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Profile: Protests Against A Possible War In Iraq Taking Place Around The Country

All Things Considered: October 26, 2002

Peace Rallies

[On Saturday October 26th, in a story on the protest in Washington DC against a US war with Iraq, we erroneously reported on All Things Considered that the size of the crowd was "fewer than 10,000". While Park Service employees gave no official estimate, it is clear that the crowd was substantially larger than that. On Sunday October 27, we reported on Weekend Edition that the crowd estimated by protest organizers was 100,000. We apologize for the error.]

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Protests against a US war with Iraq took place in cities across the world today, in Tokyo, London, Berlin and Mexico City, as well as in various cities in this country. We'll speak to reporters in four American cities. First, NPR's Richard Gonzales in San Francisco.

Richard, how many people turned out there?

RICHARD GONZALES reporting:

Madeleine, organizers here in San Francisco estimate that about 50,000 people started the march at Justice Herman Plaza, which is right near the Bay, on Embarcadero and came up Market Street in downtown San Francisco, and now they're filling the San Francisco Civic Center. There's a virtual sea of demonstrators here on a sunny, clear and very breezy day.

BRAND: Well--and what are they saying?

GONZALES: Basically, you've got the three main slogans. It's `No war for oil,' `Regime change begins at home,' and `Iraqi children are not collateral damage.' Those are probably the most popular slogans I've seen plastered on signs here.

BRAND: And are they hearing from any speakers?

GONZALES: We've already heard from about a half-dozen speakers, and according to my program, we'll probably have at least a half-dozen more. But I got to say that I have not seen as big a crowd in San Francisco's Civic Center in many, many years.

BRAND: And has it been mostly peaceful?

GONZALES: It's been totally peaceful. You've got a mix, a broad-based multiracial coalition here. I've seen peace activists, gay activists, bikers in the background, trade unions, housewives, nuns, hip-hoppers, nurses. There's a--again, I can't stress too strongly: There are a lot of people here today.

BRAND: NPR's Richard Gonzales in San Francisco. Thanks so much.

GONZALES: Thank you, Madeleine.

BRAND: NPR's Nancy Marshall is in Washington outside the White House, where another protest took place today. Hi, Nancy.

NANCY MARSHALL reporting:

Hello.

BRAND: Was the crowd as large as expected?

MARSHALL: It was not as large as the organizers of the protest had predicted. They had said there would be 100,000 people here. I'd say there are fewer than 10,000. However, they did accomplish their goal of actually marching around the White House in one continuous stream of people. It is a little bit thin in some areas, but nonetheless, they have marched around the White House.

BRAND: And who turned out?

MARSHALL: I would say about one-third of the people who are marching here are students. They're young people. But there are also a lot of, shall I say, aging baby boomers who remember marching against the Vietnam War. They say the atmosphere is very similar.

BRAND: And they heard from speakers. Who spoke, and what did they have to say?

MARSHALL: They heard from the Reverend Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. There was a healthy mix of politics sprinkled into a lot of the speeches. A lot of people were saying, `If you don't like what President Bush is doing, get out and vote in November.' They're clearly trying to send a message to the president that they don't like the idea of any kind of military action in Iraq. Also, people were saying that they would prefer that money be spent on things like education and social programs. But the message overall is: No war in Iraq.

BRAND: Did you speak to any of the demonstrators, the marchers?

MARSHALL: I did. And I have to say that I think the organizers of this march were a bit more to the left than the people who are actually marching. A lot of people said, `Let's work with the United Nations, let's maybe even ratchet up the sanctions against Iraq, but let's not go to war. But, yes, we do need to do something in Iraq.' They did acknowledge that. And they said that sanctions could be a way to go, whereas the organizers of this march--a lot of them are saying, `We shouldn't even have sanctions against Iraq. We shouldn't do anything there.'

BRAND: NPR's Nancy Marshall. Thanks very much.

MARSHALL: You're welcome.

BRAND: From Federal Plaza in Chicago, Catchen Einhorn(ph) of Chicago Public Radio joins me on the line. Catchen, what's the crowd like there?

CATCHEN EINHORN reporting:

There are about 2,000 people here today. They assembled at about noon local time. A lot of people are carrying signs saying, `Peace is patriotic,' `We say no to war.' Several religious leaders and anti-war activists gave speeches, and then they led the group in a march around downtown.

BRAND: And it was all pretty peaceful?

EINHORN: Yes. Very peaceful. There's a big police presence here, but there's been no violence at all.

BRAND: Now who are the people at the protest?

EINHORN: I see a lot of people who are in their 20s and 30s. There are people who are in their 60s and 70s. They seem to have fought in other wars. There are people who have served in the military and they're against the war.

BRAND: So what did people have to say?

EINHORN: People are saying they want to stop the war before it starts. One mother started crying as she talked to me. She's worried about her children. People are saying, `There's no new evidence that Hussein threatens world peace.' They say that there are other repressive regimes in the world, there are other countries that harbor terrorists, and they think the US government just doesn't have sufficient justification to go to war.

BRAND: Catchen Einhorn of Chicago Public Radio, thanks very much.

EINHORN: Thank you so much.

BRAND: Earlier today, we caught up with reporter Susan Chisholm of Maine Public Radio, who's been covering a demonstration in Augusta.

Susan, what's the scene there?

SUSAN CHISHOLM reporting:

Well, the scene right now is that the crowd is starting to dissipate, but earlier, there were an estimated crowd of about 1,500 to 2,500 people. They came here on a day when it is pouring rain in Augusta. It's freezing cold. They all have umbrellas, rain suits on, fisherman's hats, but they brought their signs, they brought their music, they brought out pots and pans from the kitchen. And some women had their children in strollers and were beating on bread pans with spoons.

BRAND: A domestic touch.

CHISHOLM: Yeah.

BRAND: And who spoke?

CHISHOLM: Oh, we had people from Witness for Peace, we had Veterans for Peace, we had regular people who are concerned about the situation in Iraq. I spoke to people who had just gathered here before it started. And the very first couple I met were in their 80s and they said they came out today and it's the first demonstration they've come to since the Vietnam War. And they said this time, they're just much more fearful about the situation in the world and they're worried for their children and for their grandchildren. And they felt they had to come out, even in the rain.

BRAND: And even if it was raining, was the turnout as large as the demonstrators had anticipated?

CHISHOLM: Yeah, this is one of the largest crowds I can recall. We've had increasing numbers of people showing up at demonstrations like this, but this is by far the largest. It is at the Capitol. It's the first one I recall at the Capitol in a long time. But--so it is a sign of a changing attitude, I think, here.

BRAND: Susan Chisholm of Maine Public Radio, thank you very much.

CHISHOLM: Thank you.

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