Protesters go to Washington
By Sean Dougherty
Approximately 75,000 people converged on the Capitol in Washington, DC, last Saturday to protest the war in the Persian Gulf, National Park Police estimated. Observers estimated that about one third of the participants were students.
About 30 MIT students attended the demonstration, said Penn S. Loh '90, a member of the MIT Initiative for Peace in the Middle East. The Northeastern Campuses Against the War (NECAW) -- which includes students from MIT, Harvard University, Boston University, Brandeis University and Emerson College -- sent about five buses to Washington for the march.
Demonstrators gathered on the Mall and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the ellipse in front of the White House, where activists gave speeches denouncing the war.
Although supporters of US military action in the gulf were present during the march, there were no incidents of violence at any point during the demonstration, according to the National Park Police.
A group of several thousand pro-war demonstrators, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and chanting slogans such as "Liberate Kuwait!" and "Defeat
Saddam!" confronted the peace activists.
When the two groups passed each other, people from both sides exchanged comments and profanities. Several people, primarily peace activists, joined hands to prevent a conflict.
Members of The National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, who coordinated the rally, distributed a list of their desires in a press release. The campaign wants the government to stop the war and to bring US troops home immediately.
It also wants the money being spent on the war to go toward domestic social programs. The National Campaign is sponsored by peace organizations, religious groups and progressive political movements.
"It's not too late -- we can still save lives and negotiate. We must consider all of the [problems] in the Middle East. We cannot make ultimatums. Diplomacy means being able to make concessions," Franklyn A. Turbak G said at the rally. Many other rally participants shared his feelings.
The demonstration differed from one held the previous week in Washington. Many characterized the earlier demonstration as more radical; for example, demonstrators there consider other Middle East issues integral to their their opposition to the war.
But at Saturday's demonstration, these groups were on the fringe of the main protest, whose demonstrators simply called for peace in the Middle East.
Sunday student conference
follows up on rally
Several hundred students representing schools from all over the nation met in Washington, DC, the day after Saturday's rally to try to organize a nationwide coalition to raise public awareness and stop the war. Several MIT students attended, including Loh.
The conference followed a similar one the previous weekend in Chicago, which included representatives from almost 60 campuses, Lisa M. Havran '92 said. Participants there formed the National Network of Campuses Against War and to call for an end to the war, the withdrawal of troops and a reevaluation of the way the United States deals with conflict.
Local action will continue
The MIT Initiative for Peace plans to continue its campaign against the war, including the recently-established peace center in the Stratton Student Center.
"We will use mass education
to allow people to make an informed decision," Loh said. "As more Americans die, people will feel stronger [about their views] and will take a stand. Current media coverage is not adequate. [The purpose of the] peace center is to act as an information and discussion forum [to counteract this problem]."
At the Chicago conference, activists planned simultaneous demonstrations against the war to take place all over the United States today, according to members of NECAW.
The group MIT Students in Support of Operation Desert Storm is also planning a demonstration for this weekend, according to organizer Sharra L. Davidson '91.