An estimated 10,000 people gathered downtown Saturday to protest the proposed war on Iraq. They also met to express general dissatisfaction with President Bush, his administration and current foreign policy. People of all ages showed up to participate in the peaceful anti-war rally and march, some with their dogs.
An enormous, slobbery Saint Bernard named Gabrielle sported a sign flung over her back like a saddle: “Armageddon is inconvenient. War is the axis of evil. Just say no.”
Drew Scott, a 34-year-old student at the Northwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, carried a sign that read “Bush for World Domination.” Scott was adamant about the anti-war movement.
“I don’t want another war to start,” he said.
The rally began at noon on the corner of Southwest Ninth Avenue and Salmon Street with speeches, noisemakers and music. At 1 p.m., the crowd began to march toward First Street and then back up toward City Hall. As the parade progressed, spectators lined the streets, and cars stopped and honked in response to signs that read “Honk if you’re against war.”
The protestors came to a stop at Terry Schrunk Plaza, where supporters and spectators waited.
Traffic was blocked off and delayed until the entire parade had arrived within the official bounds of the rally at about 1:30 p.m.
Those who secured a spot in the packed plaza listened to a string of scheduled speakers. Among those to speak at the rally were former congresswoman Elizabeth Furse; Mazen Malik of the Palestinian Arab American Association; Ailyah Strauss, president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom of Israel; and Allen Graf, a famed “hippie lawyer.”
Those stranded on Fourth Avenue for lack of space in the plaza gathered around the No War Drum Corps for a bit of dancing, chanting and sign-waving at passing cars.
A group of teenagers used the blocked streets as and excuse to play street soccer. At one point, a policeman on a motorcycle drove through the thick of the game, almost hitting a couple of the players. People who saw the incident yelled after the policeman, but no one seemed interested in starting a fight.
The Portland Police Department reported no arrests at the protest.
Many rally participants suggested that oil is the real reason for the proposed war, despite official comments.
Laura McCartney, 19, a sophomore anthropology major at Portland State who attended the rally, shares this sentiment.
“We look at a country as a resource and take it out,” she said. “There’s been a loss of respect for nature and for people in general. We need to quit looking at things as resources and start respecting people.”
Many of the signs at the rally denoted a moral objection to the proposed war. Some of them even took on a religious tone, such as: “Thou shalt not kill,” “All who take the sword will perish by the sword” and “Violence begets violence.”
Reina Abolofia, 20, a junior music performance major at PSU, explained her reasons for participating in the protest.
“There is always a nonviolent alternative,” she said. “It may be harder and take more effort, but we should always seek those alternatives.”
Organizers of the protest encouraged people to speak out against the war on Iraq. They provided phone numbers of representatives in Washington, D.C., and urged people to call them.
“Students have so much power,” McCartney said. “And we don’t realize that.”