From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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Chicago Demo report - 3/20/03

By Bill Branson

Bill Branson and Bill Shunas
Chicago demo, February 15, 2003

VVAW turned out for a large demonstration in Chicago the day the war started.

Federal Plaza in the Loop was packed with thousands of people showing their anger and disgust at this illegal and immoral war as well as contempt for Governor Bush and his clique.

Bill Davis of Chicago VVAW was a featured speaker, and drew wild cheering from the crowd.

After about an hour of speeches and chanting, the people took to the streets, splitting into two groups and occupying two entire streets for blocks. The marches joined up again on Michigan Avenue, then walked east to block Lake Shore Drive.

The VVAW contingent proudly displayed a large banner, which drew hundreds of pictures and many appreciative comments from the crowd. As usual, we met many old friends, who joined us for a while.

The march turned into quite a marathon, occupying one and sometimes both directions on Lake Shore Drive. At about the level of the Water Tower, we crossed the dividers and moved towards Michigan Avenue. I heard that the leaders of the demo intended to march back downtown through the Miracle Mile.

At this point, the cops, who had been very accommodating, bottled up the march at an intersection with Michigan Avenue. The crowd continued its heavy chanting, adding "Let . . . us . . . march!" We VVAW people, being a bit older and more experienced, found ourselves a place between two parked, surrounded police cars and avoided the crush in the intersection.

After continuing what had become a standing rally for over an hour, we noticed that the cops were forming up behind us.

Discretion and exhaustion prevailed, so we withdrew. Later on, we watched the news as the cops surrounded over a thousand marchers, brutalized many and arrested every one. It is always infuriating to see this cowardice on the part of the police, picking on the small women first, dragging people to the lockup, arresting people who were peacefully exercising their human (what Constitution?) right to protest.

Even the local news stations seemed perplexed to explain the police action, in light of the peaceful behavior of the marchers. In any case, property rights prevailed over human rights.

Most of us in VVAW have been in Chicago for over 30 years. We have NEVER seen the people take the streets as they did that night! Even the protests at the start of the Gulf War were not so forceful. Reaction from the passing cars and onlookers was 99% positive. The sound of car horns honking and the hands with peace signs sticking out of windows were almost continuous.

Today, the day after the march, we are resting our tired bones and sore feet, but many people are still holding smaller rallies and marches in downtown Chicago.

We are all determined to continue to do our best to end this war and save as many American and Iraqi lives as possible.

Bill Branson is a VVAW national staff member and a member of VVAW's Chicago chapter.
He has been in VVAW for over 30 years.

Chicago VVAW at Chicago demo February 15, 2003

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