YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Thousands Denounce War; Supporters Stage Events Too

March 23, 2003|Thomas S. Mulligan | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Tens of thousands of chanting, sign-waving marchers filled Broadway in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday in the largest of several U.S. demonstrations against the war in Iraq.

Protest rallies also drew crowds overseas, in cities from London to Berlin, Athens to Bangkok.

Supporters of the U.S.-led war effort staged sporadic counterprotests during the New York parade and held organized events in Chicago, Michigan, Tennessee and elsewhere.

In Manhattan, bright skies and temperatures in the 60s drew larger-than-expected crowds -- by police estimates more than 125,000 -- to the parade, which lasted all afternoon and, at its peak, stretched 2 1/2 miles from Times Square to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Overall, the march was orderly, although at the end a scuffle erupted between protesters and police in which 11 officers were sprayed with mace. By late in the day, there had been 47 arrests.

In San Francisco, thousands marched peacefully Saturday after two days of demonstrations marked by 2,200 arrests.

In Southern California, protests were emotional -- and creative -- if not as large. In Long Beach, surfers arranged their boards in the shape of a peace symbol on the sand. In Hollywood, just blocks from where the Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled to take place today, more than 70 people were arrested when they refused to leave Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. One protester hoisted a large picture of the Oscar statuette flashing the peace sign.

And at Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County, a small group of antiwar protesters stood silently outside the main gate. Several people gathered nearby to show their support for the war.

In New York, marchers included actors Roy Scheider and Ruby Dee, rock singer Patti Smith and cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who carried a sign reading, "No Blood for Oil."

"Peace is the order of the day," said actor Ossie Davis, who added that he served as an Army surgical scrub nurse in West Africa during World War II.

Other marchers wore costumes and made music, on harmonicas and pots and pans. Signs read, "Regime Change Begins at Home" and, whimsically, "Make-Up Not War."

"It isn't just the war," said Annmarie Pagano of New York, marching with her 9-year-old daughter, Amanda. "People aren't happy about the economy or Bush's election. Finally people are coming together and just finding a voice."

Among the politicians in the ranks were the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). Rangel, a Korean War veteran, said most of Saturday's demonstrators support American soldiers but oppose war "unless there's a threat of imminent danger."

Taking the opposite view was another Korean War veteran, Samuel Vazquez of the Bronx. Watching throngs of marchers enter Washington Square Park, he called the protest "bad -- against the country, against the president, against us veterans. If I was young, I'd go back [to war] again. I'm 73 years old, but I'm still a soldier."

On Manhattan's Hudson River waterfront Saturday, the Intrepid, a retired Navy aircraft carrier that serves as a museum, was draped with a massive yellow ribbon that officials said would stay in place until U.S. troops are home from Iraq.

In Washington, about 1,000 antiwar demonstrators cheered, chanted and danced in place about a block from the White House along the perimeter of Lafayette Square.

A makeshift percussion ensemble provided accompaniment as protesters shouted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, we won't kill for Texaco." Participants marched up 14th Street, briefly tying up downtown traffic before returning to the sidewalk outside the square.

Eric Anderson, an unemployed telecommunications engineer who lives in the District of Columbia, hoisted a Palestinian flag above his head to call attention to the issue he said is fueling anti-American sentiment around the world.

"Palestine is what sticks in everybody's throat in the Middle East," Anderson said. "It's the treatment of the Palestinian people that makes Muslims and Arab people angry."

Khaled Jaradat, a Jordanian American software engineer who lives in Washington's Virginia suburbs, attended the rally with his two sons to express sympathy for civilian casualties of the war. He had two miniature Iraqi flags pinned to his shirt.

"We're killing innocent people," Jaradat said. "I don't think we're winning a war. If you lose one person, you haven't won a war."

Mostly smaller counterdemonstrations have sprung up around the country too, appealing for support of the invasion or U.S. troops.

In Chicago, 600 to 700 people rallied in support of the military action at Federal Plaza, the site of antiwar protests each day since the attack on Iraq began.

Waving flags and red, white and blue signs supporting Bush, the crowd chanted "U-S-A." About 200 antiwar protesters shouted back from the other end of the plaza, and a line of police separated the two sides. No arrests were reported.

Los Angeles Times Articles