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Archive for Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Diverse groups across country

December 11, 2002

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From Goshen, Ind., grannies collecting relief kits to a "die-in" on an Ivy League campus, Americans took to the streets Tuesday in mostly small, low-key events to protest a possible war on Iraq. More than 100 people across the country were arrested.

World War II veteran Ray Kaepplinger was among 40 people picketing outside a Chicago federal office building as 20 others were being arrested in the lobby for criminal trespass.

Kaepplinger, 84, said he had "been through the plume of hell in New Guinea" and didn't want to see another war erupt. "As far as I'm concerned, President George II is as bad as Saddam Hussein," he said.

About half of the 200 protesters demonstrating outside the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York were arrested for disorderly conduct, including clergy members.

Across the country in Sacramento, Calif., nine were taken into custody for blocking the entrance to a federal courthouse.

"It's my first time ever," said Maria Cornejo, 41, a mother of four from Dixon, Calif. "That's how important this is."

The group United for Peace counted more than 120 planned vigils, acts of civil disobedience and marches in 37 states from Alaska to Florida. Protests were being organized by fax and over the Internet by anarchists and Communists, evangelicals and Quakers.

In the Mennonite community of Goshen, people gathered soap, bandages, towels and other items to send to the poor of Iraq. Sharon Baker, 64, brought in three kits for shipment through the Mennonite Central Committee.

"I'm opposed to any war, any time, anywhere, any place because war doesn't solve anything," she said.

At the Women's Building in Albany, N.Y., dozens have signed up to fast for one day each to protest the Bush administrations threats of war.

Old and young

In the nation's capital, about 300 protesters, many with gray hair, staged a march to a park near the White House. Flanked by police, John Steinbach, 56, of Manassas, Va., an organizer of the Gray Panthers, was pushing the wheelchair of his 97-year-old wife, Louise Franklin-Ramirez, who he said had been protesting since 1917.

"The movement was looked on as being mainly youngsters," said Irving Irskin, 84, of Bethesda, Md., "but we want to show it's our war, too."

University of Texas student Andy Gallagher is arrested by Austin
Police officers after refusing to leave the Dobie Center during a
protest in Austin, Tex. Police in Austin arrested seven anti-war
demonstrators Tuesday during protests staged to mark International
Human Rights Day and to oppose potential military action against
Iraq.

University of Texas student Andy Gallagher is arrested by Austin Police officers after refusing to leave the Dobie Center during a protest in Austin, Tex. Police in Austin arrested seven anti-war demonstrators Tuesday during protests staged to mark International Human Rights Day and to oppose potential military action against Iraq.

Earlier in Washington, several people were arrested after converging on two military recruiting stations chanting, "Hell no, we won't go," and plastering windows with red tape.

Students at the University of Michigan set up a makeshift graveyard on a major walkway through the Ann Arbor campus, using cardboard headstones that read "Iraqi child" and "Iraqi man." About 100 students and faculty at Brown University in Providence, R.I., staged a "die-in" in front of the city's federal building.

Bush not bothered

The White House said President Bush welcomed the protests as part of a "time-honored tradition" of democracy.

While a recent USA/CNN/Gallup Poll found that a majority of Americans still support sending ground troops to remove the Iraqi president, the percentage opposed has nearly doubled to 37 percent since a year ago.

The protests were a far cry from October's mass rallies in Washington, San Francisco and elsewhere that drew an estimated 200,000 participants. But Eric Garris, director of antiwar.com, an affiliate of the nonprofit Center for Libertarian Studies, said those events were sponsored in large part by groups with agendas other than stopping a war with Iraq.

Unlike during the Vietnam War, mainstream groups are not waiting for a full-blown conflict to register their opposition. The National Council on Churches, which represents 50 million Christians, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times last week asking Bush to avert a war.

"It took 12 years for the mainline Christian churches and the Roman Catholic Church to come to an understanding that the war in Vietnam was wrong," said the Rev. Robert Edgar, the council's general secretary and a member of Congress at war's end in 1975.

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