We’ve heard plenty about the Bush administration’s desire to get the Iraq war rolling before the desert sands heat up.
After watching the anti-war throng that marched down Detroit’s Washington Boulevard in the biting wind last week, it seemed there might be another timetable for the planners to consider: The opposition that’s likely to grow as the streets warm up. From New York to an estimated 150 other U.S. cities to numerous burgs abroad, millions took to the streets last Saturday.
Not that the extent of the Detroit protest was immediately clear. The rally began in the bitter cold at Grand Circus Park, but it was only as protesters marched down the slope toward Cobo Hall that they could look backward and forward to get a perspective on their numbers. Media reports pegged the crowd size at 1,000. We think the number was double that. Signs of the times were everywhere: “No War,” “Drop Bush Not Bombs,” “Let Us Not Become the Evil We Deplore,” “Brains Not Bombs,” “Family Doctors for Peace,” “Stop the Imperialist Bloodbath,” “Stop Mad Cowboy Disease.”
To a veteran of marches against the Vietnam War, there was a déjà vu vibe — and differences. There’s nothing like a drum circle to lead the anti-war chants, and there was something surreal about the chant leaders and wary cops knotted under the looming crouch of the Joe Louis statue in the lobby of Cobo Hall (where boat and motorcycle shows were running concurrently).
“One-two-three-foh, we won’t fight for Texaco,” went a typical chant. And there were paeans to the people (“Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop”). But unlike the Vietnam era, there’s no idealization of the foe’s regime in this. In the ’60s, activist chants included the ever-popular “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win.” Nobody goes “Sad-dam, Saddam Hussein, Baathist Party’s gonna reign.” The only mention of Hussein that News Hits saw was in a banner: “No to War, No to Hussein, Yes to democracy in Iraq.”
Among the many speakers were former U.S. Rep. David Bonior and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit. Conyers alluded to the protest movement against the Vietnam War, saying, “There is only one way his excellency George Bush will be deterred, one way and one way only: That the people stop the war.”
From singer Sista Otis to Dawud Muhammad, a Michigan representative of the Nation of Islam, that theme was echoed.
Sign-up sheets, handouts for meetings to come, plugs for the Web site (www.mecawi.org) all made the point that, as protest leader Rudy Simons said, the next step for protesters is “to multiply ourselves.”Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org