UNDER HIS “Another veteran against this war” sign, Frank from Philadelphia shouted, “Bring the kids home! Bring them home now!”
His wife’s sign read “Put Bush in Camp X-Ray”. “I’m part of the Vets For Peace,” Frank explained.
“There’s thousands of us here today. There’s also Iraqi Vets Against This War on the streets today, and the Military Families Speak Out people are here.”
Indeed they were, alongside numerous families of 9/11 victims, furious that George Bush’s Republicans were coming to New York this week for the first time ever just to milk more of their sorrow.
Final figures vary, with anything up to half a million people marching.
But nobody’s denying that Sunday’s anti-Bush protest was the biggest ever at a US party convention, far exceeding the organisers’ prediction of 250,000.
Their guesstimate was safe once it was learned that a women’s march from Brooklyn the previous day had mobilised a fantastic 25,000.
The Iraq war was the unifying outrage. “If Bush gets back in,” Frank insisted, “there’ll be a draft just like 1968 when I was in Vietnam.
“And it’ll be the same story—the rich kids won’t go. Thousands of them will go to Europe.” But it wasn’t just about the war.
Jason Coughlan, 27, from Brooklyn, was on his first protest march. “I’m here not just because of Bush’s war lies. He’s also trying to take away my rights as a gay man, and I can’t just sit at home anymore.”
Julianna, 28, from Pennsylvania, was on her sixth protest since moving to New York:
“I’m angry about so many things. There’s environmental laws that Bush has messed with. There’s civil rights. The Patriot Act. Economic policy. Jobs.”
Protesters had started gathering under a baking clear blue sky from 10am.
In Union Square, country music’s leading dissident Steve Earle sang from the Not In Our Name stage.
A moving message of defiance turned out to be the voice of black political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, recorded in prison the previous day.
By midday United for Peace and Justice’s lead banner, with Jesse Jackson and Michael Moore behind, pushed off north along Seventh Avenue.
Sheer weight of numbers coming from all sides made progress slow.
We were hemmed in by exuberant voices shaking witty home-made signs. “My dick would make a better president”, was a favourite T-shirt with a female friend of mine.
Marching bands in a variety of fancy dress, and street theatre acts like “Billionaires for Bush”, kept the humour and noise level high. It took two hours to reach the focal point a mile north.
Anger rose to a crescendo outside Madison Square Gardens.
“Shame! Shame!” and “You’re not welcome” were yelled at smirking convention representatives on the steps.
The majority of delegates were in fact elsewhere, being treated to free matinees of Broadway shows—just part of the $60 million bash that this convention means. This in a city where it was revealed on Friday that infant mortality rates rose by 8 percent in 2003.