, told the crowd that the late AFL-CIO President George Meany once said he would not have backed the Vietnam war if he had known in advance its human toll. “We can’t afford to let that mistake happen again,” Letwin said.

Actress Susan Sarandon said she was speaking as a mother on behalf of the mothers of Iraq struggling to save their children from war and a U.S.-enforced blockade.

At the Civic Center in San Francisco, a huge crowd applauded Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) who cast the lone House vote against war on Afghanistan. She praised the flood of phone calls and e-mails to Capitol Hill last month that helped boost to 133 the number of House members who voted against the Iraq war resolution. “We’re going to stop this madness,” Lee said. “We’re going to get rid of these weapons of mass destruction. … Let today be the first day of taking back the White House in 2004.”

Walter Johnson, sec.-treas. of the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO, one of several labor bodies that oppose the war, told the crowd, “We can’t be roman candles … This must be a launching pad for building a movement” strong enough to stop the war.

Dolores Huerta, a founder of the United Farm Workers, thanked those in the crowd who supported pro-farm worker legislation and praised Gov. Gray Davis for signing it into law. “For the first time in U.S. history, we’re going to stop a war before it starts,” she said. “Can we stop this war?” she asked. She replied with UFW founder Cesar Chavez’s favorite motto: “Si se puede!”

State Sen. John Burton told the crowd Bush’s war drive “is about oil, about taking people’s attention away from the domestic issues and the economy. … It is a poor reason for killing innocent people in Iraq.”

ILWU Local 10 President Richard Meade lambasted the Bush administration both for its war drive against Iraq and for invoking Taft-Hartley against the longshore workers and also chastized Sen. Dianne Feinstein for breaking with her colleague, Sen. Barbara Boxer who voted against war.

The D.C. march proceeded up 17th St. to encircle the White House. “No more blood for oil,” the crowd chanted. “Regime change begins at home.”

Susan Perkins of Billerica, Mass., carried a sign, “Draft my son for oil? When you pry him from my cold dead hands.” She told the World her son is 16. “My memory of Vietnam is my mother crying night after night wondering if her boys were coming home alive. Now we know that the Tonkin Gulf Resolution was a lie used to send half a million boys into war. My brother’s best friend, Charlie McMann, he’s on that wall over there,” she said, gesturing toward the nearby Vietnam War Memorial with the names of 58,151 war dead. “He was killed on the last day of the war. For what?”

David Grubbs, a caregiver for mentally handicapped people in Harrisburg, Pa., carried a sign, “Blowback from Gulf War I: Timothy McVeigh, John Muhammad, Osama bin Laden. What sort of monster will the next war bring?” He said, “The war made these men into killing machines. The human nervous system is not designed to be a killing machine.”

When the march neared the White House, a cordon of mounted police blocked the way. The standoff grew more tense by the minute. Jackson walked over and negotiated with the commander of the police. The police lines opened and the crowd poured through.

Around the world, 30,000 marched in Berlin, 3,000 in Madrid, 1,500, Copenhagen, 1,500, and Stockholm 1,000. Marches were also staged in Seoul, Tokyo, Mexico City and Baghdad.

Evelina Alarcon, Mark Almberg, Juan Lopez, Rosita Johnson and Tina Wheeler contributed to this article.

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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