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Analysis: Large Anti-War Protests In New York Today

All Things Considered: February 15, 2003

NYC Protests

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Still, more people offered their opinions by gathering outside the United Nations. Inside that building yesterday, the US and Britain debated the likes of France and Germany. Outside the UN today, critics of war mounted a protest, and NPR's Margot Adler is there.

Margot, what have you see today?

MARGOT ADLER reporting:

Well, you know, I feel as if I've been at two or three different events and it was not planned that way. First, there was a huge rally. It stretched about one mile, filling a wide avenue, 1st Avenue, starting about six blocks from the UN, but the way--and at that rally, it was, you know, lots of speakers, lots of diverse crowd, lots of art, lots of humor, but the way that the police penned the crowds in with metal barricades prevented many people getting to the rally site at all. So three hours into the rally, thousands were still streaming up 2nd Avenue, 3rd Avenue. So the traffic was pretty much tied up for three miles.

The police clearly hadn't thought the event would be as big as it was because they were hastily constructing barricades a mile beyond the stage. And they ended up having a number of bottlenecks. I was in a crowd at one point near the Queensboro Bridge where we couldn't move for a long period of time. I saw at least three or four arrests. I saw some people sitting in police vans. I saw some confrontations between mounted police and demonstrators. And I almost think that, you know, if they had, in fact, marched to the UN, it would have been an easier situation.

INSKEEP: They were actually denied a permit to march but they marched anyway. Is that right?

ADLER: Well, the city went to court and won its battle to prevent a march to the UN. And so, of course, they had a rally, but, in fact, there were about 57 tiny feeder marches to get to the rally, and because they couldn't get in, they ended up sort of walking up and down this mile-long 3rd Avenue and 2nd Avenue. So, in fact, yes, they sort of were marching, although you might not have called it a march.

INSKEEP: Margot, we've see quite a few protests in New York City and some other major cities over the last few months and one of the things that we're always looking at is whether there's any change, whether the marchers are getting bigger, changing in tone, getting smaller. Have you notice any change over the last few months?

ADLER: Well, you know, I couldn't say how big this march was, but it seemed pretty big. What was notable to me was the diversity of the crowd and also the humor. There were lots of funny signs. For example, oh, you know, anti-warheads found in the White House or a picture of Bush with duct tape over his lips and saying the proper use of duct tape--I mean, I would say that a large portion of the signs, those that weren't sort of ideological and in specific groups were pretty inventive.

INSKEEP: So other than those few arrests that you mentioned, a fairly boisterous gathering, then?

ADLER: I would say that there was a very peaceful sort of fun gathering at the rally and a lot of frustration among the people who couldn't get there and found themselves sort of walled in by police. So it was almost as if there were two completely different events that I was at.

INSKEEP: Margot, thanks very much.

ADLER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Margot Adler on the line from New York.

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