NEW YORK — As over 140 Yale students exited trains in New York City’s Grand Central Station Saturday to protest U.S. moves toward war with Iraq, they organized around a sign that seemed to capture their mood.
“Bush’s war is gonna fail, kinda like he did at Yale!” the sign read.
The Yale students joined hundreds of thousands of other protesters who gathered in the nation’s largest city to voice their opposition to war. The New York Times estimated that between 100,000 and 400,000 people attended the protest, which was one of dozens that took place this weekend across the nation and the world.
Many of the Yale students who participated in the rally marched from Phelps Gate to Union Station Saturday morning before leaving for New York aboard one of two “peace trains.” Promoting Enduring Peace, a Connecticut-based group, chartered the trains specifically for the approximately 1,400 Connecticut protesters going to New York. Because tickets for the two trains quickly sold out, many Yale students had to find other means of transportation to get to the protest.
Amelia Frank-Vitale ’05, a member of the Yale Coalition for Peace, said she was overwhelmed by the number of people participating in the protest.
“The protest was a wonderful display of solidarity with the rest of the world,” Frank-Vitale said. “It was exhilarating to see such broad-based opposition to the war.”
As thousands of protesters trudged up Third Avenue in an attempt to reach the main rally area, which was on First Avenue, three protesters donning massive puppet heads of President George W. Bush ’68, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld entertained the boisterous crowd by taking turns pretending to have sexual intercourse with each other. After they were finished, they toasted the crowd by pretending to drink motor oil.
Another excited protester repeatedly shouted, “Arms are for hugs!” and warmly embraced those around him.
Protesters asserted a wide range of reasons for their opposition to the war. Many called for the expansion or the continuation of United Nations weapons inspections. Others chanted “No blood for oil” in the belief that the Bush administration is pursuing war in Iraq to secure the country’s oil reserves. Some asserted their opposition to war in general.
“This war is entirely unjustified,” said Amelia Shaw EPH ’03. “It does not seem to me that Saddam Hussein poses a threat either to his neighbors or the United States, nor does it seem likely to me that waging a war for democracy or trying to install democracy by means of force [in Iraq] is likely to succeed.”
Frank-Vitale said she was struck by the diversity of people who attended the protest.
“It was wonderful to see people of such diverse backgrounds,” Frank-Vitale said. “There were people of every generation, from the very old to the very young. Even my parents were there.”
But some students who went to the protest complained about the way the city of New York handled the event. As a result of a recent court order, protesters were not actually allowed to march in New York. The resulting maze of police barricades, manned by police officers on foot and on horseback, made it impossible for many protesters to actually reach the main rally. Despite the frustrations, the protest was relatively peaceful.
“I can’t fault the police themselves for what happened. They were just doing their jobs,” Frank-Vitale said. “But the city issued a rally permit in a very inconvenient part of the city and handled the protest poorly.”
Those who did make it to the main rally area listened to a host of speakers, including writer Maya Angelou and actor Danny Glover.
Despite the crowds, barricades and frigid weather, Francisco Javier Sangrador GRD ’07 said the protest was worth the effort.
“I’ve never seen so many people in my life,” Sangrador said. “The protest was great.”
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