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“But maybe marching down Broadway will become like that,” he says. “This march is helping to break down people‘s isolation.”
Marchers young and old are constantly coming over to Goldberg, who notes that four of his adult children are here. Some members of the United Teachers Los Angeles tell him they have gotten their union to announce it is against war with Iraq.
“This is unbelievable!” Goldberg will say repeatedly throughout the march. “We never had anything like this in the early days of marching against the Vietnam War.”
A middle-aged man comes over and chats about the looming invasion of Iraq with Goldberg, who says that the war will have to last at least six months for a broad national movement to coalesce against it. The thing is, such a war would not last more than a few days. Goldberg, however, believes the job of installing a new regime would take much longer and during that time an anti-war movement could find its feet. Still, there are so many factors.
“We did a great job leading up to the first Gulf War but got killed once it started,” he says. “If a new war is U.N.-sanctioned, we’ll get killed again.”
About 20 minutes into the march, everything comes to a long halt. We are in the procession‘s middle and have no idea why things have stopped. Later, I learn from a friend that the time was taken to fire up the rally with chants as it wheeled east on Fourth Street.
Perhaps more than the scattered presence of the LaRouchites and the apologists for Kim Jong I and Saddam Hussein, it is the implacably anti-Zionist tone running through today’s peace marches that spooks many mainstream liberals who fear that the movement is being corroded by a new form of anti-Semitism.
The march ends in front of the Federal Building, in the soulless maw of L.A.‘s civic architecture, glimpsed only by the cold gazes of the police and media. Pacifica radio station KPFK has wired the stage for live broadcast, and the station seems as big a presence here as the march organizers, International ANSWER (Act Now To Stop War & End Racism), Not in Our Name, and Coalition for World Peace and Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace. A group of cops is playing football down a nearby side street.
“There’ll probably be a lot of boring speeches now,” says Goldberg, who himself is anxious to catch one of the day‘s football playoff games on TV. Instead, the speeches are miraculously brief -- they all seem to come with a three-minute limit, and monitors constantly tap the shoulders of speakers once they reach two and a half minutes. There are politicians, including Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Goldberg’s sister, Jackie, who yells, “The only thing that will stop this war is to get everybody into the streets!” There are musicians such as Jackson Browne and Slash, along with actors like Martin Sheen, who begins reading a speech from cards and then seems to slip into a religious fervor as he begins shouting into the mike.
The problem with the speeches is not their length but that there are too many of them -- before long, speakers representing various causes begin overlapping and repeating messages, so that the assembled become a polite but benumbed crowd with no place to sit.
It‘s the age-old dilemma: What do you do with thousands of people once they finish a march? Still, the value of these demonstrations, as Goldberg said, is that they pull people out of the psychological suburbia that keeps progressive people feeling isolated and estranged from their countrymen. Protests have little if any effect on those who run the American empire, but it is marches and rallies and, perhaps, the scent of sage that can make us feel we belong to a neighborhood bigger than our own street.