Act Now To Stop War & End Racism
March 15, 2003
Worldwide demonstrations show divided opinionsSaturday, March 15, 2003 Posted: 10:37 PM EST (0337 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Around the globe Saturday, people gathered in crowds -- some large, some small -- to express their opinions of the growing crisis with Iraq.
It proved to be a day of expression through megaphones, microphones and political placards.
There were chants of "U-S-A" in Atlanta, Georgia, and signs of "No War for Oil" written in plain English in Pakistan.
Sentiments at the world rallies were as varied as the locales, with many people saying Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is no threat; others insisting the dangers he poses can be dealt with short of warfare. And in the United States, at least, there were those who gathered to support American troops and those who see force as the quickest way to bring about an Iraqi regime change.
The largest rallies were for peace.
Hundreds of thousands protested in the heart of Madrid, Spain, shouting "No a La Guerra!" -- "No to War!"
The large turnout was intended to remind Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar that many of his countrymen oppose his support for the United States' "coalition of the willing" to disarm Iraq.
The crowds gathered as the buildup to a possible war appeared to be approaching a climax, and one day before leaders of the United States, Britain and Spain were to hold an emergency summit on the Azores to discuss how to proceed in their quest to disarm Iraq.
Those nations have sponsored a United Nations resolution to impose a quick deadline for Iraq to comply with certain criteria or face immediate retaliation.
Germany, Russia, China and France oppose the resolution, and the rest of the U.N. Security Council's 15 members fall between the two sides.
Protests in Europe, Asia, Americas
Large war protests were held in Belgium, Germany, Sweden, France, Russia and Britain.
In Canada, tens of thousands protested war in Montreal, the largest of rallies in more than 40 Canadian cities. Most of the rallies opposed war, but a number of them were in support of the U.S. stance.
In Tokyo, Japan, thousands of people marched to protest war, and similar rallies were held in Thailand and South Korea.
Anti-war demonstrators also filled the streets of Amman, Jordan, where protesters carried signs calling for U.S. troops to leave the Middle East.
In Baghdad, Iraq, where the reality of U.S. power could arrive any day, hundreds of thousands protested the policies of the country poised to invade them, in rallies organized by Saddam's Baath Party.
There were similar protests in numerous Muslim nations, including Pakistan, an apparent ally of the United States on the Security Council.
In the United States, sentiments were more divided along the spectrum of political opinion.
Large protests were held in New York, Washington and San Francisco, California.
The Washington protest drew tens of thousands of demonstrators, with organizers putting the figure at close to 100,000. Police had issued a permit for 20,000 protesters but estimated more than that had gathered on the National Mall.
"The more [people] know about the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the less they support it," said Tom Andrews, a former Democratic U.S. representative from Maine, one of the protest organizers.
Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan told the Washington rally: "We need a regime change in the United States." He added that Saddam should be tried for war crimes.
The rhetoric against U.S. policy was harsh from the stage in Washington but many in the crowd believed Saddam Hussein must be contained -- only not by an invasion, or at least not yet.
Many at the Washington rally emphasized that they -- like those who rallied in support of war or the president -- were thinking of the well-being of the 250,000 or so soldiers, Marines, aviators and sailors deployed against Iraq.
"We shouldn't send them over there unless we know it's the right thing to do," said Ferris Donoso of Rockport, Maine. "These are people with families they've left behind. I'm not going to ask them to fight this war."
She carried a sign reading, "Support Our Troops. Bring Them Home."
Steady rains did not deter thousands from gathering in downtown Los Angeles, California, where the Rev. Jesse Jackson said the Bush administration has a "competency crisis."
"We are determined as an act of global consciousness to stop an unnecessary war," Jackson said. "If our nation pre-emptively invades a nation without consent of the world and then kills and occupies people, that is a war crime, and we become an outlaw state."
Rebuttal to war protests
Elsewhere, there were other ideas for supporting U.S. troops. Several dozen people stood on a corner of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to challenge the anti-war activists.
"We've got to take action," said Ainsley Hargus, 18, of Rockville, Maryland, a college freshman. "Sitting in a circle singing Kumbaya isn't going to change anything."
In possibly the strongest rebuttal to war protesters, more than 10,000 people gathered in Atlanta, waving American flags and expressing support for U.S. forces and President Bush.
The crowds that chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A" stressed patriotism over war.
In Moundsville, West Virginia, police said 3,000 to 3,500 people rallied in support of Bush.
Nancy Doty, who had three brothers serve in World War II and another brother who was killed in Korea, watched one pre-rally parade. With her was her poodle, dressed in red, white and blue.
"I'm here to support the fellas," Doty said. "I hate to see the boys go, but if they have to go, I'm for them."
Other war protests were held in Boston, Massachusetts; Denver, Colorado; and Columbus, Ohio, where a few hundred rallied quietly alongside several hundred who had gathered in support of U.S. forces about to deploy to the Persian Gulf region.
Overall, the rallies were peaceful.
But in Washington, police arrested six people who broke into the World Bank Headquarters in what appeared to be a spinoff of the larger war protest.
In Jackson, Michigan, where people rallied in a park, Jann Krupa, 54, dared hope the peace mobilization would make a difference.
"I think it's pretty obvious that the president is going to do this," she said. But each week brings more protesters out, she said.
"There is still a shred of hope."
-- CNN correspondents Al Goodman and Maria Hinojosa, CNN producer Jamie McShane and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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