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10,000 rally against Mideast war

By Prabhat Mehta

An estimated 10,000 people turned out for an anti-war demonstration which converged on Boston Common Saturday afternoon. The rally, sponsored by the Cambridge-based Emergency Coalition for Peace, Justice, and Non-Intervention in the Middle East, attracted a large number of MIT students, who began the day marching from 77 Massachusetts Avenue to Copley Square, where the rally began.

Approximately 80 members of the MIT community responded to a call from the MIT Initiative for Peace in the Middle East to assemble outside Lobby 7 at 12:30 pm. According to Penn Loh '90, a member of Initiative's steering committee, the MIT group included students, faculty and staff members. "We got about twice as many as we hoped," he said.

The MIT contingent met a swelling crowd at Copley Square in Back Bay Boston. The rally's organizers said they only expected 4000 to 5000 people to show up, but by the time the group marched in to Boston Common, the number had reached 10,000, according to police estimates.

Included among the speakers at the Common was Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense and State Department official who released the Pentagon Papers in 1969. "There is a major difference between now and the Vietnam era," he said. "We are here now today before the guns have started."

Indeed, several of the speakers took a preemptive tone, highlighting the need to work rapidly to diffuse the current crisis diplomatically before Jan. 15, the deadline imposed by the United Nations Security Council for Iraq's pullout from Kuwait.

Others, like, Hampshire College Professor Michael Klare, expressed cynicism over President George Bush's intent in the Middle East. He said he thought "war is likely because Bush has ruled out any other possibility."

MIT Initiative focuses

on awareness

Closer to campus, the MIT Initiative for Peace is focusing on promoting preemptive measures, Loh said. Currently, the group's top priority is to raise awareness of the issue to the MIT community and publicize events like Saturday's rally and a teach-in which will be held Friday evening in 54-100.

The group has also put together a petition calling for end to American military action in the Persian Gulf.

Loh admitted that the Initiative's efforts have slowed in recent weeks with the end of the term, even though it appears the gulf crisis is escalating. "We're now looking forward to IAP," he said. "I know that's bad planning in terms of what's going on globally, but it works with MIT's schedule."

The MIT Initiative for Peace will likely work to get students to attend a march on Washington, DC, tentatively planned by the Campaign for Peace in the Middle East for Jan. 26, Loh said.

Even though participation in the group has waned recently, Loh said interest in the group is steadily increasing. "At our first meeting in late October," he said, "we had about 10 people." Now, approximately 30 to 40 students attend the group's weekly meetings. Also active in the campus anti-war effort are Physics Professor Vera Kistiakowsky and Episcopal Chaplain Scott Paradise, Loh added.