Sunday, March 16, 2008

Honolulu March Against the Iraq War

Saturday, March 15

It was 6pm on a Saturday night and Waikiki was packed with tourists, beachgoers and GI's. And then "Stop! Stop! Stop the War!!" "The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime!" filled the streets as drums kept a steady beat. People along the sidewalks stopped. Tourists rushed to high-rise balconies. Shopkeepers came to their doors. It seemed that everywhere people were clapping, giving a thumbs-up, and joining in the chants. Cameras, videos, and cellphones caught the action.

About 100 people began our three-mile route but our numbers quickly swelled to about 300 as tourists, youth, and surfers with their longboards joined in. The response was overwhelmingly positive. A young U.S. Marine running along the route and videoing the march on his cellphone said happily: "Wait til my buddies in the barracks see this! We need more of it!" He happily took the leaflet pointing him to Winter Soldier and said they'd check it out. An Indonesian journalist followed alongside the march for the entire route, jotting down notes, capturing images, and recording the sounds for his readers back home. An Australian tourist commented that they'd gotten rid of their warmonger and now it was our turn. A Filipino service worker at a bus stop wistfully said:"I wish I could join you, but my kids are waiting for me to cook dinner."

Here and there along the route people gave a negative shake of the head, or a thumbs down or middle finger. About 5 older guys had seemingly tried to pull together a counter-demonstration and held signs saying "Victory in Iraq" and "Traitors" but got little sympathy. A few soldiers said "we're just doing what we gotta do" but they were completely outnumbered by those showing their support. Leafletters passed out 1400 leaflets along the route before running out and the march was the top of the news on two mainstream TV channels Saturday evening.

As we had built for this march lots of people talked about the horror of the war, but few committed to coming out to protest. One activist commented only hours before that based on the responses he'd gotten, he didn't expect more than a dozen people. A young woman who came for the first time said she'd told hundreds of people and was really bummed out when none of them showed up. Lots of people had questioned what protesting could accomplish. Others said the horror of the Bush regime would be over soon so just kick back. Thinking about the war was "just such a downer."

The response from the people along the route really went up against all of this. Their faces filled with joy when they saw us. They clapped and swayed to the beat of the chants. They captured images of our march to share with their friends. The marchers gathered energy as it went along. One GI near the end commented: "This gives me some hope! Now just get us home!"

From the Indonesian reporter, the GI's along the route, the international tourists, and from many others, what we heard in many ways was: "You're what we've been waiting for!" People who participated in this march are going to have to really struggle with others to pull themselves out of their apathy and despair and help build the kind of movement of resistance that is both needed and WANTED!

No comments: