WASHINGTON — On an unexpectedly clear-skied and warm Saturday afternoon, tens of thousands of protestors gathered at the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to demand an immediate end to America’s involvement in Iraq.
Waving colorful homemade banners and shouting catchy anti-war slogans, participants came from as close as Georgetown University and as far as California. But while Vietnam-era activists from New Haven and a bus full of Wesleyan University students made the 6-hour trek from Connecticut to Washington, few Yale students were in attendance at the rally.
Four buses, organized by the Greater New Haven Peace Council, departed from New Haven around midnight early Saturday morning. While most of those leaving from the Elm City were middle-aged and passed the time swapping Vietnam War protest stories, Wesleyan sent 30 students who said they had to apply for their spots on the bus because of a surplus of student interest in attending the rally.
Joseph Yannielli GRD ’12 said he went with a couple other students from the graduate school and knew of a few undergraduate students in attendance, but was saddened by the overall lack of Yale participation.
“I think [low Yale attendance] is part of a larger apathy, a feeling that no matter what we do the people in power will pursue their own interests,” he said. “I think that’s false. History shows that pressure from below will change policy at high levels.”
Two Yale undergraduates sat together on the ride to Washington, D.C., in quiet contrast to the noisy chattering of Wesleyan students in the back of the bus. Claire Gordon ’10, one of the students, said most Yale students do not meet any opposition to their anti-war views on campus, so many feel no need to protest.
Jim Pandaru, a member of Greater New Haven Peace Council, said he thought the lack of Yale participation was due to a feeling of isolation from the war.
“The attitude is that [students] have too many other things to worry about,” he said. “The war in Iraq seems to be on the back burner for them because it doesn’t concern them in the immediate sense. But if there was a draft, the possibility of going to war would get their attention.”
Some Yale student activists said they opted to focus on local New Haven issues rather than attend the protest.
Camille Seaberry ’08, who is active in Yale Peace, an undergraduate anti-war group, said her organization decided not to organize a Yale bus, but directed students interested in attending the rally to the Greater New Haven Peace Council’s buses.
“We hadn’t originally intended to send people to the march,” she said. “There are other local things we could be working on.”
Seaberry also said glitches with the Greater New Haven Peace Council’s Web site prevented many students from reserving seats on the buses, though Yannielli said he had no problem reserving a place.
Speakers at the rally included the actress Jane Fonda, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the Reverend Jesse Jackson.