Dozens of University of Chicago students convened with students from campuses across the country as part of the diverse crowd protesting President Bush's plan for a war with Iraq on Saturday, filling the mall in Washington, D.C. Although no statistics have been reported, the rally and march has been called the largest preemptive gathering of the sort in history.
The U of C student organization No War In Iraq brought three vans and a car to the protest, leaving Chicago in the early afternoon and evening.
Buses, vans, and other vehicles heading to the protest and march crossed paths throughout their journeys at truck stops and diners along the way, eventually assembling on Saturday in the area around the Washington Monument and Capitol building around 11 a.m. EST.
The British band Chumbawumba kicked off the late morning start with anti-war songs to electrify the protestors. Soon after the band finished playing, the event's organizers came to the podium.
British Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn noted the overwhelming public opposition to British involvement in his home country, saying, "A world of peace can only be achieved if we are a world built on social justice."
Later in the afternoon, Academy Award-winning actress Jessica Lange spoke about her concerns as a mother and a parent. She spoke of the difficulty in teaching children about living in peace while simultaneously killing children in other countries.
"The next generation should not live with shame and greed and bloodshed," she said.
Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke to the necessity of negotiation over confrontation and coexistence over co-annihilation, urging the use of brains over that of brute force. "We deserve better," he said.
Such sentiments were echoed in the variety of chants that sounded as the crowd began its two-hour long march up Capitol Hill, down Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street.
During the march, the protestors were met with a small counter-protest. From the balcony of a nearby building, a few college Republicans displayed signs showing their support of U.S. troops.
Second-year in the College John Scott-Railton, who attended the rally, was impressed by the diversity of the crowd.
"It is a truly great feeling to be part of a group composed of people from different social, political, and economic backgrounds who all felt strongly enough about this issue to travel in some cases hundreds or thousands of miles only to stand outside in the cold," he said. "It was not just the familiar group of old school liberals but people who don't usually protest yet feel so strongly negative about the government policies."
Third-year in the College Samantha Iyer agreed: "I found the demonstration revitalizing. It was the largest demonstration I have ever attended and probably the most diverse.
"That over--I'm estimating--300,000 people attended the protest before war has even begun, despite miserable weather, gave me a great deal of energy."