The streets of New York City echoed today with the chants, songs and shouts of at least 350,000 people from across the United States. Mobilized around the calls to end the war in Iraq, say no to any attack on Iran, and to support the rights and dignity of all people, including immigrants and women, the marchers brought a renewed urgency to the clear demand for change. The march featured the largest antiwar labor contingent in U.S. history.

Initiated by an historic alliance linking a diverse coalition of national organizations—United for Peace and Justice, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the National Organization for Women, Friends of the Earth, Climate Crisis Coalition, U.S. Labor Against the War, Veterans For Peace, National Youth an d Student Peace Coalition, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund—the March for Peace, Justice and Democracy embodied the understanding that all those working for such goals must come together to right the reckless, dangerous, and wrong-headed direction the U.S. government has been following.

The march kicked off at noon on a sunny Saturday in Manhattan. The lead contingent included Oscar winning actors Susan Sarandon and Mercedes Ruehl; Oscar-winning film director Jonathan Demme; writer/actor Malachy McCourt; NYC Transport Workers Union leader Roger Toussaint; Air America host Randi Rhodes; Michael Berg, whose son was the first U.S. civilian hostage killed in Iraq; Reverend Jesse Jackson; Reverend Al Sharpton; Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan; Faiza Al-Araji, a peace and women’s rights advocate from Iraq; John Wilhem, president of UNITE/HERE; National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy ; and Anne Wright, the first State Department diplomat to resign protesting the Iraq War.

At the march’s conclusion in Foley Square, a vibrant sea of flags, banners and signs welcomed marchers to the “Peace and Justice Festival.” Issue tents featured speakers, literature, t-shirt sales, food and music highlighting the key issues of the wide-ranging March coalition: the war in Iraq and threats of war and U.S. nuclear attacks on Iran, a Palestine tent featuring Q&A on Israel/Palestine and folkloric dance in an Arab-style “café,” counter-recruitment campaigners, a Labor tent featuring the NYC Labor Chorus, and others. A special Children’s Peace Tent featured puppet-making and peace crane art projects, “Putt for Peace” and other games, face-painting, musicians and jugglers. Films, music, performances by the Raging Grannies and many other activities were featured as well.

According to Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of the 1,500-organization strong United for Peace and Justice Coalition, “An unprecedented range of organizations, committed to varied constituencies and a wide range of priorities, came together to march today. We all recognize that until we end this lethal war in Iraq—a war that is destroying so many lives in Iraq and here, and costing so many billions of dollars so desperately needed for rebuilding lives, cities and countries—that we cannot succeed at reclaiming our democracy.”

United for Peace and Justice, RainbowPUSH Coalition, National Organization for Women, Friends of the Earth, U.S. Labor Against the War, Climate Crisis Coalition, Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund, National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, Veterans For Peace