Jimmy Breslin on NYC protest

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 16 11:10:40 MST 2003

(Jimmy Breslin is a veteran journalist who has been regarded as the voice
of NYC's blue-collar population, especially Irish and Italians in Queens
and Brooklyn.)

NY Newsday, Feb 16, 2003
Walking Along Streets of Peace
by Jimmy Breslin

On streets of beauty, the warm people inched along or stood and chanted and
laughed against a war and for peace and their warmth made the winter
temperature irrelevant.

They were summer people in winter clothes.

They were the largest and happiest crowd seen in this city maybe ever,
outside of a war's end in 1945.

There were fathers with children on their shoulders. There were mothers
holding their young. There were kids walking alongside their parents. There
were religious people everywhere.

And so many were young. Young students, young married, young in a city that
belonged to the dreams and love and laughter of youth.

Do you want a life with thrills, years of exhilaration? Come to New York.

Where yesterday they said they did not want war.

They said it with their presence and with the most signs of my time in my
city. The signs were against war, and against George W. Bush, who, for the
first time, was being heralded as a man who lost the popular vote in this
country by 500,000.

Looking down Third Avenue and Second Avenue, as the crowds came up to try
to get to the rear of the great crowd on First Avenue, and then peering as
far down First Avenue as you could see, the size of throngs caused you to
tell yourself, "maybe a million." Whatever it was, out on the street it
felt like a million, and it was glorious. A news photographer I know came
along. "I've been everyplace. I have to say a million." Because of the
Police Department's reprehensible pens, the crowd was separated so that
there was not one clear picture of an enormous group that would cause
politicians here to faint.

The crowd so frightening was made of people who mostly never had protested
before, who were too young for the Vietnam protests and who cannot be
classified under any of the old words, "demonstrators" or "anti-war,"
because they are new and they are real.

War may be a great favorite with a Texas Theocracy, with a president who
speaks in the first person more than anybody we have had in decades -- "I'm
sick and tired of waiting" -- and who calls on God to bless the country as
if no other people made in the image and likeness of God are alive on earth.

Only the sour people could permit innocent people to be scared as close to
death as you could do it. "Get duct tape!" her government told Kristin, a
friend of mine who lives in Washington. So she went out and got duct tape,
which usually is mentioned in stories about bank robbers using it to bound
and gag clerks.

Kristin taped the windows and door of her children's room. She then said
she was ready for a gas attack. She failed to realize that the attack would
leave her kids as orphans.

The crowd yesterday was herded into a mile of pens, like the Omaha
stockyards. This was for security. The reason for security was security.

On our streets of beauty yesterday, gladness was in the place of arrogance
and meanness. The sole conflict I found, when I arrived at 66th Street and
First Avenue, the closest I could get to the stage at 51th Street, a young
woman named Leslie Meenan was holding the hand of a girl who said her name
was, as I spelled it, Camilla. She was 8.

"You're spelling it wrong," she said. "Only one 'l.'"

"You don't know how to spell your own name," I said.

"Yes, I do. You don't."

"She's right," a woman said. Her name was Cara McCarthy and she was from
Bushwick, in Brooklyn. She teaches at PS 145.

Just ahead was Bob Stratton, who held his daughter, Fia, age 3. He said he
was from Park Slope and he was in computer development.

And now as you walked along the edge of one of these pens, here was a line
of Catholic protests and then a group of schoolteachers and then everything
seemed to be Jane Burcaw, in a good, warm and fashionable hat holding a
sign that said, "No War."

"I made it last night," she said.

"Where do you live?"

"Bethlehem. I work at the Moravian Theological Seminary. I got here at
10:30. I would've been much earlier if I had to."

The number of police and vehicles was unconscionable in this area, blocks
away from the stage. The people were beautiful and the overload of police
was irritating and deprived people of their rights.

Somewhere far downtown from where I was standing, they had police horses on
Second Avenue and people there to protest were behind the endless metal
pens and somewhere the cattle turned human and people were arrested.

The mayor of this city and the police commissioner had been spreading fear
in this city for many days. Their claims were infuriating. "We know there
is something coming but we can't tell you." If they knew it was coming and
the people who were doing it knew it was coming, then what are you keeping
a secret for?

Bet me that they had the same kind of rumor that Colin Powell tried to sell
at the UN, and on Friday he got carried out on a shutter.

But this was only passing. What went on yesterday was an enormous crowd
that turned cold sidewalks into beautiful gardens.

They were the nicest people I've ever been with.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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