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Antiwar Protest Is Peaceful but Raucous

March 31, 2003|Daniel Hernandez and Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writers

Thousands of antiwar protesters marched through downtown Sunday carrying placards and banners, and at one point the three-block-long mass of people chanted "George Bush, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?"

The peaceful but noisy march from Pershing Square to a rally at the downtown federal building was peppered with angry rebukes of the president and the war effort in Iraq. Some signs read "Think Outside the Bomb," "Some Cakewalk Mr. President" and "Bush is the Terrorist."

"I'm here to protest what I consider is not a war, but a slaughter," said Alton Donatto, 54, a paralegal. "I don't think there's a person here who wishes harm to any American soldier. We're here to spare them from having to do any more harm to others."

At its height, the march stretched about four blocks along Broadway, which was closed between 6th and Temple streets. Police said about 5,000 people attended; organizers said at least 20,000 attended. No arrests were reported.

The demonstration, sponsored by six local antiwar groups, featured a speech by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) and performances by folk singer Michelle Shocked and the Radical Teen Cheer squad, who did acrobatic stunts while leading the crowd in antiwar chants.

Only a handful of people were seen with signs supporting the war. The crowd screamed obscenities at them and told them to "enlist now!"

Two themes tempered the march. Many protesters said they wanted the troops to come home before there is more bloodshed. Others complained that the media -- including the Los Angeles Times -- are concentrating more on strategy than on the suffering.

Merchants worked the crowds hawking antiwar bumper stickers, buttons and even "peace panties" -- underwear with a peace sign on it. One T-shirt seller held up homemade white T-shirts proclaiming, "Don't Blame Me ... I Voted for Gore."

"I'm part of the anti-Bush movement, plus I'm trying to make a little money. I'm not going to lie," said T-shirt seller Brandon Victor, 22, a graphic design student.

As they marched past shoppers and storekeepers standing on Broadway's busy sidewalks, demonstrators called out "Join us! Join us for your children!" and "You should all be marching!" They were met mostly with blank stares.

Ron Kovic, 56, of Redondo Beach, the Vietnam War veteran who wrote the book "Born on the Fourth of July" that was made into a movie, spoke at the rally and then soaked in the atmosphere from his wheelchair behind the stage.

"Many of the people who are architects of the war haven't experienced war as I did," Kovic said. "They're arrogant, blind and reckless, risking the lives of the beautiful men and women that are our troops. It's shameful."

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