On streets of beauty, the warm people inched along or stood
and chanted and laughed against a war and for peace and their warmth made
the winter temperature irrelevant.
They were summer people in
They were the largest and happiest crowd seen in
this city maybe ever, outside of a war's end in 1945.
fathers with children on their shoulders. There were mothers holding their
young. There were kids walking alongside their parents. There were
religious people everywhere.
And so many were young. Young
students, young married, young in a city that belonged to the dreams and
love and laughter of youth.
Do you want a life with thrills, years
of exhilaration? Come to New York.
Where yesterday they said they
did not want war.
They said it with their presence and with the
most signs of my time in my city. The signs were against war, and against
George W. Bush, who, for the first time, was being heralded as a man who
lost the popular vote in this country by 500,000.
Third Avenue and Second Avenue, as the crowds came up to try to get to the
rear of the great crowd on First Avenue, and then peering as far down
First Avenue as you could see, the size of throngs caused you to tell
yourself, "maybe a million.” Whatever it was, out on the street it felt
like a million, and it was glorious. A news photographer I know came
along. "I've been everyplace. I have to say a million.” Because of the
Police Department's reprehensible pens, the crowd was separated so that
there was not one clear picture of an enormous group that would cause
politicians here to faint.
The crowd so frightening was made of
people who mostly never had protested before, who were too young for the
Vietnam protests and who cannot be classified under any of the old words,
"demonstrators” or "anti-war,” because they are new and they are
War may be a great favorite with a Texas Theocracy, with a
president who speaks in the first person more than anybody we have had in
decades -- "I'm sick and tired of waiting” -- and who calls on God to
bless the country as if no other people made in the image and likeness of
God are alive on earth.
Only the sour people could permit innocent
people to be scared as close to death as you could do it. "Get duct tape!”
her government told Kristin, a friend of mine who lives in Washington. So
she went out and got duct tape, which usually is mentioned in stories
about bank robbers using it to bound and gag clerks.
the windows and door of her children's room. She then said she was ready
for a gas attack. She failed to realize that the attack would leave her
kids as orphans.
The crowd yesterday was herded into a mile of
pens, like the Omaha stockyards. This was for security. The reason for
security was security.
On our streets of beauty yesterday, gladness
was in the place of arrogance and meanness. The sole conflict I found,
when I arrived at 66th Street and First Avenue, the closest I could get to
the stage at 51th Street, a young woman named Leslie Meenan was holding
the hand of a girl who said her name was, as I spelled it, Camilla. She
"You're spelling it wrong,” she said. "Only one
"You don't know how to spell your own name,” I
"Yes, I do. You don't.”
"She's right,” a woman said.
Her name was Cara McCarthy and she was from Bushwick, in Brooklyn. She
teaches at PS 145.
Just ahead was Bob Stratton, who held his
daughter, Fia, age 3. He said he was from Park Slope and he was in
And now as you walked along the edge of one
of these pens, here was a line of Catholic protests and then a group of
schoolteachers and then everything seemed to be Jane Burcaw, in a good,
warm and fashionable hat holding a sign that said, "No War.”
made it last night,” she said.
"Where do you
"Bethlehem. I work at the Moravian Theological Seminary. I
got here at 10:30. I would've been much earlier if I had to.”
number of police and vehicles was unconscionable in this area, blocks away
from the stage. The people were beautiful and the overload of police was
irritating and deprived people of their rights.
downtown from where I was standing, they had police horses on Second
Avenue and people there to protest were behind the endless metal pens and
somewhere the cattle turned human and people were arrested.
mayor of this city and the police commissioner had been spreading fear in
this city for many days. Their claims were infuriating. "We know there is
something coming but we can't tell you.” If they knew it was coming and
the people who were doing it knew it was coming, then what are you keeping
a secret for?
Bet me that they had the same kind of rumor that
Colin Powell tried to sell at the UN, and on Friday he got carried out on
But this was only passing. What went on yesterday was an
enormous crowd that turned cold sidewalks into beautiful
They were the nicest people I've ever been with.
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.