Posted 2:40p.m. Feb. 27
by Alex Kingsbury & Andrew Snow
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Manhattan, Saturday taking part in a worldwide demonstration against war with Iraq.
Police reported more than 250 arrests in a relatively peaceful day that saw around 100,000 people filling the streets of New York City near the United Nations.
Around the world protesters took to the streets of major cities, London, Paris, Madrid, Los Angles, and Cairo in some of the largest demonstrations the cities had ever seen. Rome boasted the largest turnout, reporting 1 million demonstrators, while police called London’s turnout of 750,00 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 crowds were well contained mostly congregating on First and Second Avenue.
The Associated Press reported more than 5,000 police officers were on special duty, augmenting a force already responding to the Orange- high terror alert.
Side streets between First and Second Avenue, closed by police lines, were occasionally breached as protesters surged through to join the main demonstrations on First.
Some demonstrators were angry that police had prevented them from joining the main protests.
“It is not fair that they have kept things so tight here,” said Craig Windham, a student at New York University. “They have really been strict about where they let people go. I have never seen security like this before.”
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 marching through the streets chanting, “Whose streets? — Our streets.”
Michelle Gagnon, an ex-patriot American living in Switzerland, returned home to New York City to attend the protest.
“In Europe people are very opposed to the war,” Gagnon said. “I felt it was important to make my voice heard to the people who are running this war.”
The International ANSWER coalition, who organized this and some 600 demonstrations against the war in cities around the world, organized numerous busses to transport demonstrators. More than 35 busses transporting demonstrators parked at Shea Stadium in Queens.
The protesters were a wide cross section of society, Republicans and Democrats, young and old, men and women. “The whole world is watching and they are on our side,” the crowd chanted.
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 U-WIRE that the 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,” and protesters yelled at police officers who attempted to keep intersections cleared 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 5th Avenue and West 39th Street where they staged a sit-down strike blocking traffic outside the public library. Police arrested around 25 demonstrators from a crowd of 500 who refused to disperse.
The International ANSWER coalition has called for a protest at the White Hose on Saturday, March 1.