“Single female, 25, looking for peace.”
Feb. 15, the day after a bust of a Valentine’s Day, I headed to New York with maybe a 100,000, maybe 400,000 other people, to join the world in protesting for peace.
New Haven’s Union Station was packed with people — people of all ages, some gray-haired, some in strollers. And a lot of 20-somethings. Cute ones. Single ones?
The parking lot was full. The streets were lined with cars.
“Have you ever seen anything like this?” one guy asked a MetroNorth official.
“World Series,” he said.
But it was peace, not baseball, that was uniting us in New York City. Two “peace trains” left the station, packed with protesters, along with regularly scheduled trains carrying signs. “Wage peace.” I was game.
In Grand Central, the crowd thickened, along with the signage per acre.
“More trees less Bush.”
“Think outside the (box crossed out) Pentagon.”
We made our way to the front steps of the New York Public Library, where hundreds met before the rally to party in protest, drumming and dancing, passing more slogans along the way.
“Support our troops. Bring them home now.”
There were signs for every persuasion. Hoping for an externship with Proctor & Gamble? “Fight plaque not Iraq,” read one sign, with Crest and a toothbrush taped to cardboard.
Jibing with Jesus? “Who would Jesus bomb?” for the WWJD crew.
The signs were multilingual, along with the protesters. “El Mundo Dice No A La Guerra.” The same sign written in Arabic, Hebrew and English.
“No Iraq War.”
“No blood for oil.”
On a ledge above the crowd, a girl with long brown hair was hula-hooping for peace.
I milled around, and checked out the crowd for peace.
The Glamericans caught my eye, with their flashy posters and sound advice. “War is tacky, darling,” one colorful poster admonished.
“Peace is the new black.”
My attention was caught by a tall guy with curly black hair and the start of a beard, with a poster personal.
“Jewish single seeking peace. Looking to reform the conservative agenda in an unorthodox way.”
He was not alone. Poster personals popped up: “Thirty some-odd singles for peace.”
“Resistance is fertile,” proclaimed a neighboring poster.
“Arms are for hugging,” another reminded us.
Yet another got right to the point. “Activists make better lovers.”
The scene was hopping.
A dark-haired guy on his cell phone tapped my shoulder. “Excuse me, do you know where Desmond Tutu is speaking?”
First and 49th, darling. If ever we get there.
We began a slow journey up Third Avenue in a futile attempt to reach the main rally on First Avenue, punctuating our shuffle with chants and songs.
“Peace! Now! Peace! Now!” It was a marching rhythm, but we were barely moving. It was as crowded as Times Square at New Year’s.
“1-2-3-4, we don’t want your oil war. 5-6-7-8, no more sanctions, no more hate.”
People carried transistor radios to broadcast the speeches that we couldn’t hear. We listened to protest reports. First Avenue was jam packed with people from 42nd Street to 69th Street. We heard we could cross at 53rd. Then 69th. Then 77th. The police barricaded off the side streets, to prevent people from flooding First Avenue. There was no place for everyone to go. Bumping into and grinding the toes of strangers on the sidewalks began to lose its charm.
“Stay off the street,” police ordered. But there was no room on the sidewalks. We were moving slowly, and it was cold. We tried hopping for peace, along with a bunch of cute Canadians, but by 58th and Third, we were freezing for peace. And there was the question of bodily relief — no Port-A-Potties, due to the security risk. We tried to break the barricades to storm Au Bon Pain for some hot cocoa and toilets. The police were firm — no crossing toward Second Avenue. Instead, we ducked into Bloomingdale’s, and joined a hundred-deep line for the bathroom, practicing consciousness raising on an anorexic blond New Yorker who had crossed police barricades to shop. She inspired us — we headed downtown for dinner and shopping — all in the name of peace.
Today, I heard that police estimated the protesters at about 100,000. I wonder — was I included in that estimate? I might not have been. I didn’t take the peace train. I didn’t make it to the main rally. I didn’t carry signs or flyer for peace. How many other people were there hoping for peace on the streets of New York, or in the libraries of New Haven, hearts and voices that won’t be counted in the official numbers, but who lust for peace nonetheless?
Korah Jones ’99 is a student at the School of Medicine.