March 20, 2003
We left Warrensburg at 4:30 p.m. and made it to the J.C. Nichols fountain at 47th and Main in Kansas City by 5:30 p.m. The organizers had planned for some time to have a 6:00 p.m. protest on the Plaza if hostilities broke out. I had been ambivalent about attending given the ugly rhetoric which is now being directed at those who dissent by the purveyors of right wing talk radio, cable television, and “yellow journalism”. We had to do something positive and affirming rather than sit at home watching the crap on television which passes for real journalism these days, so we were finally resolved to attend. As we drove up to the fountain we saw that people were already on the picket line and the TV trucks and cameras were in abundance. At its peak we had 400 to 500 people.
It was overcast, cold and windy – temperature in the 40s. We took our place on the line. We had decided earlier to only bring our pacifist signs. “Peace on Earth”, “In the Name of God, Stop Killing, In the Name of God”, and my graphic peace sign – it’s getting tattered from so much use…
Somewhat subdued, we quietly spoke on the line. My favorite new sign: “War is so 20th century”. The response from passing traffic was overwhelmingly positive – a lot of honking and peace signs. One well pickled Republican matron rolled down her car window and asked, “Don’t you people know the war has already started?” This kind of cluelessness shouldn’t surprise me anymore. There were occasional pro-war shouts and one “bird”, though I was surprised that they were not as ugly and aggressive as they were last Sunday – I suppose they’re sated because they are getting their crappy little war.
We stood next to a veteran (there were many there tonight). We were joined by an old friend and several colleagues. After a while the organizers called us to the fountain. Some folk singers sang a witty and satirical “12 days of war” song. We had brought candles (and plastic cups as wind shields), so we lit them and stood listening to the music. The singers had us all join in singing “Peace, Shalom, Salaam”. There were several speakers. In the most peaceful moment of the day for me, as we stood there with our candles, we were barely aware that a photographer from the Kansas City Star took our pictures (when he finished he asked for our names and where we were from, writing the information down). After the announcements were finished, the host marched through the Plaza shopping district.
The marchers stayed on the sidewalk, chanting in a call and response “Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like” and “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” As we marched into the Plaza we passed the glassed in front of one of those upscale dining establishments. Lo and behold, two older women were standing watching us and flashed us peace signs! We looped back around and passed several clothing establishments. Some people shopping in the stores or watching us from the doorways flashed peace signs.
After we made it back to the fountain we walked to our car for the hour long drive home.