Thousands rally in Midtown to protest war in Iraq

the invasion of Iraq, thousands gathered in the streets of New York City passionately waving signs, banging drums and shouting chants in protest of the war.

The protest, held on March 20, was the largest demonstration since Feb. 15, 2003, when over 100,000 people gathered in Midtown with calls to prevent war in Iraq.

The New York City rally was part of a world wide protest to the war. In addition to that in New York, protests were organized coast to coast and in almost every continent. Great Britain, Spain, Argentina, Japan and even Pakistan are a few countries where there were large-scale protests against the war.

Rome had the biggest turnout, with official estimates at over 300,000 people in attendance. Organizers of the event say the numbers are closer to 2 million participants.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg estimated that 30,000 people attended the rally in New York. However, organizers of the rally estimate that over 100,000 people came out to the streets.

Throngs of police forces and surveillance cameras were present to help keep the protest peaceful. At least one police helicopter was witnessed inspecting the situation from overhead.

In an added effort to keep control of the crowds, police set up metal barricades along the police route to keep protestors within only certain areas of the streets.

Many attendees were angered by the attempt to barricade the route. One enraged protester shouted, “We’re not animals, you can’t pen us in.”

Still, the day was fairly peaceful. Police reported that only four arrests were made for disorderly conduct.

The protest began on 23rd Street and Madison Avenue, where protestors were first greeted by a 17 foot papier-m?ch? statue of the President Bush holding a bomb, with the word, “Empire” written on the front of the bomb.

Before the protesters marched a 19-block stretch through Midtown, they listened to various poets, politicians and other activist citizens criticizing the war and Bush.

High-profile speakers included Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who was the only Democratic presidential candidate who voted against the war last year, and Tony Benn, a former member of the British Parliament.

Bloomberg briefly stopped by the march, but did not speak at the event.

The protest brought a hodgepodge of people together – young and old, rich and poor, radicals and moderates alike.

Old men and military veterans marched stoically, while holding a banner of protest and occasionally being led in a military-like marching chant.

Many young children, held in the arms of their parents, experienced the event and some children were even heard joining the crowds with their political chants.

Fresh-faced college students with body-piercings and brightly dyed hair stood side-by-side with mothers, in conservative dress and salon-styled hair to hold up signs urging Bush to bring their sons and daughters, friends and peers, home from Iraq.

Among the group of young students protesting the war was Mike Shelichach, sophomore English major at the College. “I went because I think Bush is the most dangerous president in United States history,” he said, “and I want to do all I can to get him out of office as soon as possible.”

Participants in the march were all encouraged to carry signs and placards sponsored by different anti-war organizations as they marched along the parade route. Slogans like “ReDefeat Bush,” “Bring the troops home now” and “Money for Jobs, not for War,” were popular political comments featured on the signs.

Other signs depicted more radical and controversial opinions. “End the New Colonialism” and “Stop the 9/11 Cover-up,” were carried by some of the more zealous critics of the war.

One protestor had created a homemade sign with the original message, “Yo Bush, my taxes aren’t your venture capital.”

In addition to carrying signs, protesters called out chants like, “Hey hey. Ho ho. Bush and Cheney have got to go.”

Though the protest was civil in comparison to many of the protests of the 1960s and 70s, Shelichach said he still believes that protestors still have the same passion for their cause. “I think there’s a lot of genuine anger toward the president among the protesters,” he said.

Pockets of counter-protesters were posted outside of the barricades along the march’s route. The demonstrators were fairly quiet and held signs with pictures of 9/11 and terrorists in an effort to show their support for the president and the war.

The protest in New York City was led by the Act Now to Stop War & End Racism Coalition (A.N.S.W.E.R.) and United for Peace and Justice, the two major anti-war coalitions in the United States.