by Seth Sandronsky
February 21, 2003
My family and I joined the estimated 10,000 people who rallied at the state Capitol in Sacramento, California, on Feb. 15 against a possible U.S. attack on Iraq. It was one of hundreds of anti-war rallies nationally and globally, history being made as millions of people publicly protested the war drive of the Bush White House.
In the Feb. 17 New York Times, Patrick E. Tyler noted, "there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion."
Scores of regular people expressing their opinions on a possible war of devastation against Iraq matter. America's newspaper of record isn’t in the habit of overstatement.
Locally, what TV viewers didn’t see was the grassroots outreach of peace and justice groups from up and down the Sacramento Valley (Chico to Modesto) who organized the Feb. 15 rally. Without this behind-the-scenes work, there would have been no venue for speakers such as Richard Becker of the International ANSWER coalition. He urged Sacramento demonstrators to continue engaging in global solidarity with up to 10 million other people worldwide against a U.S.-led strike against Iraq.
“Today the world is truly saying ‘no’ to war,” he said. However, now was not the time for the emerging world peace movement to rest on its laurels, according to Becker, who called for continued, nonviolent mobilization.
Local activists with the Middle East Peace Project, Arabs and Jews united for peace and justice, have been doing just that. Later on the steps of the Capitol, David Mandel of MEPP said that a peace rally of Arabs and Jews in Tel Aviv that day demonstrated the yearning there for an end to cycles of violence.
Many people at the Feb. 15 rally waved signs concerning the oil factor and a possible U.S. strike on Iraq. The nation of 23 million people—over half of whom are kids—has the world’s second-largest estimated crude oil reserves.
Is it a conspiracy theory to suggest that to gain greater control of this oil, the U.S. government plans to invade and occupy Iraq, in the name of improved security for the American people?
As a nation, we consume every fourth barrel of oil produced around the world. The Persian Gulf region supplies the planet with every fifth barrel of oil. The U.S. is five percent of the planet’s population.
On Feb. 15, musicians, poets and speakers detailed why, politically and religiously, people must not let the U.S. launch military actions against Iraq. Straight Out Scribes, the local mother/daughter poetic duo of Staajabu and V.S. Chochezi, dazzled the crowd with vivid peace images and insights.
The American people's humanity depends upon halting the Pentagon's plan to drop the equivalent of the atomic bomb detonated in 1945 over Hiroshima on Baghdad in 2003, added Maggie Coulter of Sacramento-Yolo Peace Action <http://www.sacpeace.org/>.
Hundreds of youth were present during the Capitol Park rally, from toddlers to teens. My daughter, an animal lover, noticed the many docile dogs present, unusual given their pack-behavior and penchant for aggression.
Near the speakers' podium, many young adults enthusiastically danced in a rhythmic "drum circle."
“I don’t want the U.S. to go to war,” said Pam, a Sacramento schoolteacher, before walking towards the circle to get a closer look. Internet activism hadn’t drawn her to the rally in the capital city. Pam’s co-worker, Rochelle, had told her about it, the old-fashioned way, person-to-person.
Later, a young woman with ANSWER spoke forcefully to the demonstrators about the proposed doubling of her college tuition in the context of America’s tax dollars to wage war against the Iraqi people. As California’s fiscal crisis worsens, community college funding is being slashed, hiking students’ enrollment fees. And in President Bush’s proposed 2004 budget, war funding is $380 billion, up 6.2% from 2003, while education gets $61 billion, a 1.4% increase.
Some in the anti-war rally were captured on film by Sacramento's finest. In single file, they entered Capitol Park from across the street, where a counter demonstration of Bush-Cheney supporters was being held. But inside the park, some anti-war Republicans supported the rally.
I can understand the stance of the latter. I have been a recovering Democrat since the mid-1970s due in part to the party’s foreign policy being indistinguishable from the GOP’s. Currently, the leadership of both parties support the U.S. and U.K. buildup of nearly 250,000 troops poised to attack Iraq and undertake “regime change” to establish democracy where none exists.
Back in Sacramento, another view of how to strengthen democracy was blossoming. One person I spoke with at the Feb. 15 rally said that the day was his second time showing public opposition to the U.S. government’s war plans. The first anti-war rally that he had attended was a month earlier in S.F.
“I wanted to come out with like-minded people on the same page,” said Larry Rodriguez, 34, of Sacramento at a peaceful convergence on the state Capitol, led by the local chapter of the Green Party. He had given us a protest sign to carry. We did so for a few blocks, then gave it to a young man a couple of strides in front of us, who took it with a nod and grin.
The Sacramento rally closed with a peace circle around Capitol Park. It was the city’s largest anti-war protest in many, many years. My wife and I were pleased that our 13-year-old daughter experienced it, receiving an object lesson in U.S. democracy.
As circles of peace expand in Sacramento and globally, the Bush administration promises to push ahead with an attack on Iraq. The president has said that he won’t be moved by the Feb. 15 anti-war protests, perhaps the largest in world history before a possible attack begins. Much hangs in the balance.
Seth Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento/Yolo Peace Action, and an editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive newspaper. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org