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Profile: Protests Over The U.S. Proposed War In Iraq Take Place Around The World

Weekend Edition Sunday: October 27, 2002

Protests for Peace

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Around the world this weekend, hundreds of thousands of people rallied to oppose a possible war against Iraq. From Rome to Berlin to Tokyo, demonstrators called for their governments to resist US pressure to confront Saddam Hussein. Across the United States, anti-war protestors gathered in town squares and downtown plazas. About 2,000 protesters turned out, despite a cold rain, in Augusta, Maine. In Vero Beach, Florida, 250 people met in 90-plus-degree weather. On Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, about 50 islanders ventured out on a stormy day to meet in the high school cafeteria. In Chicago, about 2,000 protesters gathered in the autumn chill near the shore of Lake Michigan.

We have three reports this morning on yesterday's demonstrations. First, from NPR's Nancy Marshall in Washington, DC, where organizers say 100,000 protesters were gathered.

NANCY MARSHALL reporting:

The Washington protest began under cloudy skies and a threat of rain, but as speakers took to the stage for a rally near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the sun came out and stayed out. The Reverend Jesse Jackson told the sunburned crowd that war in Iraq would be an ugly, unnecessary fight.

Reverend JESSE JACKSON: There is a time for peace. Now is such a time. A time for the UN, not unilateralism. A time for pressure, not pre-emptive strikes. A time for international criminal courts, not invasions.

MARSHALL: Some of the protesters have been activists since the Vietnam era and couldn't stay away when this rally was billed as the largest anti-war protest in 30 years. Fifty-four-year-old Jenny Otterson(ph) traveled to Washington from Bell, Florida.

Ms. JENNY OTTERSON (Bell, Florida): George Bush should walk past the Vietnam War Memorial every single day and look at all those names before he sends us into another hell. It's so disheartening that we protested in the '70s and we were successful in ending Vietnam, and I just hope that we can be successful in stopping this before it starts.

SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS; CHEERING

MARSHALL: Most of the demonstrators were students. Twenty-one-year-old Tamara Corn(ph) is a senior at New York University.

Ms. TAMARA CORN (New York University): I don't have a sign, and I'm not yelling, but I'm mostly here as a witness and just physically present, saying that I don't agree with what the government's doing.

Group of Protesters #1: No blood for oil! No blood for oil!

MARSHALL: Other demonstrators did do plenty of yelling as they finished their anti-war rally and marched around the White House. The protesters carried signs saying `War is not the answer' and `Drop Bush, not bombs.' One sign said, `Stop ignoring us.' But the president missed the protest. Mr. Bush was in Mexico, attending a summit of Pacific Rim leaders trying to build support for his position on Iraq. Nancy Marshall, NPR News, Washington.

Group of Protesters #2: No war!

Unidentified Man: Anti-war chant!

Group of Protesters #2: No war!

RICHARD GONZALES reporting:

I'm Richard Gonzales in San Francisco. A multiracial crowd of everyone from gray-haired grandmothers to black leather-clad bikers filled downtown San Francisco at midday to register their opposition to a potential war with Iraq. The march began near the Bay waterfront and snaked for more than a mile down Market Street. It took nearly two hours for all the marchers to reach the city's Civic Center. Organizers boasted a crowd of 50,000 people.

Representative BARBARA LEE (Democrat, California): We are here today to stop the war against Iraq. That's what we're here today for. That's what we're here today for.

GONZALES: Of the two dozen speakers, the loudest ovation came for Berkeley Congressman Barbara Lee. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, she was the only US representative to vote against giving President Bush a free hand in fighting terror. And Lee invoked the memory of Minnesota Democrat Senator Paul Wellstone, another vocal critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

Rep. LEE: Let us today rededicate ourselves to moving forward aggressively, to making sure that this silent, they say, minority, which it is a vocal majority, is being heard in Washington, DC, and that is you.

GONZALES: The demonstrators carried placards declaring, quote, "No blood, no war for oil," and "Regime change begins at home." Many harkened back to the heyday of Vietnam War protests, but Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, whose life was chronicled in the movie "Born on the Fourth of July," warned that this anti-war movement will face difficult days.

Mr. RON KOVIC: I encourage you to move with dignity. Move with the spirit of Martin Luther King, with non-violence and with great determination and make this a country that we can all love again and all be proud of. Thank you so very much. Thank you.

SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING

GONZALES: Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

RENE GUTEL reporting:

I'm Rene Gutel in Anchorage, Alaska.

The city's first frost of the year didn't deter 400 people from gathering at town square. Demonstrators shouted, sang and drummed. Protester John Christoferson(ph) waved a sign saying, `Pre-emptive strike is immoral, illegal and un-American.'

Mr. JOHN CHRISTOFERSON: It worked well for people like Atila the Hun, but we don't need to do that.

GUTEL: Saturday's demonstration was the third and largest protest in Anchorage this month. The numbers were greater in part this time because of the yearly Alaska Federation of Natives Convention being held this past week in Anchorage. Joining the rally was Dorkus A. Talkstein(ph) from Barrow. In English and in her native Inupiat, she explained why she's opposed to a US invasion of Iraq.

Ms. DORKUS A. TALKSTEIN: (Inupiat spoken). Mostly, I think that our country really should wait for the United Nations to do something, and not the United States themselves. I think I'm a little afraid that they're doing it for the wrong reasons and it's going to have drastic consequences.

GUTEL: A few counterprotesters wandered through the crowds. One was Justin Giles, a former local talk radio host. He carried a sign reading `Peaceniks encourage terrorism.'

Mr. JUSTIN GILES: If they really truly believe in what they're saying, to buy an airplane ticket to Kuwait and go over and have a little "Kumbaya" session, bring their drums and have a discussion with the Republican Guard. I have a feeling it won't work.

GUTEL: Similar anti-war rallies were held around Alaska in Fairbanks, Juno and Kenny Lake. The protest in Anchorage was organized by the group Alaskans for Peace and Justice. Lindsey Logan(ph) waved the state's blue and gold flag.

Ms. LINDSEY LOGAN: We're in Alaska. We're all Alaskans. And this is just my statement that I'm for the people and not for war.

GUTEL: Logan and her fellow protesters, however, remain in the minority. Most Alaskans support the president's Iraq policy. From member station KSKA in Anchorage, for NPR News, I'm Rene Gutel.

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Spring Lineup
From March 18 to June 21, 2002, Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hansen will serve as an interim host on All Things Considered, while its co-host Noah Adams is on leave to write a book. Until Hansen returns to Weekend Edition Sunday in July, NPR's Lynn Neary will host.