LAST SATURDAY, Feb. 15, I went out to cover the anti-war march, which, to be frank, meant wearing my press credentials and scribbling in my reporter's notebook while swimming with a current of humanity whose collective purpose I endorse. But covering demonstrationsand participating in themis weird. Not only because, in this case, I was trying to keep a writer's detachment while being stirred by the people's passions, but because there is no way a protest of this magnitude can ever make a coherent argument. Or reflect your own. Despite a singleness of purpose, it was made up of people with a vast array of ideas, beliefs, outrages, religions, and flash points. There are as many reasons to object to the war in Iraq as there were people in the march; the only thing solid in the solidarity is the flow itself. That's why they call it a "movement."
The issue of "how many" is interesting because the estimates of the size of the Seattle demonstration varied so widely. At Westlake Park, I asked two police officers who guessed 8,000 or 15,000 but admitted they had no frickin' idea. Officially, the number was more like 20,000, organizers said closer to 30,000, and the Seattle Independent Media Center Web site estimated 55,000. My sense, drawn from having participated and covered many local marches and demonstrationsfrom Vietnam in the late 1960s to WTO in 1999is that the Indymedia folks were closer to the truth. Standing at Second Avenue and Pine Street, one could look down the broad, full length of the avenue as far as the eye could see and see nothing but marchersand that was just a fraction of those who were farther ahead and way behind. Certainly, the crowd would have matched a sellout at Safeco Field.
One poster on the Indymedia Web site said this march was "The Anti-War Movement brought to you by Banana Republic." One was struck by the middle-class nature of the crowd, with affinity groups by neighborhood ("Lake Forest Park for Peace!") or special interests ("Knit Yes, Bombs No"). In addition to humor and outrage, some of the signs people carried evinced a desire to assert the complexities of the situation.
OK, ENOUGH. I turn over the rest of my column to Seattleites who spoke via the signs they carried and T-shirts they wore. They convey the essence of Feb. 15:
"How Many Lives = an Oil Field?"
"Patriots for Peace"
"Kill, Drill, Fill My Pocket"
"Try Bush for Treason"
"Cryptids and Daredevils for Peace"
"Bush Is a Moron, Don't Let Him Get His War On"
"How Many Lives per Gallon?"
"Our Asses of Evil: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld"
"Let's Bomb Texas: They've Got Oil"
"Stop Mad Cowboy Disease"
"Space Is for Deadheads, not Warheads"
"English Majors for Peace"
"Queer Jews Against the War"
"Use Your Words: Don't Fight"
"Time for Pre-emptive Diplomacy"
"Empty Warheads Found in Washington"
"No Blood for Re-election"
"Stop Global Warring"
"One Nation, Under Surveillance"
"Disarm Bush Too"
"Support Our Troops: Bring Them Home Now!"
"Peace Is Pre-emptive"
"If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention"
"Drunken Frat Boy Drives Country Into Ditch"
"Dear George: Eat Me"
"No War, Eat Bush"
"Truckers Against This Stupid War"
"Bush: Big Business Bitch"
"War Is Terrorism"
"The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Bush Himself"
"Satellite Data Now"
"Repent From an Addiction to Power & Violence"
"Peaceful Relations With All Other Nations"
"War Is a Feminist Issue"
"Germany Has Learned Its Lesson, You Have Not"
"Lieberman: Whore to Power"
"Who Would Jesus Bomb?"
"Anti Gas-Guzzlers Unite!"
"Bush Is to Christianity as Osama Is to Islam"
"Err on the Side of Humanity"
"God's Country Is the World"
"Sacrifice SUVs, Not Our Children"
"Do We Need Our Allies to Save Us From Ourselves?"
"Don't Oil-Jack Iraq"
"Draft SUV Drivers First"
"It's Not a War, It's a Con"
"Code Orange Is Bullshit"
"If It Was Right, We'd Have More Allies"
"Corporate-Owned Media Is Killing DemocracyNo More Junk Food News"
"Don't Kill More Iraqi Babies"
"Duct Tape and Plastic for the Poor"
"We Cannot Spread Democracy With Laser-Guided Bombs"
"Geishas for Peace"
"Poodles for Peace"
"Rumsfeld = Old America"
"Let Exxon Send Their Own Troops"
"Disarm the Texas Oil Mafia"
"War Begins with Dubya"
"Bush is Al Qaeda's Top Recruiter"
"In Sauron We Trust . . . Welcome to Mordor"
"Know Your History: Distrust Government"
"God Save America"
"Inspectors Forever: No War"
"A Village in Texas Is Missing Its Idiot"
"Peace Is Worth It"