Friday, February 15, 2008

Five Years Since Millions Marched Against War

Happy 5th anniversary, you dreamers for peace.
I remember the day clearly, in part because it was so damn cold. My face was frozen, my fingers were frozen, well, everything was frozen. I was driving the van that brought the sound equipment to the demonstration that day and had worked the night before so I was very tired.
But as cold as it was and as early as it was, it was clear that this was going to be something very big. You can always tell when it's going to be a big protest because people arrive early. Anybody who's been on more than one demonstration knows that rallies never, ever start on time, so you might as well show up late. But when people are coming early, it's because they've never demonstrated before. So, when you get those people, it's going to be a big one. On February 15, 2003 in Toronto - and hundreds of other cities around the world - it was a big one.
By some estimates, it was the single largest movement of people on a single day in human history, pushing 30 million by many estimates. In London, UK, alone there were some 2 million on the streets (see pic below). It was that big. In Toronto, we were 80,000, the largest protest since the Toronto General Strike as part of the Days of Action movement in 1996.
It was electric. There we were standing in Dundas Square, watching people pour in from every directions. Seas of people and placards and homemade banners filled the streets. The police didn't even bother to try to stop them. On that day the streets were ours.
February 15 didn't stop the war - though the mobilizations across Canada, especially the
250,000 in Montreal, did ensure Canada didn't officially participate. But it made the boneheads and chickenhawks who make the decisions to send the young to kill and die in faraway places for oil wealth and imperial power think twice before starting the next one. I remain convinced that were it not for the domestic and international opposition to the war against Iraq in the US and the UK we would already be fighting in Iran. And the Harper Tories wouldn't have to hide behind weasel words and sneaky maneuvers to keep us in Afghanistan.
February 15 was, quite simply, a moment of real history. I hope you were there.

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