When you consider the participants in the anti-war rally in DC this past Saturday, 18 January 2003, many were cold, but few were frozen. Low temperatures and early morning starts didn’t keep participants from flocking readily to the largest protest since the Vietnam War, bringing with them sparks of peace with which they hoped to warm the administration to their cause.
The United Nation’s inspector’s report is due on 27 January, a possible trigger point for a US led invasion on Iraq in the weeks or months ahead. An estimated 500,000 citizens gathered last weekend to protest this impending military attack and to support related causes focused on American policy toward the Middle East. Freshman Lisa Snead believed that the sacrifice she and others made was a necessary one.
“A day of discomfort is worthwhile if we can get someone’s attention,” Miss Snead pointed out.
The College sent its fair share of students and faculty who traveled either by bus or by private car to the rally, sponsored by the International Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.) coalition. A.N.S.W.E.R. is a broad alliance of groups formed to oppose war, support global justice and self determination, and to defend civil rights and liberties.
Associate Professor of English Ann Reed, one of the organizers of William and Mary supporters, was glad for the crucial opportunity to bond together in their resistance to a war against Iraq.
“One of the reasons [we’ve tried] to pull people together is that so far people who want to express opposition have been acting as individuals […] The lack of action on the part of Congress and of media coverage is compelling a lot of frustrated people to gather,” said Mrs. Reed.
One of the major groups that organized Williamsburg supporters was the Williamsburg Interfaith Coalition for Peace, an organization which works to integrate nondenominational religion and peace. Junior Matthew Lancaster, who became involved in anti-war efforts through this coalition, was impressed with the efficiency of the protest, which began with a rally in front of the Capitol Building and ended with a march to the Navy Yard.
“I was impressed by how peaceful [the protest] was because it certainly had the potential to blow up,” said Mr. Lancaster.
Although there was some friction from opposing groups, including war veterans and some Young Republicans, no violence ensued. However, Mr. Lancaster noticed that while there was much diversity of opinion and background at the protest, most people appeared to be upper-middle class who “used the poor as a rallying cry.”
“It comes down to a rich man’s world, a poor man’s fight,” he noted.
Overall he believed that the purpose of the rally , to spread awareness and to make others realize that it is not always “unpatriotic” to disagree with the President or particular administration, was accomplished. He was especially encouraged by the enthusiastic participation by young people.
“Usually it seems like people our age aren’t interested or aware of what’s going on […] We’re in a period of peace and prosperity and we’re still stuck in the mentality that nothing can go wrong. To see that many college people from different areas is really encouraging,” said Mr. Lancaster. He hopes to work on campus to get more college and high school students involved with political issues like this one.
Junior Zaid Khoury, a member of the Middle Eastern Club, agrees. “All you need to do to get involved is to get a small group together and question what is right to doâ€”it’s a matter of people taking initiative,” he stressed. “There’s no reason we can’t break the bubble that surrounds William and Mary and become more educated about political issues.”