Raising awareness in D.C.

Freezing cold January temperatures were no match for the heated tempers of the massive amounts of demonstrators that took to the streets of Washington D.C. on Jan. 18.

A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now To Stop War and End Racism) organized what turned out to be the biggest protest since the Vietnam War, news sources reported.

Media sources, such as The Washington Post, reported that anywhere between 80,000 and 500,000 people attended the march.

Christopher Davis, a senior majoring in international studies, said he went to the peace demonstration to show solidarity for the peace movement.

“I wanted to be a part of the peace process,” Davis said. “I wanted to be a part of the democratic process of opposing government’s ideas.”

Davis, who went to Washington on a bus along with six other USF students, said the truth inspired him to go. He said that bombing innocent people is not the right thing to do.

“We support our troops. We know it is not their fault. We have to hold the leaders accountable,” Davis said.

As for the results, some of the protesters hope the amount of people will send a message to the administration.

“Someone said there hasn’t been a strike on Iraq directly because of the peace movement, because of the protest in October, because of this global protest,” Davis said.

“This isn’t something that it is just happening here in D.C. This is happening all over the world,” Davis said.

Davis said he challenges the American public to get informed through different media sources and then make a decision about war.

“They could turn off their televisions and go to independent news sources like Guardian.co.uk, or The Independent,” Davis said. “It is a shame that we have to go to other countries’ newspapers to find out what is really going on in our country.”

Ron Kovic, a Vietnam veteran whose life story inspired the movie Born on the Fourth of July, spoke during the demonstration.

“He was in his wheelchair supporting a peaceful resolution,” Davis said.

Davis also mentioned the countries that at this point are not supporting President Bush’s resolution to attack Iraq.

“Countries like Germany, China and Russia, who are major powers, are not going to allow this sort of attack to go on,” Davis said. “Also, hundreds of thousands of people coming out to support the peace cause in all of the major cities in the United States sends a clear message.”

Davis referred to President Bush’s intentions to attack Iraq as very personal ones.

“A president whose living has been based on oil has everything to do with a preemptive strike in a country that has the second largest oil reserve in the world,” Davis said. However, Bush has maintained that Iraq is a military threat and that oil has nothing to do with the possible war.

Davis said one thing that bothers him is the criticism he gets from other Americans supporting the administration’s stance.

“There are people that say that the peace demonstrators are unpatriotic and un-American. The only people that are willing to stand up and question the government on what they are doing are labeled un-American,” Davis said.

People saw the opportunity to go to a protest of this intensity as a privilege, but sophomore Kandace Vallejo said the expense was difficult to bear.

“My friend initially brought it up, but I didn’t know if I had the financial resources to do so, but the protest in Washington was the most positive thing I have ever been a part of,” Vallejo said.

Vallejo said she was inspired by the size of the crowd during the march.

“I saw a lot of families with their children, which I thought was really great. It is important for children to learn things besides what mainstream mass media teach them,” Vallejo said.

Matt Hengesbauth, a recent graduate of the University of California, said he went because he felt it was his obligation to make a statement.

“I can’t sit while world politics pass my way, while I don’t have a place in the dialogue,” Hengesbauth said.

Although many speakers were present at the march, the crowd could only see a few. But Hengesbauth mentioned the effect of a couple of them.

“Jesse Jackson is always a very powerful and poignant speaker. Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general, was another speaker that caught my attention,” Hengesbauth said.

Hengesbauth also said that in order for the United States to peacefully solve the world’s problems, the American people need to take a more active stand in changing the world and making it a better place.

Senior Aneesh Karve said he went to Washington because he felt he had to listen to his conscience.

“My conscience was directing me to stand up for the women and children of Iraq that do not have a voice,” Karve said.

“I’m sure that if it would not have been that cold in D.C., the protest would have been much bigger,” Karve said.

A strong believer in the Constitution and in democracy, Karve said he felt he took an active role in shaping the society when he attended the manifestation more than a week ago. “The idea of democracy is that everybody has a voice,” Karve said. “After coming back from Washington D.C., I felt like a citizen of a democracy for the first time in my life.”

When describing the diversity of the crowd, Karve referred to his friend’s remark.

“I see Americans: black, white, old, young, Arab, Christian and Muslim,” Karve said.

Karve said that the diversity in the multitude was important to the protest.

“It said that the opposition to the war, the drive for peace, is coming from all generations, all walks of life and all races,” Karve said.

Last October, another peace demonstration was held in Washington, which more than 100,000 people attended. However, many people questioned the turnout of the preceding rally.

“Listening to Democracy Now and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, who are a media watchdog group, talk about how National Public Radio and The New York Times underreported the number of people who were there in the last demonstration gave me the courage to go the second time around,” Karve said.

“The whole time I was walking the protest, I could not see the end of the crowd. The Mall, in front of the Capitol building, was packed shoulder to shoulder. Between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building, there were people wall to wall,” Karve said.