Greensboro residents join national anti-war protest

by Amy Kingsley

A minivan pulled up to the curb on an empty street, cut its engine and spilled its contents. Into the dead of the night stumbled bed-headed college students toting marching drums and pillows.

They shuffled toward the group, already about 30 strong, lined up against a chain link fence. No one spoke except for organizer Ed Whitfield, who called names from a master list.

“Jonathan Henderson?” Whitfield said.

There was a muffled response before he repeated, “Jonathan Henderson?”

The response was louder this time.

“He’s here!”

In a few minutes, at a little after 5 a.m., a charter van would be arriving to take this group up to Washington, DC. There they would join thousands of protesters from 30 states and 11 cities in a massive protest against the war in Iraq.

United For Peace and Justice, the group that organized the protest, planned the event before Congressional opposition to the war crystallized around a proposal by President Bush to boost the number of troops in Iraq. Participants said they hoped the march would increase the momentum of an anti-war movement already gaining traction in Washington. Speakers at a pre-march rally included Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), alongside actors Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Jane Fonda.

Several members of the Greensboro contingent were seasoned protesters. Liz Seymour, who made headlines several weeks ago after her arrest at a protest on Elm Street, was there. So was Juan Vasquez, who has participated in protests locally but was making his first trip to DC. Vasquez would be meeting his girlfriend, who attends school in Virginia, at the protest.

“I think this is a turning point,” Vasquez said. “It’s time to make our voice heard and send a message. With all these people, we are going to try to send an unavoidable one.”

Some waiting in the pre-dawn chill were uninitiated in the ways of political protest. Seymour introduced a friend who would be protesting for the first time in a march expected to draw hundreds of thousands.

North Carolina alone would be sending some 1,000 protesters to the march.

At the appointed time the charter bus turned the corner and, with a sharp hiss, released its air brakes. The doors opened and the protesters piled in.

-Amy Kingsley