- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

Thousands of anti-war demonstrators converged on Washington yesterday to rally for peace and protest pre-emptive military action against Iraq.
The demonstrators came from around the nation to beat drums, chant peace slogans, dance in circles and carry signs with such messages as: "No War With Iraq" and "Iraqi Children Are Not 'Collateral Damage.'"
The gathering remained peaceful throughout the day. It started early near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and ended in the evening after a march around the White House.
It was the largest anti-war gathering in the country on a day that saw similar protests in San Francisco; Augusta, Maine; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Protests also took place in Italy, Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Mexico, and in Berlin, where thousands of demonstrators marched before the U.S. and British Embassies, protesting U.S. war policies.
The activist group International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), orchestrated the Washington rally. Organizers said more than 100,000 people were in the crowd that stretched at least five blocks along Constitution Avenue NW.
"We are going to war for all the wrong reasons," said Melissa Bradley, who came from New York City's Harlem section to protest. "It's a coverup, an opportunity for George Bush to take the focus off of what is happening in the United States."
Money spent on a war would be better spent on domestic problems, said Ms. Bradley, 34, who is most concerned about the plight of minorities in the United States. "People of color are fighting for their lives every day, fighting for jobs, fighting for freedom, health care and basic rights," she said. "People of color will be inadvertently affected by this war. If there's a draft, the brothers will go first."
Ben Hood, 43, and his wife, Anne, came from western Massachusetts, carrying a sign that stated, "Bush + Cheney = Axis of War." Mr. Hood said a war with Iraq "will serve the Bush administration's purposes because they want the oil in Iraq and to control the oil in the Middle East."
Police said a counter-demonstration at the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW was so small that it presented no threat to the peaceful nature of the day.
The counter-demonstration included a contingent of about two dozen Iraqi-Americans, many of whom wore white turbans and long robes. The group was organized by leaders of various Islamic community centers, which included the Annandale, Va.-based Iraqi-American Council. They banged drums and held signs bearing messages such as "Save the World From Saddam's Mass-Destruction Weapon."
The anti-war demonstrators "have no idea about what Saddam does," said Said Al-Waly, who came to the United States in 1998 as a refugee from Iraq. "There are people suffering because of Saddam's regime. We want democracy and human rights in Iraq."
Hassan Al-Harery, an imam representing the Karbala Islamic Center in Detroit, spoke through a translator to say, "If the world does not stop Saddam now, it will be too late later on."
The anti-war rally centered on a series of rousing speeches from the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and others, including actress Susan Sarandon, singer Patti Smith and businessman Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.
"We need a regime change in this country," Mr. Jackson shouted over a loudspeaker to the spirited crowed. "There are some wars we should fight: the Civil War, to preserve the Union and end slavery; World War II, to end fascism; and even the Gulf war, to remove Iraq from Kuwait," he said. "But today, our coalition allies say there is no threat."
Last week President Bush signed legislation passed by Congress giving him power to authorize the use of military force to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power. Mr. Jackson said Iraq presents "no imminent danger" to the world, so "we would do better to negotiate. We are saying use containment over expansion, and that's why the number of people protesting this war will only grow."
Swarms of demonstrators performed "anti-war" dances. In one circle, men and women of a wide range of ages most appeared to be college-age or in their early 20s pounded leather drums and chanted: "We want peace. We want peace."
A haunting display was staged nearby when two dozen activists lay on the ground in white, plastic body bags. "Thousands and thousands of people are going to die in this war, including American servicemen and women, people in the Iraqi service and innocent civilians, but it will appear on television like a well-choreographed video game," said John Sellers, director of the Ruckus Society, an Oakland, Calif.-based group that organized the display.
Natalie Brandon, 24, who lives in the District, stood sentry nearby. "We talk a lot about why we're going to war, but [the body bags] are something we don't see," she said. "People will die. It will be the people we care about and love."

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