- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) — Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters, braving biting cold and chilling wind, descended on the National Mall Saturday to protest U.S. military action in Iraq.

Speakers implored the crowd to fight what they said was President George W. Bush's movement toward war — the theme at the center of a weekend-long effort to deter a pre-emptive strike against Iraq — and invoked the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is Jan. 15.

The rally was coordinated by International ANSWER, Act Now to Stop War & End Racism, which led similar protests in March and April. A mirror protest was held in San Francisco and 32 other countries.

U.S. Park Police declined to estimate the numbers of the crowd. However, one park police sergeant said, "it's a good turnout; it's a large turnout."

"I think the organizers of the event will be very pleased," Park Police Sgt. Scott Fear said. No arrests or medical incidents were reported.

Standing on a podium at the Constitution Avenue end of the Mall, speakers including the Rev. Al Sharpton, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, actors Tyne Daly and Jessica Lange, and Ron Kovic, Vietnam veteran and author of "Born on the 4th of July," pumped up the crowd with two-minute speeches. The rally also included a performance by singer Patty Smith.

"If Martin Luther King were here, he would not be inside preparing for military buildup. He'd be outside saying give peace a chance!" Sharpton shouted.

Clark, former U.S. attorney general to President Lyndon Johnson, said he was starting a movement to impeach Bush for treasonous acts.

"Has George Bush committed impeachable offenses?" he asked. "Yes!" the crowd shouted back.

"It is time to find a solution to evil that does not include becoming the enemy ourselves," said Daly, an actor on the television show "Judging Amy."

Members of groups such as the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace, The 9/11 Peace Initiative and the American Muslim Council, organized buses for $35 and up for a two-day trip to the nation's capital.

Mae Rose Petrelin and Jenna Scheub were among a group from Northland College in Ashland, Wis., who held up a dove they had created with sheets and tablecloths, wire and bamboo. Their trip by bus took 18 hours, but both said it was well worth it. It was their first protest, and they plan to attend another in Duluth next week.

Their coats unzipped, neither seemed to be bothered by the cold. "It's much colder in Wisconsin," Petrelin said of the 12-degree weather in her home state.

The First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, New Jersey Independents, Pastors for Peace, the Spartacist League of the U.S., and other organizations set up tables and handed out anti-war signs amid hypothermia precaution announcements.

The peaceful demonstrators ran the gamut from young children to middle-aged people and senior citizens.

Eugene Marner, of Franklin, N.Y., stood in the back of the crowd holding a sign that read "Support Our Troops, Don't Send Them To Die In Iraq." He said he feared for the future well being of his grandson if he were drafted to serve in the military.

Paul Covington of New York sold buttons declaring the war on Iraq a quest for oil. "This (protest) serves as a leverage point to indicate that the people in the United States, more than the majority, are against the war," he said.

Heather Klemick, 25, of Washington, D.C., held a sign that said "Hey Dubbya, Who's Yer Daddy?"

"There's no appropriate justification for invading Iraq. There is no evidence that a regime change in Iraq will help," she said.

Allyson Newlin, 16, came from Kalamazoo, Mich., with her father. "My generation is going to be the one fighting this war," she said while holding up a sign that read, "The most beautiful victory is the one we can avoid." Her father held an American flag and said he was surprised that anti-war protesters were often called unpatriotic.

The protesters listened to speakers and chanted anti-war slogans. Following the two-minute speeches, the demonstrators marched from the Mall into southeast Washington, past the Marine Barracks on Eighth Street en route to the Navy Yard.

As the protesters marched toward the final rally point at the Navy Yard, a half-dozen college Republicans on a balcony on Pennsylvania Avenue expressed support for the Bush administration, wielding signs that read "Hippies Go Home!"

Farther down the route, a small group of senior citizens waved to the crowd from a second story apartment. Invigorated by the onlookers, a couple of protesters maneuvered their two-story high T. Rex titled "Bush and Cheney" over to the building, prompting one of the elderly ladies waving peace signs to kiss the puppet. Meanwhile, the crowd chanted, "Tell me what democracy looks like — this is what democracy looks like."

The march bottlenecked at the Marine Barracks, where dozens of counter-demonstrators had staked out a block of territory. Protestors paused to confront those who showed up in support of Bush's policy on Iraq and possible war.

However, the confrontation escalated to nothing more than shouting matches between the two sides of the police line.

Walls of police lined both sides of the street to protect the barracks and those who showed up in support of Bush's policy on Iraq and possible war.


(With additional reporting by Agustin Armendariz, Adrianna Borkowski, and Christine Suh)

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