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Huge March Protests Bush Stance on Iraq

More than 100,000 antiwar demonstrators turn out at the White House, and thousands more dissent in San Francisco and Europe.

October 27, 2002|David G. Savage and Arianne Aryanpur | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — More than 100,000 demonstrators marched around the White House on Saturday to protest, peacefully but loudly, President Bush's plan to use military force in Iraq.

They carried signs bearing slogans such as "Regime Change Begins at Home" and "No More Blood for Oil." Another popular placard scorned the administration's war talk as "A Weapon of Mass Distraction." Organizers said it was the largest antiwar rally in the nation's capital since the Vietnam War.

Earlier in the week, they had worried that the Washington-area sniper would scare away protesters. But as the crowd swelled throughout the afternoon under a sunny sky, they said as many as 200,000 had come.

Worldwide, similar demonstrations drew crowds of thousands, from San Francisco to Augusta, Maine, and in Berlin; Frankfurt, Germany; Copenhagen and Stockholm.

"If we launch a preemptive strike on Iraq, we lose all moral authority," the Rev. Jesse Jackson told the huge crowd near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. "How will we say no to India, to Pakistan, to China when they consider preemptive strikes? ... Saddam Hussein should be held accountable for his crimes. That's a good argument for the International Criminal Court, not a good argument for bombing Baghdad."

The Bush administration strongly opposes the International Criminal Court, fearing that U.S. troops on peacekeeping missions could be accused of war crimes.

Jackson began his remarks by calling for a moment of silence to remember Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and his wife, Sheila, who died in a plane crash Friday. Wellstone was the only Senate Democrat in a reelection battle to vote against the resolution that authorized the president to attack Iraq. Notably absent from the dozens of speakers at Saturday's rally were any elected officials, with the exception of recently defeated Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney (D-Ga.). She lost in her party's primary.

The Senate Democrats appeared none too popular in the crowd of antiwar liberals and old-fashioned leftists. There were signs criticizing Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), both of whom voted in favor of the war authorization. But the most unpopular figure of all appeared to be John Ashcroft, the U.S. attorney general. The mere mention of his name prompted boos to swell from the crowd, followed by semi-obscene chants.

The "Axis of Evil" was featured on many placards and in several speeches. In this crowd, the evil threesome consisted of "Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld." Speakers included former Atty. Gen. Ramsey Clark, actress Susan Sarandon, singer Patti Smith and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

President Bush was in Mexico on Saturday attending an economic summit. "It would have been good for you to be here, George, so you could see what America really looks like," Sharpton told the crowd. "We are the real America. We are the patriots that believe that America should heal the world and not bring the world to nuclear war over the interests of those business tycoons who put you in the White House."

The demonstrators in Washington arrived on buses from around the East Coast and the Midwest.

"Bush is not telling the people the truth at all," said Katherine Tweedale, 45, of Detroit. She had driven overnight with two friends. "There is a nuclear presence in North Korea, and we are negotiating there. So why can't we negotiate with Saddam? There is a double standard in our foreign policy."

The crowd included many college students, as well as those who said they had protested during the Vietnam War era.

It also attracted a significant number of Muslims. Rashid Pharoan, a Syrian who has lived in Baltimore for six years, waved a large Iraqi flag and donned a traditional Syrian head scarf. "All the Arabs are our brothers," Pharoan said. "We feel they are like the Syrians."

The San Francisco rally drew an estimated 42,000 demonstrators in front of the newly gilded City Hall.

Jinni Harrigan, a psychology professor at Cal State Fullerton, spent the night downing cold pizza and sleeping on a bus headed for San Francisco. "In the '60s," she said, "I was raising my daughter. I said then that when the next war comes along, I'll march to try and stop it."

Said Stephanie Llewellyn, 52, of Orange County: "In the '70s, I demonstrated against Cambodia at UCLA. I'd been asleep ever since. It's time to wake up."

The mostly older crowd, representing a kaleidoscope of causes, united in opposition to war with Iraq.

Alexis Harper, 21, a yellow armband monitor, said that as an environmentalist she opposed going to war against Iraq because "war is a huge polluter and it's really unnecessary."

When the march was over, Eve Lieberman, 93, a tiny woman in a small wheelchair who has been an activist since the 1930s, voiced satisfaction in the turnout.

"So many homemade signs," she mused. "This wasn't the work of large organizations. It was really an outburst of people's sentiment."


Special correspondent Carol Pogash in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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