- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) — Tens of thousands of protesters streamed into Washington Saturday morning for peaceful demonstrations against a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq. Similar rallies were under way or planned in other cities across the United States and around the world.

Braving bitter cold temperatures in the teens, participants in the Washington rally were at the center of a weekend-long effort to deter a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.

Members of groups such as Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition, or ANSWER, 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 round trip to the nation's capital.

As the buses drove into Washington from as far away as Miami Beach, Springfield, Ill., and Bangor, Maine, local residents, dressed in multiple layers, crowded the city's Metro railway system with enthusiasm and energy.

"We're all going to the same place," someone shouted with laughter, as people jovially pushed and squeezed into the train.

Betty McKenzie, 63, of Falls Church, Va., was among those venturing into the city on the Metro Saturday morning. Although she lives a mere eight miles from downtown Washington, fear of crime and a dislike of crowds has kept her away from the city for years.

"Not even the cold will keep me away," said McKenzie. "I have two nephews in the armed forces, and I'm worried about them being sent over to the Middle East, and getting hurt or killed."

"I think Bush is just picking a fight with Iraq. Call me naive, but I believe that there has to be an alternative to killing — the world is too civilized," said Ruth Frislid, 45, also of Falls Church. "I think that it was Gandhi who said, 'An eye for an eye makes everybody blind,' and that makes me feel more strongly."

Frislid is worried about her 21-year-old son-in-law in the Marines, who is already going to Camp Pendleton, Calif., and is expected to head for the Persian Gulf in coming months, leaving behind his new wife and brand new baby.

When asked about Washington's cold weather, Frislid laughed and said, "I'm Norwegian, I can handle it."

Thousands of Lebanese and Syrians demonstrated Saturday in Beirut and Damascus, respectively, to protest a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq. The rally was also intended to support Palestinians in their fight against Israel, joining several in other countries to mark the International Day of Support of Iraq and the Palestinians.

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