In Madison, visible opposition to the war in Iraq in the form of street protests has largely been somnolescent over the last couple of years since the presidential election in 2004, as local peace activists have focused on projects like municipal anti-war referenda. This changed on Saturday, Jan. 27, though, as about 400-500 people turned out on the UW Library Mall to participate in a series of rallies and a march held in conjunction with a large national anti-war gathering in Washington D.C. and others throughout the state.
At both the national and state levels, the gatherings were organized around the theme of "Not One More Death, Not One More Dollar," urging the new Congress to vote down an approximately $100 billion supplemental war appropriations bill expected to be voted on in March. This wasn't the only object of the protest in Madison, though, as organizers were also looking to build support and volunteers for an anti-war referenda petitioning effort in Stoughton and a Presidential investigation and impeachment referendum in Madison. These organizers were primarily the Madison Area Peace Coalition and Madison Veterans for Peace.
The multi-stage anti-war gathering in downtown Madison lasted through most of early Saturday afternoon. Things started just before noon in the UW Library Mall, where volunteers huddled under the protective wall of Memorial Library to escape the wind. By 12:30 p.m., several hundred persons had gathered in the mall, many carrying a variety of homemade signs, sundry flags, a giant dove puppet and a symbolic oil drum as their visual props for the protest.
Again due to the wind, the gathering was centered in front of the entrance to the library, where a pedestrian bench was utilized as a speakers' podium to replace the snow and ice encrusted concrete stage in the center of the mall. With local progressive talk radio personality Lee Rayburn serving as emcee for the event, the protestors listened to speeches from peace activist Alan Ruff and Vietnam veteran Will Williams, both of whom worked to drum up energy around the crowd in anticipation of the march.
This portion of the event began shortly after 1 p.m., with marchers taking the traditional route east along State Street towards the Capitol. Local peace and Democratic Party activist Dennis Coyier -- one of the rally organizers -- estimated that some 400 to 500 persons participated in the march, a figure also provided by downtown Dane County Supv. Ashok Kumar.
The opening of the new Madison Museum of Contemporary Art -- and its rooftop garden -- provided a valuable new visual perspective on the march. Looking down from the windy plaza atop the museum, one could see that the march stretched about one-and-a-half blocks along State Street, as it neared the Capitol. This perspective can be viewed in the video that follows.