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Marchers Chant, Dance And Hobble Their Way Across The Bridge To Protest in Boston

By Nathan J. Heller, Crimson Staff Writer

The marchers set off from the Yard shortly after 1 p.m., squeezing through Holyoke Gate and pouring into Mass. Ave.

“What do we want?” someone shouts over a megaphone.

“Regime change,” the crowd chants in unison.

“Where do we want it?”

“Here!”

Cambridge Police officers on motorcycles guide the marchers into the left lane of the street as they headed east toward the MIT, their next stop.

Mr. Bartley, the white-haired owner of the Harvard Sqare landmark Bartley’s Burger Cottage, leans in the entrance to his restaurant, watching the crowds as they pass.

At the intersection of Mass. Ave. and Bow St., two march participants stop to ask Divinity School student Kyle M. Hall whether he will manage the long walk ahead. He hurt his ankle while running last week and is hopping up the street with crutches, carrying a backpack and two water bottles on his back.

“Yeah,” he says. “I’m going to make it there even if I kill myself.”

Hall says his religious beliefs made participation in the march necessary in spite of his injury.

“My Christian faith compels me to be here,” he explains. He wants to help effect the peace of Christ, he says.

A new chant overtakes the crowd. “What do we want?” a leader calls.

“Peace!” the marchers answer.

“When do we want it?”

“Now!”

As diners leaning over the railing in front of Dolphin Seafood wave two fingers at the train of marchers, a man on the Mass. Ave. sidewalk tries to sell Spare Change newspapers to the passersby. No one stops to puchase any.

The air is growing thick from the exhaust of police motorcycles surrounding the marchers in an entourage of grinding engines and flashing lights as they move to the right side of the street at the intersection of Mass. Ave and Mount Auburn St.

Pedestrians have stopped on the sidewalks to watch the passing march. Standing under bus stops, clutching plastic shopping bags, some nod their heads in rhythm with the protestors’ chanting. Many wave the peace sign over their heads.

“Come join us. Come join us,” the protesters cry toward the store fronts and restaurant windows as they pass.

A police officer standing on the deviding line in the middle of Mass. Ave. beats his hands together as a stream of students passes him.

“Kids, kids,” he says, “Come on, let’s get a rhythm.”

A new cry rises. “Tell me what democracy looks like,” the megaphone calls.

“This is what democracy looks like,” shouts the crowd in rhythm.

As the protesters pass the intersection at Norfolk St. a pair of men on the sidewalk shake their firsts and shout insults at the passersby.

A few blocks later, three men standing in the back of a black pickup truck wave United States flags and shout at the train of protesters. “U-S-A,” they chant as the dome of MIT’s Building 10 comes into sight.

MIT students are standing on every flight of steps facing the street. Many are motionless, staring at the protesters marching through the center of the campus.

A stream of marchers from MIT—1,000, according to HIPJ estimates—suddenly emerges from behind the Julius Adams Strutter building and merge into the stream of cheering Harvard Square activists.

The crowd moves on. A student tries to coordinate a new chant with a “rhythm section” of a few protestors beating empty drums.

“‘Don’t believe Bush. War is not peace.’ How about something like that?” he asks turning to one of the drummers. “Nice and simple.” But the cheer doesn’t take.

The crowd crosses Memorial Drive, passing a stopped jogger who gives the protesters a thumbs-up sign, and moves forward to occupy the length of the Harvard Bridge.

Then the protestors stop. They are early for their 4 p.m. protest at Boston Common, a voice says over the megaphone.

“Sit down,” the voice cries. “We’re holding the bridge.”

Some students collapse onto the pavement while others walk back and forth across the the length of the bridge.

A group of percussionists from MIT, wearing white jumpsuits, beats a complex rhythm on a full complement of real instruments as news and police helicopters circle overhead.

Then suddenly students are dancing in the middle of the bridge, bobbing and swaying and cheering with the drums above the still-frozen river.

Into Boston

People are pressed to their Back Bay windows as the protesters march down Mass. Ave. to Boylston St. At Newbury St., three people blow kisses from a third-floor apartment building.

Protesters wielding paper mache masks and puppets dance and sway to the drumming of Harvard and MIT musicians at the heart of the parade.

Heading up Beacon Hill, the protestors stop in front of the statehouse and shake their signs at its dome before moving on toward Government Center.

At the corner of Beacon and Bowdoin St. the Suffolk County Serrif stands with a paddy wagon ready. Half a block away, white-haired Southport resident Ralph White stands on the corner and makes broad thumbs-down motions at the passing protestors.

Someone tries to engage him in argument and jabs him in the shoulder. White lunges at him and the two scuffle into the middle of the street until six police officers dive through the crowd and pull them forcibly apart. White strains under the grasp of a burly officer, gritting his teeth and bobbing his head furiously toward the other man. Then he collapses into the officer’s arms, exhausted. Sirens wail; police vehicles surround the intersection in an instant.

The police steps up its forces at Government Center, where the protestors are quickly gathering to rest. A row of eight officers with face shield and beat sticks stands at attention before the John F. Kennedy building.

Near the street, speakers rally to attention beside a bookselling table offering war- and protest-relevant works. Down in the plaza, some protesters are lying on the spring-wet brick, resting before the next stage of the march, which will take them back to Copley Square.

Marquand Professor of English Peter Sacks stands in front of a small enclave of pro-war counter-protestors waving American flags, his hands in the pockets of his black overcoat, and shakes his head. Soon, he joins in chant.

“U-S-A, U-S-A,” he says, raising two fingers above his head.

At the lowest level of the plaza, students are paper-mache figures are still dancing to the beat of drums. But now they are bobbing and and weaving figures of skeletons among each other, swaying back and forth in the throes of mock battle.

—Staff writer Nathan J. Heller can be reached at heller@fas.harvard.edu.

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