About 8,000 anti-Contra demonstrators marched in a candlelight vigil in the Westwood Village area Saturday night in hopes of influencing Congress to defeat the most recent plea from President Reagan for more money for the Contras.
The protesters, carrying candles and signs, represented 30 anti-Contra organizations, coordinated by a group which called itself Days of Decision.
Organizers said the purpose of the march was to demand that the President stop all aid to the anti-Sandinista Nicaraguan rebels. The parade route began at the Federal Building in Westwood and circled through Westwood Village.
While the marchers chanted, "No Contra aid," about 100 pro-rebel demonstrators shouted, "Yes, Contra aid."
At times, the pro-Contra supporters blocked the parade route and had to be moved out of the way by police.
Although the 100 Los Angeles Police Department officers monitoring the march reported no violence, verbal confrontations led to traffic snarls on several Westwood area streets, including portions of heavily traveled Wilshire and Westwood boulevards and Veteran Avenue.
The march concluded at the Federal Building near the San Diego Freeway where 35 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies appeared, wearing riot helmets and armed with tear gas guns.
Sheriff's Sgt. Gary Thornton said the deputies were there "to make sure federal property is not destroyed."
No tear gas canisters were fired, however. While the small pro-Contra group yelled, "Commies, go back to Russia," the anti-Contra protesters, estimated by police to number 8,000, peacefully disbanded.
Likened to Nazis
Earlier, as the parade got under way, Contra supporters passed out leaflets likening the march to those held by the Nazis in the late 1930s. "The Nazis had candlelight parades in 1938," the leaflets read. "In 1988, the supporters of the Sandinistas' Communists carry candlelights in solidarity with their totalitarian brethren."
But anti-Contra activists were undaunted.
"I'm dead set against Contra aid of any kind, including humanitarian aid," said Jan Folick, 52, of Venice. "I don't want to clothe and I don't want to feed terrorists. I'm a grandmother of eight grandchildren and I want to keep them safe from any kind of war."
Another Contra opponent, Cynthia Anderson, a march coordinator, said: "We do not consider any aid to the Contras humanitarian. This is to tell Reagan to get his hands off the Central American peace process."
The U.S.-supported Contras have been fighting against president Daniel Ortega and his government since the early 1980s. Last Thursday, the Nicaraguan government and Contra representatives began cease-fire talks.
Just hours before Saturday's march began, an American captive of the Nicaraguan government, James Denby, 58, was released and flown to Los Angeles International Airport. After his plane had been shot down over Nicaragua on Dec. 6, Denby was imprisoned on charges he was aiding the Contra rebels.
Both Denby's release and Saturday's march come less than a week before Congress is expected to vote on a $36.25-million request from Reagan for military and economic aid to the Contras.