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Crowd at Pro-War Rally Hears Bad News: Missiles Hit Tel Aviv : Demonstrations: An outpouring of patriotism and fury against Saddam Hussein marks a gathering of 1,000 in Santa Ana. A dozen anti-war protesters keep vigil nearby.

January 23, 1991|SONNI EFRON and MARK LANDSBAUM | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SANTA ANA — In a passionate display of patriotism and fury, more than 1,000 people packed the Plaza of the Flags at the Civic Center on Tuesday to denounce Saddam Hussein and support the U.S. war effort.

Many said they were enraged by the Iraqi leader's "barbaric" treatment of captured pilots, and one speaker called for Hussein to be tried as a war criminal and executed.

Demonstrators waved American flags festooned with yellow ribbons and carried signs that read, "Saddam, we want your blood, keep your oil," "The anti-war protesters are the Scuds, we are the Patriots," and "Our troops will come home--but through Kuwait." They sang "God Bless America," chanted "Jesus Saves," and finally knelt on the concrete plaza and prayed in unison.

Meanwhile, a dozen anti-war demonstrators kept a quiet vigil in front of the Federal Building about 300 yards away.

"Numbers aren't necessarily an indication of truth," said Kevin Craig, who has been at the building every day since the U.S. bombing began. "If a million people do something wrong, it's still wrong."

At UC Irvine, student organizers claimed Tuesday that a boycott had forced cancellation of some classes, but university officials said they were not aware of any such disruptions. Students supporting the war showed up at what had been billed as an anti-war rally and ended up taking turns at the microphone.

In Laguna Niguel, about 100 people gathered at a hastily called nighttime demonstration in support of the U.S. military.

Waving American flags and carrying banners with messages such as "Honk if you support the U.S.," the demonstrators provoked a din of horns from passing motorists. A parked pickup truck's "boom box" tape player blared the song "I'm Proud to Be an American."

"A couple of neighbors and I were sitting around (Monday), talking about all of these demonstrations by peace activists and we thought we should voice our opinion," said organizer Jim Lapierre, a retired Rhode Island police lieutenant now living in Laguna Niguel.

"Nobody likes war, and we're not in favor of war, but sometimes it's necessary," Lapierre said. "It's better that we get (Hussein) now before he gets bigger and stronger and gets us."

The pro-military rally at the Santa Ana Civic Center, called SOS or "Support Our Soldiers," was organized by John Stewart, a talk show host on Christian radio station KKLA in Los Angeles. It attracted a diverse crowd that included Christian activists, soldiers' friends, families and admirers, Vietnam veterans, Civic Center workers on lunch break, students, and even the members of a Christian motorcycle ministry.

Among the speakers were Orange County Supervisor Roger R. Stanton, Santa Ana Mayor Daniel H. Young, Pastor Paul Ries of the Calvary Chapel in West Covina, and Julie Umberg, who read a letter in support of the troops from her father, state Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Garden Grove).

Toward the end of the noon rally, Rabbi Haim Asa of Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton announced to the crowd that Scud missiles had just hit Tel Aviv, inflicting casualties.

Asa, who escaped Adolf Hitler's gas chambers 47 years ago, said he heard of the missile attack from his aging mother, who lives in Tel Aviv and spoke to him through her gas mask.

Asa said his friends in Israel "will pray shalom for peace--after this war is over."

The Rev. Frank Eiklor, founder of the Southern California Christian Task Force Against Anti-Semitism, said Saddam Hussein must be "defeated, disarmed and if necessary, destroyed."

"To remain at peace with tyrants is finally to surrender a world to tyranny," Eiklor said. If Hussein continues to fire missiles at Israel, or if he uses chemical weapons, he should be tried as a war criminal and executed, Eiklor said.

The anti-Hussein sentiment was palpable and more personal than at previous pro-military gatherings.

Santa Ana Mayor Young called Hussein "a barbarian who must pay the . . . price for his treatment of our POWs," and added, "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it from him any more."

Supervisor Stanton, looking approvingly at a sea of flags before him, mentioned polls showing 83% of the American public in support of the engagement.

"I didn't feel too good about that because it should be 100%," Stanton said to roars from the crowd. "I think the other 17% have a problem, and I hope they come around."

In a complaint echoed repeatedly Tuesday, Stanton said anti-war protests have dominated television coverage at home.

"While we gave peace a chance, Saddam continued to strengthen his war machine," Stanton said. "This is about freedom, not oil."

"The anti-war protests have been making my blood boil," said Sam Ferreri. The 26-year-old Villa Park medical student, who skipped classes to attend the rally, waved a placard showing a target range superimposed over Hussein's face. "We should be praying for Americans rather than protesting our policy."

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