- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2001

Local residents and tourists on the Mall yesterday said today's anti-war protest is ill-timed and inappropriate, but defended the protesters' right to assemble.

"Any such protest would be really distasteful," said John Dennis, 43, a business manager from Bowie. "These kids are having their emotions fanned by people who don't know the facts."

A self-described pacifist who was arrested for Vietnam War protests 30 years ago, National Gallery of Art restorer Michael Pierce, 48, said he only feels hostility toward the protesters. "Most Americans are still dealing with their sadness after these barbaric acts," he said.

As many as 8,000 protesters are expected to assemble at Freedom Plaza at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and march along Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol.

The protesters originally converged on the District to rally against World Bank-International Monetary Fund meetings, which were canceled in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Greg Ulans, 55, a financial analyst from Fredericksburg, Va., said the only protest he would attend these days is a pro-war protest. "There are still thousands of bodies they haven't recovered," he said.

D.C. native Sunju Ahmadu, 19, a sophomore at George Washington University, said the "lives lost because of the attacks won't be brought back by bombing Afghanistan," but wondered why activists don't do something positive for the community, like volunteer.

Nobody who was interviewed yesterday called for the protests to be stopped.

Even though he disagrees with the protesters' message, lawyer Michael Kades, 32, adamantly defended their constitutional freedoms. "That's the difference between us and those who attacked us," he said.

The protesters may face a credibility problem when they gather, some said.

"When they cancel one protest and find another, it's suspect," says Roger Gerstenfeld, 61, who manages real estate in the District. "I believe in free speech, but this is an abuse of it."

Other residents and tourists dismissed the protesters as "protesting for the sake of protesting," "flavor-of-the-month protesters" and "phonies."

Others wondered exactly what they would chant. "How can you protest a war that hasn't started?" said Anthony Marchiafava, 38, who is visiting Washington from Minneapolis for the weekend with his wife, Judy.

Chris Brown, 21, a junior at the University of Chicago who is completing an internship at the State Department, said he agrees that "war is not the right answer." Still, he wondered if the anti-globalization protesters would make credible anti-war protesters, considering the violence associated with them in the past.

The threat of violence did concern some residents and tourists, who said they would think twice about visiting sights and museums on the Mall.

Karen McBride, 39, a scientist visiting from Venice Beach, Calif., said past experiences walking by protests have made her nervous. "You could get beaten up," she said.

But only a fraction of the original number of World Bank protesters are expected to turn out, since many of the largest participating groups, such as the AFL-CIO, have no plans to join the anti-war protest.

Cory Nydene, 27, a marketing manager from Des Moines, Iowa, who is visiting friends in Washington this week, "was not that wild about visiting this weekend" and is glad the protests will be scaled back.

Even with fewer protesters, retired D.C. resident Gerrie Bacon, 56, is worried about the "unnecessary burden this will put on the police."

"They could be out solving crimes or dealing with real terrorism threats," she said.

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