During the weekend of Jan.18 over 500 Rochesterians traveled to Washington, D.C. to join thousands of other activists for what some are calling the largest anti-war demonstration since the Vietnam War era.Protesters gathered near the Capitol where the British band Chumbawamba kicked off the rally with a new anti-war song. Reverends Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson, U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, actress Jessica Lange and others delivered speeches to the tightly packed crowd.

Following this, protesters marched about 1 mile in 15 degree weather from the National Mall to the Washington Navy Yard with the intention of searching for weapons, as are inspectorsin Iraq.

San Francisco held its own demonstration at the Bay City’s waterfront, followed by a march up Market Street. Smaller protests were also held in Portland, Ore. and Tampa, Fla.

Sophomore Dan Apfel, who rode to Washington on one of eight buses provided by Metro Justice, a local activist group, believes that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction and is strongly opposed to military action.

“I don’t think we should attack them, because then we become the terrorists,” Apfel said. He added that he feels the war is motivated by a desire to control Iraq’s oil.

International A.N.S.W.E.R — Act Now to Stop War and End Racism — Coalition, the main sponsor of the event in both cities, asserts that 500,000 people attended the protest despite estimates as low as 30,000. The same organization held a similar, but less attended demonstration this past October in D. C.

“We should all strive for peace,” urges sophomore Dave Weiner. “I had a great conversation with a 60 year-old woman who said we need more people in our generation to be active. I think the complacency is disgusting,” Weiner said.

Sophomore Beth Goldstone felt that despite the “impressive” turnout, the demonstration was peaceful for the most part. “I don’t feel that war is justified,” Goldstone added.

The demonstration may have been peaceful, but some protesters left their mark in the Library of Congress by defacing parts of the building’s interior with graffiti, according to sophomore Sona Rai.

Rai attended the rally with friends from UR for the sheer experience. “I wanted to expose myself to new ideas.” Rai emphasized the differences in those who attended. “I was amazed with the demographics of the protesters. It was a very diverse group ethnically and economically with people of all ages there,” she said.

Anti-war demonstrations were also held in over thirty countries, including Argentina, Britain, Egypt, Germany, Jordan, Russia, Spain, South Africa and Syria.

Freshman Nat Powell, a member of UR Peace, was on a waiting list for a spot on one of Metro Justice’s buses, but was turned down. He and a few friends rode overnight with students from Nazareth College and arrived at around 9am Saturday for the event.

“I hope that the rally will affect public opinion and give constituents a moment of pause,” Powell said.

He added that if British Prime Minister Tony Blair is swayed by the protests, causing Britain to denounce U.S. war efforts then perhaps the Bush Administration will back down.

“Maybe the protest will show people around the world that many Americans are against the war,” Powell said.

Political Science Professor Gerald Gamm commented on the protest. “It’s a good thing when students follow public affairs and take stands on issues,” he said.

Gamm declined to say whether or not he believes America should go to war at this time.

Weiner predicted that if a draft is imposed, further action will be taken to sway the Bush Administration from such military action.



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