- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

CHICAGO, March 18 (UPI) — As the clock ticks down to a likely U.S. invasion of Iraq, protesters Tuesday called for acts of non-violent civil disobedience to oppose a war while supporters prayed for a quick, decisive conflict.

Security was tight across Chicago with the heightened "orange" terrorism alert declared after President George W. Bush's ultimatum Monday to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Police conducted random checks of vehicles outside terminals O'Hare International and Midway airports and patrols increased vigilance at train stations, power plants and commuter facilities.

Concrete barriers were in place on the upper and lower levels at airport terminals and outside the 1,450-foot Sears Tower, the tallest building in North America.

"We are in full preparation in case anything might happen," Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said. "We are complying the with 'orange' alert issued by the Department of Homeland Security."

Worshippers at Old St. Patrick's Catholic Church in the West Loop prayed for peace at 7 a.m. mass but said they were preparing for war.

"You have a madman who has taken over the country and you have to get rid of him," said Patrice Wilson.

Another parishioner said former President George H.W. Bush should have removed Saddam from power 12 years ago when the United States had an international Gulf War coalition poised near Baghdad and the world support to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

With Saddam's son, Uday, rejecting Bush's 48-hour deadline to leave Iraq, others just prayed for a miracle.

Anti-war activists who drew 10,000 people to a Sunday rally at Daley Plaza vowed to conduct widespread civil disobedience the day U.S. troops launched a pre-emptive assault on Iraq.

"Bush has arrogantly chosen to ignore our voices," said Andy Thayer, spokesman for the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism. "Now this government will have to confront our bodies in non-violent civil disobedience actions large and small."

The American Friends Service Committee and the Iraq Peace Pledge scheduled training sessions in nonviolent civil disobedience inspired by India's Mahatma Gandhi.

A large protest was called at Federal Plaza the day the war begins.

Area politicians rallied around the flag calling for prayers and church bells to ring Sunday for American men and women in military uniform who may be placed harm's way.

"Let everyone give a big hand to our everyday heroes of the armed forces in the Middle East on alert to counter terrorism in Iraq," said Calumet City Alderman Nick Manousopoulos.

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with our men and women in the armed services who are bravely poised for battle to protect our freedoms and liberties."

William Kaplan said the president "had done a pretty good job scaring the hell out of everyone.

"I don't want this to go on and on," said the 40-year-old clinical social worker after Bush addressed the nation. "I would hope the president would use all the power that is necessary to make it happen quick … and also that once it is done they really will work with the Arab and world community. I don't expect it though."

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