Paula In Washington, The BIG March


Yesterday, 9-15-07, was a big march to end the war, organized by ANSWER, culminating in the “die in.” It was a beautiful day: not humid, 70s, sunny, blue sky. I keep being struck by the beauty of the huge, historic buildings here.

Code Pink had organized a Convocation of Women for 10:30a.m. at Freedom Park, near the Whitehouse. All those planning on marching with Code Pink were to gather there and all other women’s groups and allies were welcome.


They had a huge podium with a wonderful PA system. I had gone to a Starbucks to get tea and use the bathroom and when I came out could hear Betsy’s voice singing clear as anything from a block away. There was singing and speeches and general revving up of the troops. People came in all manner of bright pink-T shirts, tights, feather boas, glitter. And they had huge pink banners. So the group is very visually obvious in the main march; and I think having a name and color as a logo turns out to have been brilliant-because everyone sees and recognizes the group. I bought and wore a hot pink T shirt saying “Gandhi is my Homeboy-Code Pink Women for Peace.”

The Code Pinkers then marched up to Lafayette Park where the whole march was assembling. Thousands upon thousands were assembled. There was a big podium and PA (working badly for the #s) and endless speeches that I couldn’t hear even though I was close up. Code Pink got about 3 minutes at the podium, so they massed a bunch of people in pink with pink banners and said a few words. The speeches were endless (each organization got a few minutes) and I couldn’t hear them. No music. Betsy quipped to me: The left still doesn’t get it that the right ratio of music to talking is about 60/40.

Then we all assembled to march but it took about 40 minutes before we were moving, so Betsy led a lot of singing for our Code Pink delegation (maybe about 200) and other people close by while we were just standing there, which was good because otherwise people get restless and out of sorts. Another Code Pinker held a microphone in front of her mouth (she was wearing her guitar) and it worked if enough people joined in, so simple songs that lots of people know were good.


Finally we started marching toward the Capitol building. How many people marched? Darned if I know. The parade permit was taken out for 10,000, the NYT says “a few thousand” (trust me: that is under but I can’t just crowds), the organizing (ANSWER) group’s website says 100,000 (I doubt that). I was hearing people guess in ranges from 20K-60K. I have no idea, although there were blocks and blocks and blocks of people filling the street. When we got to the capitol, pretty much the whole grassy area wasm filled.

During the march itself, we did some singing. I was carrying water and softpack guitar case for Betsy. It was hard for her to sing and play guitar while walking, and for another person to handhold the mike in front of her, while carring the bullhorn that amplified on her shoulder.

There were groups in support of our mission in Iraq assembled on the side of the street, but only in one small say 2 block section (and later they assembled in one location at the Capitol). They had lots of American flags.Some had nasty signs. Others had straight-forward ones like “I Support the troops, the president, our mission.” I think the NYT estimate that there were 1,000 of them might be about accurate. Among Code Pinkers and people in our section, people chose some good chants as we were going by them that I thought were non-provocative: Support the Troops-Bring them Home. But my personal favorite chant was:

Tell me what democracy looks like-
THIS is what democracy looks like.

Seemed rather appropriate as two sides of an issue were both standing with signs.
What kind of people in the crowd? All kinds.


A high proportion from out of town (some staying in my hotel, because it is close and pretty reasonable.) Mostly white but there were lots of blacks it appeared in the organizing group, and I’d say the crowd was maybe 10% black. Baby boomers do predominate, I’d say. (In contrast, an antiViet Nam war march would have been 80% 18-25ers.) But there were 18-25ers there. A group from University of Maryland chanting “Hell no, we won’t go!” This was, of course, a chant used in the Viet Nam war among college students who, unlike today’s students, were at risk of being drafted after their deferments ran out at the end of college, and the kids who didn’t go to college were drafted out of high school. That undoubtedly has lots to do with the relative silence of college students. But I also think it is what social scientists call a cohort effect; the 60s generation is different and we remain skeptical of authority etc.; the generation after us is less idealistic. Sad. But those who were there got lots of support from the boomers. One prominent group, mostly young, was Iraq Veterans Against the War, mostly young. I saw Ann Wright, the retired Army Colonel who resigned from the State Department in protest over the war and civil liberties abuses; she is now a full-time activist, and works with Code Pink, but didn’t march with us. She had her U.S. Army Retired cap on. Perhaps she wanted to march with the vets.
At the end of the march, on the grass in front of the Capitol building, the plan was for those who had decided they were willing to get arrested to “die in” by going up to some location right by the steps to the capitol where the police had drawn the line of where people could come, going over that line, lying down, and then getting up and peaceably going off to be arrested. Significantly, many of those deciding to get arrested were young, and many of those from Iraq Vets against the War. At the Capitol, there was no podium, no central anouncements, but some “marshals of the march,” I might term them, would come through the crowd. They suggested that, to show support for the people getting arrested, those supportive but not up for risking arrest should lie down on the grass. A compelling suggestion anyhow since we had just walked for over 2 hours.


Later people got up again to try to see, but only a small fraction could get close enough to see the arrests. I hear that at one point the police used a little tear gas when some folks got a little rowdy. We did some singing there. And soon we left, exhausted but in good spirits. We had arrived at the Convocation by 10:30 and it was almost 5:00.

Last night Code Pink had a party to celebrate in a community center. Donation asked at the door, selling T shirts, selling simple food and drinks, rock music, dancing, talking. They invited anyone at the rally; probably 200 came. I enjoyed dancing-no partner required. Later, some of us went outside on the sidewalk and pulled out chairs and did some singing with Betsy and a wonderful young man drummer. We came home about 11:30 tired but happy. Betsy stayed at the hotel with me last night (some nights she has stayed in the Code Pink house which is pretty noisy and crowded). One treat of having Betsy stay at the hotel the last two nights is that we have meditated together in the morning. A Unitarian Church here, All Soul’s, was having a peace service this morning, it was announced at the party, and Betsy decided to go, but I stayed behind.

I’m writing this Sunday, 9-16, but have no protest activities planned for the day. I come home Monday. Betsy may get up a group of people to sing in the Rayburn building atrium (house Rep’s offices are there) Monday, and I’ll do it if the timing works. Another beautiful day out. I must take a walk.



One Response to “Paula In Washington, The BIG March”

  1. nancy Says:


    Many thanks for this detailed account and for the photographs. I love seeing you singing with Betsy and Medea and marching.

    I am also glad to have a reliable first hand account for people to read since th media fail to report on dissent in this country. We who dissent and who stand up and speak up are numerous. It is good to be able to post this so that some will know.

    Be safe,

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