YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Mideast War Foes Return to Old Site : Thousand Oaks: Demonstrators opposing the Persian Gulf conflict accuse authorities of unresponsiveness.


A group of war protesters returned Wednesday to a Thousand Oaks street corner they had abandoned after a series of clashes with supporters of the Persian Gulf conflict.

Wednesday evening, seven war protesters sat quietly at Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Moorpark Road, ignoring a group of 10 flag-waving backers of the war across the street.

Some had said they were reluctant to return to the protest site because eggs, rocks, bottles, firecrackers and balloons filled with urine had been hurled at them as they walked near the intersection.

Those claims, however, were denied by demonstrators anxious to show support for U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf.

Jason McLaren of Thousand Oaks said he was unable to identify the driver of a white pickup truck who threw the urine-filled balloon because the vehicle quickly sped away. He also said law enforcement officers have failed to protect them.

"We're getting limited response" from the authorities, McLaren, 25, said. "Their attitude was that there's nothing we can do about it."

Allegations of unresponsiveness against the Sheriff's Department, which provides law enforcement for the city of Thousand Oaks, surfaced last week after anti-war protester Ali Dempsey was hit by a car.

The driver of the car, Glenn Gazdik, 22, left the scene after the incident and called police from his residence.

Authorities initially said Gazdik would not be arrested because he obeyed the spirit of the law, but later said they are investigating to determine whether Gazdik committed a crime.

A group of war protesters appealed to the Thousand Oaks City Council Tuesday night for additional law-enforcement surveillance during their demonstrations.

One of them, 47-year-old Donna Schoenkopf, told the council that she became fearful after two men grabbed a protest sign and tore it to pieces. A group of seven men began to push her roughly, she said.

"I tried to pick up my sign, and they stepped all over my hand," she said. Another youth, she said, later spit on her face. When Schoenkopf tried to have the men arrested, deputies "said they were busy," she said.

Sheriff's Lt. Larry Reynolds denied Tuesday night that officers have failed to respond to protesters.

Some war protesters are to blame for the violence, Reynolds said, and some of their claims are "exaggerated. . . . There are some problems being caused by both sides."

Reynolds said officers, both undercover and uniformed, have been assigned to watch over protesters. Wednesday, three patrol cars were stationed across from the protest groups. Since the conflict began last week, there have been 45 citations and arrests in connection with the protests.

The majority of those cited have been people demonstrating in support of the war, Reynolds said. He said they were arrested on a variety of charges, including blocking traffic and blowing horns. Deputies also arrested two war protesters--a 17-year-old teen-ager and a 22-year-old Newbury Park resident.

Wednesday, 17-year-old Mike Ciandella of Thousand Oaks waved his flag in front of passing cars and shouted at motorists to show support for the United States. The Thousand Oaks High School student acknowledged that he has said things that might have been offensive to war protesters.

But he blamed the physical attacks on outsiders. Members of the anti-war group have also been belligerent, he said.

"They claim they're peaceful people, and they don't want to fight, but they come over here and they want to brawl," Ciandella said.

Ken Waite, 20, of Thousand Oaks said he expects to be deployed with Army troops to the Middle East in a week and has tried not to fight with anti-war protesters. Some of the anti-war protesters are his friends, he said. Nevertheless, Waite said he is angry.

"These guys should get out of my country because they're traitors," he said.

The almost daily anti-war demonstrations have attracted as many as 200 people carrying signs, chanting and holding banners to voice their opposition to the conflict.

Because of two particularly heated clashes during the weekend, anti-war demonstrators moved their protests Monday to Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Deusenberg Drive, near the U.S. post office.

Former Conejo Valley Democratic Club President Terry Grando said, however, that the move did not defuse the hostility. People who said they support the troops in the gulf followed the protesters and continued to hold their own demonstrations across the street, she said.

"We didn't know they would follow us," she said. "They were harassing us last night."

McLaren said some people have begun carrying cameras to photograph those who make threats against the peace demonstrators. But he said he prefers to have uniformed sheriff's deputies intervene.

"We need uniformed police officers with a high visibility to prevent these acts from happening," he said. "We need the protection."

Los Angeles Times Articles