Members of the MIT community turned out in force on March 20 to support a student-led walkout and rally to protest the war on Iraq.
A crowd estimated at 600 filed out of offices, classrooms and labs at noon, gathering on Kresge Oval to applaud speakers who voiced opposition to the U.S.-led attacks that began the previous night.
The MIT Anti-War Coalition, a student group, organized the rally, recruited speakers, provided materials for making signs and banners, and transported the large, popular George W. Bush puppet to the steps of the Stratton Student Center. The puppet required three handlers; once aloft, it danced a goofy samba.
Students wearing white jump suits--dubbed "cog suits" to dramatize their slogan "We will not be cogs in the war machine!"--quietly passed out bandage-style armbands, complete with fake-blood "wounds." Anti-war chants and Brazilian drums provided rhythm and a little dancing for the chilled protesters.
"Nobody likes a bully," "MIT Nerds for Peace," "Get a non-military job!" and "I love my country--I oppose this war" were among the slogans. An enormous banner--"MIT says No Blood for Oil"--was spread out on the ground near the chapel, easily visible to local TV news helicopters swirling overhead.
Hugh Gusterson, associate professor of anthropology in the Program in Science, Technology and Society, said the war in Iraq is "about oil, about Israel, about American global dominance. We must decide what kind of country we want to live in--one guided by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld's squalid, inhumane vision? Do you want John Ashcroft reading your e-mail?"
Other speakers included Ayida Mthembu, associate dean in Counseling and Support Services; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, assistant professor in urban studies and planning and director of the Program in Human Rights and Justice; Stephanie Wang, a junior in economics who works with United Trauma Relief, an international humanitarian aid group; Afiya Whisby, a junior in architecture representing the MIT Black Students Union; Christine M. Ortiz, a junior in chemical engineering; and Jeff Duritz, a senior in urban studies and planning.
The MIT protesters were joined mid-afternoon by student groups from Harvard and Tufts. The united throng set off toward a larger rally in Boston, pausing to sit in on the Harvard Bridge, shutting down traffic briefly.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 2, 2003.