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Rebuilding Iraq


PROTEST DIARY

Peace movement

Three protesters traveling on a bus from Dorchester share their impressions of the antiwar rally in New York

2/19/2003

Before dawn on Saturday, about two dozen tour buses pulled away from Boston toward New York City. Their destination: one of the largest protests against the impending US invasion of Iraq. The demonstration was part of a day of worldwide protests in London, Athens, and Seville, Spain, and smaller ones in scattered cities scattered across the country. To gain a different perspective on the New York rally, the Globe asked three people on a bus leaving from Dorchester Sheila Hoyt, an artist in her 50s and a veteran left-wing activist; her thirty-something daughter, Kendra Hoyt, a program manager at Citizen Citzen Schools in Boston; and Tom Lyman, a 26-year-old teacher at Fontbonne Academy in Milton to keep journals during the day. What follows are their thoughts on being among the 500,000 people converging on Manhattan that day:

  Kendra Hoyt  

Reason for going to New York rally:
I just wanted my voice and presence to be heard in alignment with the majority [who are opposed to an invasion of Iraq]. War is never an option - this one in particular.

10 p.m. Friday. At home:
"Imagine all the people. ... You may say I'm a dreamer. ... But I'm not the only one.'' John Lennon is singing in the background. I am sad and anxious, but hopeful. Soon the sun will begin to rise and we will be on our way to an amazing experience. Prayer is in my heart for HUMANKIND.

5:13 a.m. Saturday. Headed to bus staging area:
I'm ready! Dressed in layers, warm and cozy. I am ready to have my voice be heard and my presence felt.

6:17 a.m. At the bus:
People are gathering. It is a calm space. Peaceful. Bags of food are being loaded onto the bus. I can smell the muscle rub I applied to my knees earlier this morning. My thoughts are clear. I am open and ready to experience.

  Tom Lyman  

Reason for going to New York rally:
I wanted to stand up in the name of peace in the interest of the whole world, not just peace in the interest of the United States.

7:22 a.m. The Pike westbound, near West Newton:
A variety of people find themselves together on the bus. Many are older, some are familiar, but all seem to share a sense of working in solidarity for an important cause. Indeed, we are called to be here today by our consciences. As a Christian, I respond to the call to speak up in unjust situations and act in the world for peace and reconciliation.

The hour or so waiting on the bus before departure was comforting and reassuring for someone on his way to his first major demonstration. In the seat next to me, Greg Brown talks history, politics, international relations, and what to read about them. Many here also protested Vietnam. Someone asks if there'll be any CD; what's that, I think. Civil disobedience, someone says. Whatever happens, I hope it stays peaceful. After all, we're supposed to be showing the world how serious we are about peace.

  Sheila Hoyt  

Reason for going to New York rally:
I haven't seen enough to convince me that a war is necessary at this point in Iraq.

On the bus, pulling out of Boston :
Not as diverse a group as I'd hoped for, given the diversity that is Dorchester. Where are the youth? This is about our collective future - but it is about their future, their children's futures. Wish we'd begun psyching up on the bus - energy level not as charged as I want and no music. [I] miss native drums [at Leonard Peltier rallies].

Around 9 a.m. On Interstate 95 in Connecticut - Kendra Hoyt:
I fell asleep for about an hour. My body is stiff and aching. Smell of food is in the air. [On the bus] people are calm, not singing as I might have expected: No chants, no loud outbursts. Just calm chatter amongst friends. Often I am hearing people recall the protests of the Vietnam War. There are many older white faces on the bus - very few people who look like me.

Disappointed in the large number of people from a diverse community such as Dorchester not resembling the richness of various cultures like the [African-American], Latino, Asian, and immigrant populations. What happened?! And where are the young people?

WAR IS CRIMINAL - My sign says so!

10:34 a.m. Just outside New York - Lyman :
This is getting real. Becky Pierce has briefed us on all the procedures and precautions. We've exchanged cellphone numbers and emergency contacts. 1st Ave., here we come.

11 a.m. Approaching New York - Kendra Hoyt:
I am angry - we have a president who seems so engaged in playing war games at the expense of humankind! Traffic is crazy. The bus has to pull over on Lexington to let us out. We'll need to walk a ways. The city is booming with protesters. Still, I see few faces young and brown. Many white, many 40, 50, 60-plus [years old]. It is now as we begin on this journey how much I realize I wish I had some friends, peers, with me to join in this shared experience.

Arriving in New York - Sheila Hoyt:
Good to be in NYC - my favorite city - huge and visual crowds. Seeing more youth expression in the city - Good!

1 p.m. 63rd Street, west of 2d Avenue - Lyman:
A cheer rises from deep in the crowd. The cheer reaches us and we join in - a vocal wave. Different chants heard while here:

''One, two three, four, we don't want this unjust war, five, six, seven, eight, stop the killing, stop the hate!''

''What do we want? PEACE! When do we want it? NOW!''

''Drop BUSH! Not BOMBS!''

3:30 p.m. 1st Avenue and 64th Street - Lyman:
We've finally joined the slow, long-awaited march down 1st Ave. after being redirected by police up to 72 d on the avenues just west. Finally - the sound system and video screens we were looking for. My friend Smita, a Brooklyn resident who made it to 1st Ave. early, had reported it all to me from her cell. Desmond Tutu was awesome, she said.

I'm walking next to folks who drove down from Buffalo; Calgary, [Alberta]; [southern] Alabama; Queens and Washington Heights [New York]. An elderly woman looks down on the lively scene below from the third or fourth floor. Several apartments over, a lone sign saying, ''We Support Bush'' is safely hung high above the reach of the many who would tear it down.

It doesn't feel so much like a march, but more like a crowded winter's stroll with a common uniting theme: There must be another solution besides war, because we will not support it. Among the signs and placards held by marchers: ''Bin Laden wants war!'', ''No war for SUVs, the Axles of Evil.'' Placards of ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) show Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

I buy a blue button for $2 that says, ''The World says no to War!''

Between 1 and 5 p.m. - Kendra Hoyt
We walked a lot - we saw many amazing things. Image #1: a woman standing [with] a police barricade on one side and protesters on the other - she stares in silence, calmly knitting a peace symbol into a square of yarn. Image #2: a group of young brown men doing beats on the corner on 5th Avenue. As we passed by they roared out, ''Peace! NO WAR!'' over and over again with some hip-hop beats to accompany the message. It was a beautiful moment!

As we stood on a corner for no more than five minutes, a large number of New York police filed out of buses and began barricading us into the street, blocking off the streets at those intersections. We found our way to 1st Avenue where the rally was taking place. We walked far enough that there was a large [TV] screen placed at an intersection for us to view the speakers. We stood, listening to Harry Belafonte, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Angela Davis. It was all so amazing. I felt tears on my cheeks. Bishop Tutu cried out to us, ''What do you say to war?'' And our response was, ''No!'' And then he would say, ''What do you say to peace?'' Our response: ''Yes!'' This was the most collective we were; I cried - but silently. No one saw my tears, but they were there.

At the rally - Sheila Hoyt:
So happy to see Angela Davis! Grateful that a Native American opened the rally. I met him a couple years ago. I've seen NYPD at its best and its more abusive days.

5:30 p.m. On the bus, headed to Boston - Lyman:
We end the day by sharing riotous stories about the most raucous signs we saw, thankful that we were all together, safe. Cell calls home and to friends report and reassure. We are rolling back up Madison Ave. bound for the bridges and I think: We did it. We took our stand, showed our commitment, sent our message. It's a good feeling to have been able to do something.

On the bus - Kendra Hoyt:
It's warm. I am happy to be here. I am disappointed, though - disappointed because while I can appreciate the greatness in this experience and having been a part of it, I am also sad not to have seen more young [minority] faces. And I am sad not to have had my peers alongside me.

Later - Sheila Hoyt:
Guess everyone was tired going back to Boston, but I [would have liked] a wind-down - some chatter and maybe a party later. I will be a part of this antiwar movement, but I want our youth not to be ''under our shadow''; this is a different world, especially since 9/11. But here's the thing - protest is not only a civic duty, it's a ''rite of passage,'' sometimes a rebellion against parents as well as the political status quo. Are our [adult] kids being cheated out of part of the experience?

8:30 p.m. On the road to Boston, break! - Kendra Hoyt:
I need to stretch my legs. I am half asleep and hungry. Ugh.

Around 10 p.m. Arriving in Boston - Kendra Hoyt: Home sweet home! Damn, it's cold in Boston - was tropical in NYC.

11 p.m. Watching TV news:
WOW! 500 cities across the world protested!! WOW! NYC held the largest demonstration in the US, and I was there! That is pretty cool.

This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 2/19/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.





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