Volume 75, Number 25 | November 09 -15, 2005

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Radical attorney Lynne Stewart and State Senator Tom Duane talked at the Union Square rally.

High school students swell anti-Bush rally and march

By Jefferson Siegel

One year after the election that returned the Bush administration to power, the group World Can’t Wait held a rally in Union Square last Wednesday, followed by a march through Chelsea to Times Square. Two months earlier the group had led a march through Greenwich Village to call attention to the administration’s poor response to the devastation wreaked in New Orleans and the Gulf states by Hurricane Katrina.

The rally was one of many held across the country that was timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the election. Marchers also gathered in San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago.

A large stage was in place in Union Square for the noon rally, which attracted speakers as diverse as radical attorney Lynne Stewart, actress Kathleen Chalfant and her husband, photographer Henry Chalfant, Councilmember Margarita Lopez, State Senator Tom Duane and State Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

Over 1,000, mostly high school students, filled the plaza steps in front of the stage. The day of mobilization had begun with a call for students to walk out of class in protest of the Bush administration. Students heeding the call came from numerous schools, including New York University, Lab High School, Marist High School and LaGuardia High School.

Among the speakers was a military mother, Elaine Bauer, who told the crowd, “My son fought in Afghanistan and now he’s going to Iraq. If my son comes home and he’s dead or wounded, they’d better watch out for me!” she said to cheers. “I want to know what happened to Osama, dead or alive?” Bauer added.

Waiting her turn to take the stage, actress and West Village resident Kathleen Chalfant told The Villager: “I’m here because I have been and continue to be opposed to this war. The country has been misled into this horrendous and murderous war.”

State Senator Tom Duane turned red faced as he screamed, “President Bush, you are an illegal president because you are destroying our nation and destroying our world!”

Many in the crowd held the distinctive bright green signs of World Can’t Wait; many others arrived with homemade placards, with inscriptions like, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Republican,” “Don’t Send the Boys to Iraq, Send ’em to Me” and “Worst President Ever.”

Police presence around the square was heavy. A line of metal barricades surrounded the rally as police on foot and motor scooters stood to one side, waiting for the march to commence.

After two hours of speeches, the crowd began their slow march out of the park and across 14th St. Chanting, “Drive out the Bush regime, join us, join us, the world can’t wait,” organizers hoped to grow the march with passersby who would join them. As the mass reached Fifth Avenue, it filled two westbound lanes. Several W.C.W. members took to the sidewalk, pressing fliers and stickers into the hands of anyone who would take them. Police on motor scooters lined the third lane to prevent marchers from walking into oncoming eastbound traffic.

Just past Fifth Avenue an organizer climbed a scaffold to shout encouragement to marchers through a bullhorn. When police told him to stop, he jumped down and ran into the crowd. He and another student were apprehended and given summonses. A third marcher was arrested when she complained about their treatment.

At Eighth Avenue the march turned north. Taking up two lanes of traffic and two blocks long, over 1,000 were marching and chanting, calling to people walking out of stores and restaurants. By the time the march reached Times Square about 400 people filled a cordoned-off section of Broadway between 41st and 42nd Sts. Around 5 p.m. the crowd dispersed peacefully after a half-hour of more speeches.

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