WEB EXCLUSIVE: Peace protesters march in festival fashion

Posted 11 p.m. Sept. 30 A fleet of police cruisers led waves of protesters through Adams Morgan Sunday on the second day of the weekend’s demonstrations against U.S. military retaliation for Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey led the procession of hundreds of protesters mixed with D.C. residents and visitors. The march began and ended at Meridian Hill Park at 16th and Euclid streets, past popular hangouts such as dance club Felix, Pizza Mart and Madam’s Organ.

Local residents and shop owners lined the streets to watch the parade of protesters, who flashed peace signs to observers, handed out bread and chanted “Food! Medicine! For the people of Afghanistan!”

Blocks away, D.C. residents lunched on patios in a quiet pierced only by the buzz of helicopters overhead monitoring the marches.

Nine GW Action Coalition members joined the march, organized mostly by the Washington Peace Center.

Senior Dan Calamuchi, a GWAC member, said protesters marched through D.C. neighborhoods Sunday rather than by empty government buildings to be more visible.

Another GWAC member, junior Jessica Farley, said the purpose of the march was to encourage the country not to rush to war and violence, as she said the U.S. government has in the past.

“We are calling for peace and the end of racism,” junior GWAC member Eleiza Braun said.

Braun said many D.C. universities in the Student Peace Action Network demonstrated to stop the government from retaliating to terrorist attacks with military action.

Protesters gathered at the park at about 11 a.m. with signs reading “Stop the Cycle of Violence,” “Eight Million Afghan Refugees Need Food Now, Not War and Terror,” “Support the International Criminal Court” and “No More Eye for an Eye.”

Washington Peace Center Coordinator Mariana Ramos began the rally and said these groups came together as a local community to “say no to war.”

The Washington Peace Center, founded in 1963, is a D.C.-based activist group advocating non-violent social change, Ramos said.

“Vision, hope and community is stronger than war,” she said. “We are here to mourn the losses at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center and to support our friends in the Middle East targeted by bigotry and racism.”

Demonstrators then marched from Meridian Hill Park to Sheridan Circle, Dupont Circle, up 18th Street through Adams Morgan and back to the park.

Large, colorful signs and puppets dotted the crowd, some of whom danced to the beats of drums and the tunes of an accordion as they marched.

Farley said GWAC helped rally other schools to join the march and get as many people to represent the student voice against war.

University of Maryland students, who said they were unaffiliated with the GWAC group, marched with the UMD Peace Forum, a group formed out of the Maryland Action Collective to demonstrate for peace.

Group president and Maryland freshman Justin Fertig said about 20 Peace Forum members marched Sunday.

“I really don’t think that war will solve anything,” Fertig said. “We were inflamed that someone would hurt our innocent people and that’s exactly what we’re going to do in response.”

About 150 students from Oberlin College in Ohio traveled to D.C. for the weekend’s demonstrations with several different campus activist groups, said Oberlin junior Christa Henderson, a member of the Oberlin Peace and Activism League.

“Direct action is the only way to be political,” Henderson said, mentioning Sunday featured a lot more animated posters and puppets that Saturday. “I thought today was a lot more visually positive (than Saturday’s protests).”

At about 4 p.m. MPD officers and police cars corralled the march back into Meridian Hill Park, where the Washington Peace Center hosted speakers. The park began to resemble a festival as music played, demonstrators set up tables with food or activist literature, vendors sold posters and T-shirts and some smoked marijuana or bounced hackey-sacks in circles.

Demonstrators said police presence did not hinder their ability to protest Sunday.

“It always feels a little bit oppressive if (police are) there, but I haven’t felt physically threatened,” junior GWAC member Monica Bunton said. “All you do is kind of ignore it and dance.”

Students from other universities agreed.

“They were pretty good about letting us do what we wanted to do,” Oberlin junior Jen Smith said.

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