By Justin D. Gest
Crimson Staff Writer, Harvard University
Just days before pivotal midterm elections, about 25,000 protesters huddled around Park at Boston Common yesterday afternoon to voice their opposition to military action against Iraq.
Organized by United for Justice with Peace, a local anti-war coalition, the event was large enough to close down adjacent Tremont Street.
Enduring frigid conditions, supporters heard from Green Party gubernatorial candidate Jill E. Stein, Boston University Professor Howard Zinn and actor Tim Robbins, as the smell of burning sage permeated the park as frozen fields and folk songs echoed off the facades of neighboring buildings.
'War breeds terrorism, war is terrorism,' Zinn said, addressing the crowd. 'We need a regime change right here.' Robbins said he was awed by the sheer number of people. He said that it took years to assemble a crowd that size in the 1960s. Many of the protestors hoisted signs, while some flew kites and others played bongo drums and tambourines.
Local political folk singer Pamela Means played several songs while preaching to her fellow protesters.
'Go out and vote your conscience,' Means said. 'We have no reason to be afraid.' About 50 Harvard undergraduates attended the rally with the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice (HIPJ), a campus group formed in the wake of Sept. 11.
'The proliferation of rallies over the past few weeks have to be sending a message to the Bush administration,' said HIPJ member Jessica E. Gould Harvard Class of 2004.
Many other unaffiliated Harvard students were also in attendance.
'It is unbelievable just to see this many people mobilized,' said Chanda R.S. Prescod-Weinstein Harvard Class of 2003, who came to the event with a friend from MIT. 'I feel reallyheartened.' Joining the considerable student turnout, local protestors brought their families. Children could be seen holding hand-made signs, and veterans likened the potential war in Iraq to Vietnam.
'It is shameful to drop bombs on people who need food and medicine,' said Zinn, who is known for his book, A People's History of the United States. 'You can't bomb a country into democracy. 'Boston Police and Park Rangers maintained a strong presence on horses and in squad cars.
'Staff writer Justin D. Gest can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org