Peace Rally, the “March on Washington”
A novice protester’s first march
By Rebecca Schwartz
In the past, I have found it very difficult to stay connected with the world outside of the college bubble. Unless I happen to have caught them on the America On-Line welcome screen, most of the events I learned about were not so current. Brittany Spears’ pregnancy for example, had been announced to the public two days before the girls in my hall were gossiping about it. So maybe the Spears’ baby isn’t deserving of our immediate attention; but when it comes to the War in Iraq, hurricane updates and any number of local, national and international events, being informed days later is not ideal.
I am currently enrolled in my second year of college and this year I am trying to read the headline stories in The New York Times and listen to CNN as I get dressed in the morning. Being informed makes me feel more connected to the world outside my own. My school is in Baltimore, only an hour north of Washington D.C. In mid-September I started to see flyers up about the “March on Washington”, a peace rally against the War on Iraq. I had never taken part in any sort of organized protest. Then I thought about it and decided I could learn a lot and feel more involved if I participated. Also, my school made it very easy for students to attend, providing buses to and from D.C. all in one day, September 24th.
The novice protesters were easily distinguished from the veterans: noisy, paint-faced, sign-holders exchanging stories from past marches and rallies. Once the bus dropped us off at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, we were no longer individual college students with our own agendas, but a group of united young adults. We joined the massive crowd and their (now our) seemingly simple message: End the War on Iraq. Bring the troops home now.
According to The Washington Post, protest organizers estimated around 200,000 people rallied at the Ellipse, a large circle of grass in front of the White House. The chanting procession then marched around the White House and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Along the route there were opportunities to deviate from the herd. I wandered through anti (and pro) war tents full of paraphernalia, listened to speakers and mingled with politically passionate people.
Thousands competed for a glimpse of Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier who is famous for parking herself outside President Bush’s Texas ranch for 26 days. She urged the crowd to keep fighting and directed her criticism at Congress, asking them “how many more of other people’s children are you going to sacrifice?” At the bottom of Mount Washington, folk singer Joan Baez performed several songs, among them “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”
Did our cries reach any policymakers? Were our signs read, or ignored? While protesters may ponder these on-going questions, Saturday’s march was upon reflection, no waste of time for me. Although there may be no immediate results or reward, I left the march with a kind of interest, passion and energy no New York Times headline or CNN report could provide. I guess nothing beats being in on the action. No longer a novice protester, maybe I’ll paint my face for the next one.