NEW YORK – Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Manhattan Saturday in a worldwide demonstration against war with Iraq.
Police reported more than 250 arrests in a relatively peaceful day that saw about 100,000 people filling the streets of New York City near the United Nations headquarters.
Around the world, protesters crowded the streets of major cities, including London, Paris, Madrid, Los Angles and Cairo, in some of the largest demonstrations the cities had ever seen. Rome boasted the largest turnout, reporting one million demonstrators, while police called London’s turnout of 750,000 the largest protest in the city’s history.
In New York, a court order prevented demonstrators from marching past the United Nations, forcing protesters to gather on First Avenue, which had been closed. Police presence was high at the event and the well-contained crowds mostly congregated on First and Second avenues.
The Associated Press reported more than 5,000 police officers were on special duty, augmenting a force already responding to the Code Orange high-terror alert.
Side streets between First and Second avenues, closed by police lines, were occasionally breached as protesters surged through to join the main demonstrations on First Avenue.
Students traveled from around the country and the world to attend the event, which called on the Bush administration to avoid war with Iraq. They carried signs and puppets while marching through the streets chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets.”
Some GW students traveled to New York for the protests, including members of the Students Against the War in Iraq campus group.
Sophomore Alex Freedman, who took a bus from D.C. to the protest with 13 other students, said she believes the anti-war movement is gaining momentum.
“There are a lot of people protesting this cause who have never been to a protest before,” she said. “This is not a movement being led by Communists and anarchists … these are soccer moms for peace, this is your grandmother, your niece.”
The International ANSWER coalition, which organized this and some 600 demonstrations against the war in cities around the world, arranged numerous buses to transport demonstrators. More than 35 buses transporting demonstrators parked at Shea Stadium in Queens.
“The whole world is watching and they are on our side,” the crowd chanted. Protesters represented a wide cross section of society, Republicans and Democrats, young and old, men and women.
Davis Lapierre, 62, served in Vietnam and returned to join the anti-Vietnam war movement when his tour was over. Standing on First Avenue, he told The Hatchet that times have changed, though the issues remain the same.
“We thought after Vietnam that we would have learned something,” he said. “Now we are out here fighting for the same things, an end to an aggressive war and a nation that ignores international law.”
The crowd heard from speakers on stage on First Avenue as part of the permitted demonstration. Later, demonstrators moved to Times Square, gathering on the street corners under the running headline ticket of the news headlines. When the Associated Press headline about Saturday’s demonstrations flashed across the screen, the crowds yelled and screamed.
“Join us,” protesters yelled at police officers who attempted to keep intersections clear of demonstrators.
Officers cleared demonstrators from Times Square, pushing them down the sidewalks and away from the intersections.
A regrouped throng of demonstrators met on Fifth Avenue and West 39th Street, where they staged a sit-down strike blocking traffic outside the public library. Police arrested about 25 demonstrators from a crowd of 500 who refused to disperse.
The International ANSWER coalition has called for a demonstration at the White House on Saturday, March 1.
-Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.