I just got home from the big NYC Veterans Day Parade.
The “we” in the title is the crew of anti-war veterans and friends who have had a presence in the parade since the war began. Our contingent was led by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War carrying American flags. Among the others reporting for duty were at least three area chapters of Veterans For Peace (including mine, NYC’s Chapter 34), Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and a group memorializing the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (whose actual veterans are now too few and too old to join us as they had in years past).
Don’t get me wrong. Our whole contingent totaled under fifty people and we were by a considerable margin the scruffiest and least military looking one in the whole parade.
And quite possibly the best received.
We were toward the rear of the march. While the organizers didn’t, this time, slot us at the very end, they put a very loud sound truck with a deejay directly behind us and forbade us to carry any signs or posters other than organizational banners.
Nice try. They neglected to amputate the fingers with which we all made the peace sign and to remove our vocal cords. So anti-war chants, especially the cadences led by Ben Chitty, echoed in the valley of Fifth Avenue the whole way from 27th Street to 55th. Meanwhile, marchers on both sides of the contingent directed a steady stream of explanatory slogans and talk to those watching.
Now, Veterans Day doesn’t draw the crowd you’ll find at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or on the rare occasion when a New York sports team wins something, but we didn’t pass a single block that wasn’t at least half full of spectators.
And we were overwhelmingly greeted with peace signs, thumbs up, clapping and enthusiastic yells. It was striking. Even people who went out of their way to attend a Veterans Day parade, and an awful lot of them were veterans themselves, were thrilled to see and hear us voicing their own feelings:
Bring Them Home Now!
The people of this country want this war over and they want it over yesterday. It is up to us to keep the heat on those now in power–and on those who will, blessedly, take their place in 70 days–to bring this fiasco to an end. So I encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to observe the Iraq Moratorium one week from this coming Friday. You can act by yourself or with others, but please do something to observe the first antiwar mobilization since the election which will be national in scope.