The Antiwarriors

Riding shotgun with Broward County's tiny but angry peace movement

"Bush knows the angels exist," she continued. "The pope knows they exist too, because they have showed up in front of them to say, 'Look, you're not doing good here.' But Bush won't listen, and he keeps it a secret. Look at these people. This is the will of the people, and this gathering will add to the vibration of the planet, and the higher vibration, the better."

Bath said a massive shift in humanity was about to occur -- and she wasn't talking about last week's Republican-dominated midterm elections. No, this shift had something to do with the end of time as we know it. It was supposed to happen at the turn of the millennium, but now she says it may be 2012, when one of the Mayan calendars ends.

And then, as I was thinking about Bath's angels, one appeared before me. It sat on a chair in the mud not ten feet from us, all dressed in white, with a halo and a set of wings. I pointed the angel out to Bath, who walked over and spoke with her.

A group of South Florida protesters poses outside the bus. Among them are Pavel Gubanikhin (second from left) and Evonn Gibbs (third from right). At top, mother and daughter Tina and Sarah Gwaltney catch some hard-to-get shuteye on the bus
Bob Norman
A group of South Florida protesters poses outside the bus. Among them are Pavel Gubanikhin (second from left) and Evonn Gibbs (third from right). At top, mother and daughter Tina and Sarah Gwaltney catch some hard-to-get shuteye on the bus

"Her name is Carol Laverne, and she's from New York City," Bath told me after her chat with the costumed woman. "She knows. When you know about the Ascended Masters, it just clicks."

Then Bath said she had to go to the Vietnam Memorial and walked away. A contingent of about 15 from the Florida bus stuck together while everyone else scattered. Tina Gwaltney and her daughter stayed together, each holding up a side of a large banner that touted the Broward County Green Party. Two middle-aged women walked up to Tina and chided her for helping Bush win the election. Another protester, obviously still miffed about hanging chads, walked by and scoffed, "Oh yeah, we remember about Broward County."

Tina took it in stride. She's a Green. She's used to it.

Speakers gathered on the dais and soon were bellowing out speeches over the amplifiers. After maybe 30 minutes, Susan Sarandon, wearing a dark coat and dark sunglasses, took the stage and gave a speech in a rather grating voice. "Mr. Bush, you have hijacked our pain, our loss, our fear," she said. "I say to you, Mr. Bush, this is what democracy looks like... Let us find a way to resist fundamentalism of all kinds, in al Qaeda and in our own government."

Sarandon didn't need the coat anymore. The sun had broken through the clouds, and it was getting positively hot outside. Or maybe it was body heat: More and more people kept swarming onto the Mall. Most of the signs were homemade, and they ranged from the wonderfully absurd ("Broccoli! Not Bombs") to the pointed ("Democracy in Florida Before Democracy in Iraq") to the very, very pointed ("Bush is a motherfucker"). Signs offered bounties for Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, and Joe Lieberman, who were wanted for cowardice and warmongering. Signs identified their holders as veterans for peace, the Yale coalition for peace, soccer moms for peace, farmers for peace, firemen for peace, even a little boy carrying an Etch A Sketch that said, "Toddlers for Peace."

A carnival atmosphere pervaded the proceedings, with a ghoulish-looking Uncle Sam walking around on stilts, a man in a bloody skeleton costume carrying an ExxonMobil sign, another protester gladhanding the crowd in a George W. Bush mask, and a couple of insane clowns running around screaming "Oil! Oil!" and "War is great!" A large group of Koreans danced in flowing blue, red, and yellow robes and played on beautiful, handmade wooden drums.

As speaker after speaker -- Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark -- berated Bush and his policies, people kept arriving, and the sun kept getting hotter.

Suddenly some protesters began walking back toward Constitution Avenue. The first to go was the Yale crowd, so I figured they must know where they were going. "It's time to march," Iglesias said.

Along Constitution were booths for Palestinian groups, socialist groups, environmental groups, anti-International Monetary Fund groups, vegetarian and vegan groups, animal-rights groups -- every feather in the left wing. Socialists sold and handed out the Independent, Worker's World, and the Militant newspapers. They were part of the professional protesters, maybe 25,000 strong. There were also lots of young people -- some looked barely 16 -- who carried backpacks with them. By their appearance, I suspected that soap wasn't among the contents of their packs. Somebody broke out a Hacky Sack, and a group of gypsy-looking teenage girls did a mock cheerleading routine: "Dissent, dissent, dissent-dissent-dissent!"

The majority of the crowd, though, seemed to be regular workaday folk -- although liberal-leaning regular workaday folk -- coming from around the country. I walked along the sidewalk beside the marchers to size the crowd. And kept walking and walking. Stacked 20 or more in a row, the line never seemed to end, and behind me, it kept growing longer. And there it was: the loyal opposition that's been missing in Congress.

While many of the marchers simply walked with their signs, a lot of them danced. Some pounded drums, and many chanted rhymes such as:

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