A group of Ithaca College students drove through the night this past weekend to join tens of thousands of marchers on the streets of Washington, D.C., for a massive anti-war protest.
The Saturday rally, organized by the coalition United for Peace and Justice, aimed to place pressure on Congress to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
Along with the 46 students from the college, more than 50 students from Cornell University and a group of Ithaca community members traveled to the rally. Students for a Just Peace, Buzzsaw Haircut, ICES and IC Fair Trade co-sponsored the group from the college.
Senior Erin Morrell, president of Students for a Just Peace, said she believes recent elections and shifts in the power of Congress have motivated people to become more vocal with their grievances.
“People just aren’t happy,” she said. “It’s very clear that there is a much larger amount of people who are actively saying that this isn’t going well, and that there should be a change.”
The protest began with a rally on the National Mall at 11 a.m., during which attendees heard from prominent speakers, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Jane Fonda, who was attending her first anti-war protest in more than
30 years. The rally was followed by a 1 p.m. march.
A spokesperson for United for Peace and Justice was unavailable for comment, but a Jan. 29 article in The New York Times said the group was expecting nearly 100,000 in attendance and maintained they reached that goal. The article said police would not confirm that estimate and said privately that the crowd did not reach 100,000.
Freshman Lawrence Collerd, who attended the rally, said this was an opportunity to stand for values he has held since before Sept. 11.
“This is the type of thing that my kids will ask me about, the same way I ask my parents, ‘What did you do during Vietnam?’,” Collerd said. “My parents said, ‘We marched with the Black Panthers. We were a part of this.’ I want to tell my kids, ‘I marched in Washington.’ It’s kind of a pride thing, but more so, living so I’m not a mockery of my values.”
Junior Emily McNeill, an editor of Buzzsaw Haircut, said the mood was more solemn than she had expected.
“I talked to people afterwards who had been around in the ’60s who were saying that it was a little somber, in a way,” McNeill said. “People feel that the Bush administration is less likely to listen to dissent than administrations in the past.”
Students from the college were funded in part by nearly $3,000 in donations from the college’s faculty and staff, as well as a grant from Campus Progress and a large private donation, Morrell said.
Students involved in planning the trip said the support from the community and school has been overwhelming.
“We had a waiting list of 28 people,” Morrell said. “We could have brought a whole other group of people with us.”
McNeill said this protest had a more obvious goal than other protests she has attended in the past.
“The general message was primarily trying to get Congress to act,” she said. “It was a more focused protest than others I’ve been to. There was a clear objective of what people wanted.”
Collerd said he found the rally to have a true sense of solidarity.
“It felt democratic, to be perfectly honest,” he said. “It felt like I was participating in something really important.”