The Globe’s lead focused on Marge Mills, a Northampton woman whose son enlisted in the army without her blessing. Elsewhere, the article excerpted speeches by Zinn and anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan; relayed organizers’ turnout estimates (4000 to 5000); and quoted Anglea Kelly, outreach coordinator for Massachusetts Peace Action, saying that the march “got the message out to a new community of people.”
Kelly’s claim of efficacy went unquestioned; so did her description of the event as “a real coming-together from a broad and diverse range of organizations that are all working on a number of different peace and justice issues, but [who are] all united around one central demand to stop the war in Iraq right now.” If anything, the Globe actually seemed to endorse this reading:
The crowd yesterday included college students, mothers, and children walking hand in hand. Some people carried homemade signs bearing messages like “Bring the troops home now,” “Impeach Bush,” and “Not my president.”
This struck me — someone who sympathizes with the anti-war cause — as a generously selective description. When I arrived at the rally Saturday morning, I followed the chanting to just west of Park Street station. There, 100 or so protesters were waving flags (black or black and red; no red, white, and blue) and taunting the bored-looking Boston police officers watching from across Tremont Street. The banner visible to passing pedestrians and motorists — WE STAND AGAINST IMPERIALISM — went far beyond simple opposition to the war in Iraq.
So did the group’s chants, which started out as “The people of Iraq are under attack. What do we do? Stand up fight back!” After a few iterations, references to the “people of Iraq” were replaced; substitutes included “people of Palestine,” “women of Boston,” “people of color,” “and working people.” Also noteworthy: the two-sided sign hoisted by a young woman who was dressed for a day at the mall. OCCUPATION IS A CRIME — FREE THE MIDDLE EAST faced back toward the Common. The side facing Tremont Street boasted an even vaguer message, CHANGE IS POSSIBLE — NOW IT’S OUR TURN, and a black-and-white collage of Ché Guevara, Fidel Castro, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Bob Dylan, Nelson Mandela, Bob Marley, and Tupac Shakur.
Over at the grandstand, a spoken-word artist was railing against the disproportionate representation of people of color in America’s prisons. I walked around and sized up the rally’s constituent parts: Christian peace activists; 9/11-conspiracy theorists; sundry socialist and Communist retreads; military families holding pictures of Iraq War casualties; pro-migrant-worker activists; animal-rights activists; the Workers World Party sign-holder who urged solidarity with Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Palestine, Haiti, New Orleans, Asia, and Africa. (Nobody replicated the human peace-symbol formed by activists in Copley Square earlier this month.) I watched as Sergio Reyes, head of the Boston May Day Coalition, diagnosed the ills of American culture (“There’s something wrong with a society that must be constantly at war . . . ”). I listened to political commentary from the funk-jam band that had moved into the grandstand (“Anybody know what your dome is? That’s your head. We don’t need any homeland security; we need domeland security”). And I wondered how a generic Bostonian who’d supported the Iraq War but now questioned its wisdom would react to the scene.