The Hub City got hot on the fourth anniversary of the Iraq invasion as 400 anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown New Brunswick, NJ. Protesters took over the downtown shopping district, blocked a Marine recruitment station and shut down south bound lanes on Route 18 during rush hour traffic. Police responded only by halting traffic on the highway and tailing the march during the three hour long action. There were no arrests.
The protest began as a student walk out at Rutgers University at 1:30 pm, where several hundred students left class and gathered on Voorhees Mall for a rally. Speakers included several veterans, local activists, students and Sue Niederer, co-founder of the anti-war Gold Star Mothers and mother of Lt. Seth Dvorin, a Rutgers grad who was killed in Iraq.
During her speech, some right-wing counter-protesters began heckling her from the crowd. She had choice words for pro-war hecklers.
“You support this war? Then you come up here and enlist. That’s bullshit. You’re not willing to do that. You don’t have any idea what it is like.”
Just before 3:00 pm, the march kicked off with drums, whistles and music courtesy of the Disobedient March Band. Protesters headed straight for the Marine recruitment station downtown and about a hundred swarmed down the steps toward the doors, which were quickly sealed and locked from the inside by staff, who were greeted with an impromptu march band performance, chanting and spontaneous speeches from local residents who saw the protest and joined in.
Soon after, the march again swarmed through downtown traffic and headed straight for the highway entrance ramp to Route 18. With police squad cars trying to cut off the front of the march, protesters made clear their intention to take the highway. Rather than block the unpermitted march, officers halted traffic as nearby construction workers began cheering and pumping fists in the air as everyone passed by.
The group then took the Commercial Avenue exit and headed back to the shopping district, with chants of “Stay downtown! Shut it down!” A brief dance party began at the center of the Albany and George Street intersection with drummers playing and more musicians joining in, but as the bulk of the marchers continued, it soon dispersed and rejoined the rest. As dusk fell, the march returned to the Rutgers University campus, held announcements for further local actions, and dispersed into the twilight, hungry for more.
The student walk-out and march were organized and endorsed by Rutgers Against the War, Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, Tent State University, Student and Education Workers Union (SEWU), BAKA, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Students for a Democratic Society – Rutgers, New Brunswick Food Not Bombs, the Anarchist Soccer League of New Brunswick and the Disobedient March Band.