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“Listen to the Voice of the People, for Many Times the Voice of the People Is the Voice of God!” South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu Entreats George Bush Before Hundreds of Thousands in NYC

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Hundreds of thousands of people protested here in New York City on Saturday. It is impossible to know the exact number. The city denied organizers a permit to march altogether, and police pinned demonstrators along side streets, preventing them from coming together at the stationary rally site near the United Nations. So unknown hundreds of thousands stretched north from the stage along First Avenue, and hundreds of thousands more were forced to march along Second and Third Avenues.

New York Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin writes, “Looking down Third Avenue and Second Avenue, as the crowds came up to try to get to the rear of the great crowd on First Avenue, and then peering as far down First Avenue as you could see, the size of throngs caused you to tell yourself, 'maybe a million.' Whatever it was, out on the street it felt like a million, and it was glorious. A news photographer I know came along. ’I’ve been everyplace. I have to say a million.’ Because of the Police Department’s reprehensible pens, the crowd was separated so that there was not one clear picture of an enormous group that would cause politicians here to faint.”

(The Police Department is currently estimating only 100,000 turned out. But protest organizers say the police told them throughout the rally that the numbers were at least half a million. Organizers say there were between half a million and a million people there.)

Throughout the day, people broke through the barricades and took over the streets. Police arrested at least 250.

We’ll now go to the voices from Saturday’s protest. We begin with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is internationally renowned for his nonviolent campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa. The son of a schoolteacher and a domestic worker, Tutu became the first Black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1978. In the 1980s, he was one of the leading spokespeople for nonviolent resistance to apartheid. Archbishop Tutu led a campaign for an international boycott on South African goods and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the divestment campaign in 1984. Tutu was elected bishop of Johannesburg in 1985 and the archbishop of Cape Town a year later. He retired from that office in 1996 but was immediately named archbishop emeritus. In 1995, then-President Nelson Mandela appointed Tutu to chair South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Archbishop Tutu is the author of “Crying in the Wilderness” and “The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution.”

Tape:

  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former archbishop of Cape Town, speaking in New York City on February 15, 2003.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Richie Havens, singing “Freedom,” opening the protest rally in New York. It is not clear how many people rallied. It is believed between half a million and a million people were in the streets of New York. The New York City administration had denied organizers a permit to march, so demonstrators were forced to hold a stationary rally near the United Nations. Tens of thousands of people stretched north from the stage along First Avenue. Then it became hundreds of thousands, as tens of thousands were also on the streets of Second Avenue and Third Avenue and other parts of the city, were met by police on horseback, as well as riot police. Police barricaded the side streets leading to First Avenue, preventing more than 100,000 people from reaching the even stationary rally. So many people flooded the streets, police were overwhelmed. And in the end, the people took over the streets anyway.

Well, we’re going to now go to Saturday’s New York rally. We begin with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, internationally renowned for his nonviolent campaign against apartheid in South Africa. The son of a schoolteacher and a domestic worker, Bishop Tutu became the first Black general secretary of the national — of the South African Council of Churches in 1978. In the '80s, he was one of the leading spokespeople for nonviolent resistance to apartheid. Archbishop Tutu led a campaign for an international boycott of South African goods and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the divestment campaign in 1984. He was elected bishop of Johannesburg in 1985 and the archbishop of Cape Town a year later. He retired from that office in 1996 but was immediately named archbishop emeritus. In 1995, then-President Nelson Mandela appointed Tutu to chair South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Archbishop Tutu is the author of Crying in the Wilderness and The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution. He spoke at the protest in New York, The World Says No to War.

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: Hello! Hello! You are all such wonderful, wonderful people! I want to give you a very warm clap. Let’s join — join me in clapping you! Come on! Thank you very much for coming out when it is not so warm. God is proud of you. God is smiling as God looks down on First, Second and Third Avenue. God says, “Hey, aren’t they neat?” because God is with us!

People marched and demonstrated, and the Berlin Wall fell, and communism was ended. People marched and demonstrated, and apartheid ended. And democracy and freedom were born. And now people are marching, and people are demonstrating, because people are saying no to war! We say no to war!

The just war theory says you need a legitimate authority to declare and to wage war. Only the United Nations is that legitimate authority. Any other war is immoral. The just war says, “Have you exhausted all possible peaceful means?” And the world says, “No, we haven’t yet!” And any war, before you have exhausted all possible peaceful means, is immoral. And those who want to wage war against Iraq must know it would be an immoral war.

You know, those who are going to be killed in Iraq are not collateral damage. They are human beings of flesh and blood. They are children. They are mothers. They are brothers. They are grandfathers. You know what? They are our sisters and brothers, for we belong in one family. We are members of one family, God’s family, the human family. And how can we say we want to drop bombs on our sisters and brothers, on our children?

We said no to communism. We said no to apartheid. We said no to injustice. We said no to oppression. And we said yes to freedom, yes to democracy.

Now I ask you: What do we say to war?

CROWD: No!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: I can’t hear you. What? What do you say to war?

CROWD: No!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: What do you say to death and destruction?

CROWD: No!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: What do you say to peace?

CROWD: Yes!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: I can’t hear you. What do you say to peace?

CROWD: Yes!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: What do you say to life?

CROWD: Yes!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: What do you say to freedom?

CROWD: Yes!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: What do you say to compassion?

CROWD: Yes!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: Well, we want to say, President Bush, listen to the voice of the people, for many times the voice of the people is the voice of God. Vox populi, vox dei. Listen to the voice of the people saying give peace a chance. Give peace a chance. And let’s say once more so that they can hear in the Pentagon, they can hear in the White House. What do we say to war?

CROWD: No!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: What do we say to peace?

CROWD: Yes!

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: Yeaaaaa!

AMY GOODMAN: Bishop Desmond Tutu at the World Says No to War protest in New York City, as we go to break with Holly Near and then hear Harry Belafonte.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Holly Near at the World Says No to War protest in New York City in subfreezing temperatures on Saturday.

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