"FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) - More than 450,000 anti-war protesters from across Europe marched through this Italian Renaissance city on Saturday, denouncing any U.S. plans to attack Iraq.
Authorities estimated more than 450,000 protesters were on the streets, and people were still streaming in from a fleet of buses and trains hired for the occasion.
Organizers said the crowd could swell to more than a million people, making it one of the biggest rallies ever seen in Italy.
"The atmosphere here is wonderful. Absolutely perfect. It shows that a new young left is emerging," said Stavos Valsamis, a 27-year-old Greek activist from Athens.
French farmer Jose Bove arrived on a tractor. Protesters clambered up scaffolding around arches near the city center to get a better view of the massed throngs.
Some 7,000 police were on call but security forces kept a low profile, with most held in reserve some distance from the seven-km (4.5 mile) rally route.
The rest of Florence was a ghost town with most shops in the art-rich historical center pulling down the shutters for fear of violence. The city's famed museums were open and offered free entry to the few tourists around.
"We no longer have any illusions about institutions like the United Nations and their ability to help humanity," said Alain Krivine, a far-left French politician. He was convinced the United States had already made up its mind to attack Iraq.
"Marches alone won't stop wars, but this is quite literally a first step," he said.
While Friday's U.N. resolution gives the Security Council a central role in assessing the new arms' inspection program for Iraq, it does not require the United States to seek council authorization for war in the case of violations. "
Ever since reading Kathryn Harrison's The Seal Wife, I've been considering living somewhere icy-- where most of life is white, blue, gray and remote. Harrison's getting too good at bringing out pathos and meaning from suffering, silent women-- it's becoming a formula. But damn, can she render setting. So maybe that explains my fascination with this particular blog, Life in the Freezer , where naturalist Gillian Hadley writes about tagging seals in the Arctic. I keep wondering if, after Bush is through with the world, these seal taggers will be some of the only people left.
The day after the election I talked to a fellow activist on the phone and one of the first things he said was, "What do you know about Montreal?" Now that's really apocalyptic. I'm not moving to Canada. Maybe Ireland-- where things are green-white, green-gray, green-blue. I've actually bookmarked all this Irish emigration information, and it's freaking my M out. But that's the question-- do you stay and watch it go to hell, doing what little you can, or do you leave & hope to survive (body and soul) elsewhere? The elections on Tuesday are a dismal turn. Why am I always surprised when things get worse? I'm essentially a pessimist; isn't that supposed to be one of the perks of pessimism? That you're not surprised when everything goes to shit?
I had a nightmare-- really a morning-mare as it was the last dream I had yesterday morning, and I woke screaming. I dreamed that I lived in the home where I was born, of 1950's midwestern construction. But the house was now filled with anti-choice protesters who had with them the paraphernalia of their mission-- rosaries, baby dolls, pictures of fetuses on forks and in garbage cans, "saved baby pictures" of their own children, reduced to props. I could not get them out of my house, though I threatened them and ineptly belittled their god. I thought to call the police & then realized I would be arrested because I was not god-or-cop fearing enough. So I screamed myself awake, only to find a day much like the house in my dream-- filled and fueled with the wrong-headed and hateful.
In the late '80's I participated in many clinic defenses in the Bay Area. During that time, Operation Rescue was trying to shut down clinics which provided diverse health services for women, not just abortion. The protesters would harass women going in for routine pap smears, birth control or other check-ups as well as abortion, by taking their pictures and shouting "murderer," etc. at them. I would escort the women through their ranks to the clinic. Usually I think that people are reasonable, that even when there is no way we will ever agree, we can live together and make our separate arguments. But after doing clinic defense I realized this is not so. We were at war, and women were the enemy, not unlike the viscous witch hunts of the 17th century that decimated the female population of Europe. The protesters were the angry peasants and their clergy, full of righteous hatred. I believe they would have killed me and those working with me if only they could have gotten away with it. The clinic shootings and bombings affirmed this feeling. We were at war, and indeed still are.
I had just forgotten.
I have forgotten the power of ignorance and fear which has taken hold of this country. Nothing good can come of it.
Oil tankers off the coast file into the harbor, one after the other. Has the stockpiling begun? Something is happening here, an inevitable movement, a sea change momentous in proportion. But what this new world will be, I don't know. The Bush Administration is planning ahead, beyond this war, which they now have a green light from the UN to wage. They look beyond Sadam's inevitable bombing of his own oil fields, beyond the years it will take for the US to rebuild them in "our image," beyond the years of occupation which will facilitate this, beyond the recession/depression that will result in the inevitable inflation of oil prices this operation will produce. They are thinking, in Daddy Bush's words, of completing this "New World Order," starting in the oil fields of Iraq, ending where?
They claim this order will maintain the "American Way of Life," but as the brilliant Aryundahti Roy has put it, "the American way of life is simply not sustainable." And indeed when the Bush administration speaks of Americans, it does not consider all of us, but only a few who have put themselves above the law, above the rest of the world.
It is a lonely place. Somewhere, somehow there is the feeling that they cannot stay there while the rest of the planet suffers and dies. As they try, inevitably, to herd us to some dark hour, many resist. This is my only hope, that as this regime crumbles, that it not destroy us with it, and that when it is over there will be some left to build anew and live freely, with acceptance, creativity and love, which is not an American right, but our human birthright.