About 4,000 men, women and canines of all ages took over downtown on Saturday to protest the possible war against Iraq.
The protest — Peace Congress 2003 — began with a march down State Street, which was closed to automobiles, and culminated with an outdoor festival, including speakers and live music in Alameda Plaza. A related indoor event, which was held at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara on the corner of Arrellaga and Santa Barbara Streets, also included documentary films and discussion panels. De La Guerra Plaza also hosted several local bands.
The peace rally was sponsored by the Santa Barbara chapter of Not In Our Name, the Unitarian Society, Hope Dance, the Fund for Santa Barbara and Veterans for Peace.
In Alameda Plaza, people holding signs with slogans such as “Peace is Patriotic” and “Impeach Bush” gathered to hear speeches and music in protest of the war. Global Peace and Security Professor Marc McGinnes spoke about the time he recently spent in Iraq.
“The people there are terrified about what seems to be about to happen today, but they still greet you,” McGinnes said. “There is no reason, other than American empire-building, for America to be moving against them aggressively.”
Musical entertainment included an impromptu performance of “Peace on Earth” by two children in the audience as well as an acoustic set by Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket.
Booths were set up by the Coalition Against Gun Violence and Not In Our Name as well as a booth to register as a Democratic voter.
Vietnam veteran Peter Cohen was also among the speakers on Saturday afternoon.
“Osama bin Laden is winning. Fear has spread across the land like a cancer and is eating away at our democracy,” Cohen said. “When the wants of the few are more important than the needs of the many, that is not democracy.”
Several rounds of chanting “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” was met with cheers and applause.
Peace Congress 2003 was a national peace event celebrated all over the country on Saturday. The largest rally was held in Washington, D.C., where an estimated 150,000 people attended.