More than 25,000 antinuclear demonstrators, many angered by the abortive U.S. hostage rescue attempt in Iran, rallied in a cold steady rain here yesterday, demanding an end to nuclear power at home and military adventurism abroad.
"No nukes, no nukes," and "No war against Iran" the sodden crowd shouted as it marched from the Capitol down Constitution Avenue NW to the Washington Monument grounds.
While speaker after speaker at an afternoon-long rally on the monument grounds blasted the nuclear power industry as unsafe -- a central theme of the long-planned demonstration here -- several others seized on the Iranian developments of the last few days, saying they have brought the world closer to nuclear war.
Some condemned President Carter as a "madman" and "irresponsible" for authorizing the aborted hostage rescue attempt.
"This is the 174th day that the hostages have been in Iran, but its the third day since our government here has been out of control," said veteran antiwar activist Dave Dellinger, referring to initial steps in the hostage rescue attempt three days ago.
"Our government," he said, "is in the hands of a madman who risked not only the lives of the hostages but of the eight GIs [killed in the rescue attempt], the Iranian people and the human race.
Carter, he said, to scattered applause, "should be impeached. And he should be indicted for the murder of the eight GIs and indicted for the reckless endangerment of the human race."
Earlier, Helen Caldicott, an Australian doctor and head of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said, "We're in the hands of very irresponsible men."
"We've got to decide right here in the rain," shouted environmentalist Barry Commoner, a candidate for president on the Citizens Party ticket, "which road we're going to take: the one to the sun and peace, or the one to radiation and war . . . Our road is peace and harmony with the earth."
The crowd at the rally -- mostly young, white and enthusiastic -- stood in the rain or huddled under makeshift shelters, cheering the speakers and musical entertainers, including Pete Seeger and Holly Near.
Hawkers sold "antinuke" T shirts and Frisbies. People rocked and clapped to the music. Some drank beer or bourbon. The aroma of marijuana occasionally floated through the crowd.
There were American Indians who spoke of their native lands being "plundered" by the nuclear energy industry seeking uranium. There were Hispanics and blacks who spoke of joblessness, contending that the capital-intensive nuclear industry contributes heavily to it.
While the crowd was mostly white and middle class, there were small contingents of steelworkers, coal miners and trade unionists. Signs and placards in the crowd showed the diversity of still other groups: homosexuals, senior citizens, vegetarians, high school students.
And the political radicals were there, too. Socialist Workers Party stalwarts sold copies of their "Militant" newspaper. The Socialist Labor Party carried a big banner in the parade. A contingent of Revolutionary Communist Party members showed up briefly with bright red flags. One group of anarchists sold their paper, The North American Anarchist, while another distributed a bumber sticker reading "Nuke D.C."
Police estimated the crowd marching from the Capitol to the monument grounds at 25,000 with several thousand more already waiting at the monument grounds.
The sponsor of the rally, the Coalition for a Non-Nuclear World, would not give an estimate. "Too many to count," said coalition spokeswoman Norma Becker.
Both police and coalition organizers speculated the turnout would have been larger if the weather had been better. Many local antinuclear activists and sympathizers apparently stayed home, and the crowd was heavily weighted with out-of-town contingents -- people on chartered buses from New York, New England, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
"With Carter's invasion of Iran, I knew I had to be here," said Terry Knapp of Jersey City, N.J. "Carter's insane move demonstrates that he will do anything.
Other demonstrators interviewed at the rally shied away from the Iran issue, and some seem confused by the multiplicity of issues -- nuclear war abroad, nuclear power at home, nuclear waste, unemployment, American Indian rights.
"I don't think you can isolate this cause [domestic nuclear power] from other causes," said Barry Connell, of near Seaport, Mass.
Others said they decided to demonstrate in the streets because they feel the traditional political processes -- Congress and the regulatory agencies of the government -- are unresponsive.
"When the Nuclear Regulatory Agency people come around," said Joan Petrosky, of Steelton, Pa., near the site of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident last year, "they don't seem to listen to us. . . . We're just a problem to them. They just want to go ahead with life as usual."
The Coalition for a Non-Nuclear World is also planning a march of up to 500 persons here Monday from the Department of Energy at 10th Street and Independence Avenue SW to the Pentagon where they plan a "civil disobedience" action to block entrances.