Stomping his feet as a wicked winter wind whistled down Manhattan's Third Avenue on Saturday, Jerry Park, 61, cheerfully proclaimed the death of the generational divide — in his household, at least.
Clutching his father's arm, 14-year-old Timmy Park grinned in enthusiastic testimony to the pronouncement as his elder brother, Paul, 22, darted through the sea of protesters with his buddies, periodically returning to his father and brother with the latest "reports."
For Park, a Mt. Rainier, Md.-based community activist who has put in his time in anti-war demonstrations during the Vietnam War, Saturday's gathering of an estimated 300,000 people near the U.N. headquarters in Manhattan was a salve for his soul.
"Today is a real event," he said as the vast crowd attempted to outwit police barriers and make their way towards the stage set up on First Avenue and 51st Street. "On this issue, we all agree. And I can definitely see a steady flow of young people becoming involved in this issue."
In hundreds of rallies in about 60 countries, millions of people took to the streets this weekend in a dancing, chanting, banner-waving confrontation to Washington's threatened war on Iraq that, by all accounts, has reverberated throughout this week, drawing the attention of governments across the globe in a display of public discontent not witnessed since the Vietnam War.
It's been 30 years since U.S. troops pulled out of a humiliating war in Southeast Asia that cost about 58,000 American lives, many more Vietnamese ones, and led to a public mutiny of sorts on campuses and streets across the United States as an era of civil rights activism, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll rolled — in retrospect — to its conclusion.
Three decades after the end of the war that rattled America's psyche, the sartorial tastes of today's anti-war protesters may not be as flower powered, and the spiritual predilection of the crowd may be classified as more mainstream than New Age. But in cities across America, the protests against a war in Iraq featured a familiar blast from the past.
At the anti-war rally in San Francisco on Sunday, singer Joan Baez addressed a gathering of about 250,000 people in the same clarion-clear — if a trifled aged — voice she employed to sing to the 450,000-odd crowd gathered for the Woodstock festival in the summer of 1969.
More than 30 years after he screeched "freeeeedom, freeeeedom," at Woodstock in a powerful rendition of his anti-war song that brought home the horrors of the Tet Offensive and the My Lai massacre, Richie Havens led the proceedings in New York City on Saturday with his inimitable Freedom song. He was followed by Hollywood actor Danny Glover, who cut his political teeth in the civil rights movement heralded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
And in London's jam-packed Hyde Park on Saturday, Pakistani-born British writer Tariq Ali was a major draw more than 11 years after the former student activist's best-selling account of the tumultuous '60s, Street Fighting Years, first hit the stands.
A March of Individuals
For many seasoned activists who took to the streets across the United States and Europe in the late '60s and early '70s, the rallies protesting military action in Iraq may have amassed some of the numbers of the Vietnam demonstrations, but they lacked a distinctive countercultural flavor of the earlier era.