“Stop Mad Cowboy Disease.”
“No Blood For Oil.”
“Stop Bush’s Wargasm. Pull Out Now.”
“How many lives per gallon?”
So read some of the many signs waved in protest of the United States’ potential military involvement in Iraq during Saturday’s peace rally at De La Guerra Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara. The gathering, one link in a worldwide chain of protest on Saturday and the most recent in a series of weekly marches sponsored by the Santa Barbara chapter of the national anti-war group Not In Our Name, drew over 5,000 people. Protesters met, cheered, and marched up State Street to garner support for their cause.
Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum put the Santa Barbara protest in context with Saturday’s marches in London, Rome, Seoul, Auckland, Sydney and other major cities around the world, in which millions of people protested.
“I believe people are pushing hard all over the world. People are saying this is not okay and we’re going to stop it now. … We’ll march until there’s peace,” Blum said.
Filmmaker and Santa Barbara resident Penny Little, who is compiling a documentary about the Santa Barbara protests, reminded the crowd why its assembly was important.
“Why are we here today? For peace on the brink of war … Peace almost sounds trite to describe what we’re asking for,” Little said. “Taking to the streets is the only way our voices will be heard.”
Also among the speakers, UCSB professor of Middle Eastern studies and religion Juan Campo said the protest was especially important in light of Colin Powell’s recent address to the United Nations, in which he tried to prove Saddam Hussein’s villainy.
“I’m here as a concerned citizen,” he said. “Powell made the best case possible to the U.N. with facts, innuendo, plagiarized information and old data.”
Campo called Bush’s administration a “cabal of evil” and likened it to the al-Qaeda terrorist group.
“The America I grew up in was a republic of freedoms. They want us to think we’re a republic of fear,” he said.
Campo’s sentiment was shared by the many protesters who cheered the speakers and booed names like Bush, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld. Goleta resident Samantha Cooper said she hoped the protest would persuade other people to join the anti-war effort and change the United States’ image abroad.
“I’m here to protest the war, which I believe is the result of pro-war propaganda in the media. I’m exercising my rights as an American … just standing up and having a voice,” she said. “It’s important that we exercise rights other countries do not have [and] try to change other nations’ opinions of Americans.”
Cooper said she felt news media had improperly addressed happenings in the Middle East.
“You watch CNN, and it says in these big, massive letters, ‘War on Terror,’ and that’s propaganda because it’s not necessarily about terror,” she said. “The news is owned by corporations, and the corporations support the government.”
Not everyone expressed dissatisfaction with a slogan on a sign, however. Clay Bodine, an artist who lives in Santa Barbara, also rallied against the war but toted a blood-red papier-m