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South O.C. Gives Peace Activists a Chance

November 24, 2002|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

Outspoken in their opposition to war, Branimir and Marilyn Radenovic had always assumed they were the lone peaceniks in their conservative Laguna Niguel neighborhood.

But at a peace march Saturday in south Orange County, the couple were amazed that nearly 150 other people demonstrated that they felt the same way.

Protesters marched from Aliso Viejo's Soka University, where a student activist group organized the event, to the Chet Holifield Federal Building in Laguna Niguel to show their opposition to a war in Iraq.

Snaking past gated neighborhoods Saturday morning, the group attracted supportive honks from passing cars, heckling from soccer dads telling them to take their protest to Berkeley, and nearly universal shock from bystanders amazed that an antiwar campaign was being waged in conservative south Orange County.

"I feel a lot less isolated after today, because we obviously aren't the only ones who are against this war," said Marilyn Radenovic, 53, a secretary for a local college district.

Aliso Viejo City Councilman Karl P. Warkomski, the county's first elected Green Party politician, said he had predicted a turnout of fewer than 25.

"I knew there were other people out there like myself who don't see the logic of this war," he said. "It's great that there is finally a forum for them to have a voice."

Warkomski and Soka students gave speeches and performed songs and dances at a rally before the march.

Laughter rocked the crowd when four Soka students recited a mocking verse set to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It":

... If we cannot find Bin Laden, bomb Iraq/Even if we have no allies, bomb Iraq....

Toting signs and flags emblazoned with peace signs, the group remained upbeat during the three-mile walk. A Sheriff's Department escort ensured they didn't walk into the street.

Although a handful of demonstrators had long hair and beards that made them seem throwbacks to the Vietnam War protests, the rest were a mixed crowd that included retirees and university students.

Soka sophomore Nira Sheppard, 18, attended various demonstrations while growing up in Philadelphia and went to Los Angeles for an antiwar protest last month. She said it's more important to hold protests in a conservative stronghold like Orange County than in urban areas.

"People down here have it really good," she said. "They need to be woken up from their complacency."

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