It was an all-night bus trip that brought me to Washington, D.C., for my first march on our nation’s capital. Our caravan of buses left Chicago at about 6 p.m. and we arrived in D.C. at about 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.

We were let off right in front of the Code Pink rally, where I was able to walk right up to the stage and take several pictures of the speakers, including Cindy Sheehan, Joan Baez and Margot Kidder. We then joined the larger rally on the Ellipse.

On the way, we passed a long banner displaying pictures of our dead soldiers, each picture held together by a single length of string. The banner was laid like a maze on the ground and we walked amongst the pictures, a labyrinth of the dead, for about an hour. It was very emotional. One older man in front of me was weeping loudly, while another young man bent and touched the picture of one of the soldiers, evidently someone sorely missed.

You just can’t imagine the scope of this scene, picture after picture of very young men and women, killed for reasons I’m still not sure of. The creator of this makeshift memorial informed me that for every soldier pictured, there were six more veterans seriously wounded, and 12 dead Iraqis, mostly women and children.

We continued on to the rally, where we heard several more speakers, including Cindy Sheehan (again), the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ramsey Clark, the “raging grannies,” and George Galloway. The crowd was extremely diverse, much more so than past rallies that I’ve attended.

We were really hungry at that point, and went in search of food, which sent us on a wild-goose chase that deposited us near the IMF and World Bank, where other protests were staged. We ended up at the world’s crummiest pizza joint (hey, I’m from Chicago!) and encountered several delegates of the World Bank meetings. It was surreal, sitting next to dignitaries from around the world that, in my opinion, are a part of the problem, not the solution.

Then it was back to the rally for the big march. Although we arrived an hour past the time the march was scheduled to start moving, the massive crowd was still in place, the police not letting the march begin until everyone made their way to the street and away from the Ellipse. We joined the march as a light rain began to fall. I found several contingents of the faithful marching, Catholics, Quakers and Unitarians. The mood of the crowd was upbeat and excited.

I heard from one organizer that the crowd was estimated at 275,000, with more buses still arriving! Of course the media reported much lower figures. I’d say between 300,000 – 350,000 would be a fair estimate.

The crowd moved slowly, and at about 4:15, we made our way past the White House. Until this point, there was a notable absence of uniformed police. Even at the White House, I expected many more. Both the police there and in front of the Treasury Department brandished broomstick-length sticks. I assume that there were many undercover police in the crowd, too. There were also snipers on and around the White House, M-16s locked and loaded.

The crowd chanted as we passed the White House, sometimes with great hostility (“Geeeooorrrgggeeee Bush, we know you! You’re a racist, a liar and a killer too!”), but the march remained peaceful. There were many children present, and many, many elderly.

After we made our way past the White House, we headed to the metro with just enough time to get some dinner in DuPont Circle before heading back to our awaiting bus.

On the way back to Chicago, we encountered buses from many other cities, including Cincinnati, St. Louis, and several buses from Minnesota. I was glad to see the Midwest represented so well at the march.

When I got home early Sunday morning, I was disappointed in the lack of mainstream media coverage. I strongly encouraged everyone I knew to seek out the alternative media, including the People’s Weekly World, for good coverage of the weekend’s event.