- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2003

Counterdemonstrators were few compared with anti-war protesters yesterday, but they made their sentiments known at the U.S. Marine barracks.
By midafternoon, anti-war protesters were about two-thirds of the way through their march from the National Mall to the Navy Yard in Southeast when they met 80 counterdemonstrators outside the barracks at Eighth and I streets SE. The counterdemonstrators waved American flags and signs, some of which read "If you must burn our flag, wrap yourself in it first" and "What Would You Have Done on Flight 93? Free Iraq Now."
The vanguard of the protest marchers rushed toward the counterdemonstrators but were blocked by a wall of Metro police officers on foot, bicycle and motorcycle, along with six red-jacketed Guardian Angels. For the next 90 minutes, each new wave of protesters brought more shouting matches with their American flag-waving opponents, drawn from the ranks of FreeRepublic.com, called on its Web site the "premier conservative news forum," and Marines and Other Veterans Engaging Un-American Traitors.
Counterdemonstrators brandished signs such as "Welcome million Osama march" and "Free Iraq Let's roll."
"I came to engage in some stimulating dialogue and to see democracy in operation," said Richard, 47, of Norfolk who retired from the U.S. Coast Guard. "I only wish the Iraqis had the same." He would not give his last name.
"Swim to Cuba, comrade," an unidentified female FreeRepublic.com member shouted through a bullhorn.
Earlier in the day, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa spoke to the group of counterdemonstrators at a rally near the Lincoln Memorial.
"You are the core of America," he said. "Most Americans are sitting home like couch potatoes and watching this."
Although the counterdemonstrators were a smaller group, they were eager to proclaim that not everyone on site was anti-war. One small group of Laotians, representing several human rights groups from that country, blasted Laos' dreary human rights record.
"We ask today for Laos to be added to the 'axis of evil,'" said Philip Smith, director for the Washington chapter of the Lao Veterans of America, referring to President Bush's categorization of Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
"Just as Saddam is waging an ethnic war against the Kurds, so has the [Communist] Pathet Lao waged an ethnic war against the Hmong people," he said, referring to a northern tribe.
Aziz Al-Taee, a representative of the Iraqi-American Council who spoke to the Marines and Other Veterans, and the FreeRepublic.com groups, said none of the anti-war speakers accurately described the Iraqi dictator.
"They never tell of Saddam's horrible crimes," he said. "They never want to show pictures of Halabja, but they only want to show pictures of people affected by the [United Nations] sanctions." Halabja was the scene of a gassing of 6,000 Kurds by Saddam Hussein in 1988.
Kevin Martin, a black retired Navy veteran from Baltimore, said protest march organizers' assertions of fighting against racism are false.
"If all the demonstrators want to end racism," he said, "why do they support slavery in the Sudan?"
H.J. Brier contributed to this report.


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