Washington — Lawrence residents joined thousands of other Americans on the National Mall Saturday to oppose the anticipated war with Iraq, in what organizers called "the largest pre-emptive peace movement in history."
Demonstrators heard Hollywood stars, labor leaders, civil rights activists, a member of British parliament and others call for the United States to end its confrontation with Iraq.
Many protesters then marched to the Washington Naval Yard and asked to inspect for weapons of mass destruction.
"Bombs will hurt the people in Iraq more than what's going on there now," said Jessica Cook, a Kansas University sophomore who attended the demonstration. "Saddam Hussein is not a good guy, but the options we're presenting are worse."
U.S. Capitol Police suggested the street march drew 30,000 to 50,000 people. Protest organizers said that the number was closer to 500,000. District police settled on "an awful lot of people."
Despite the size of the crowd, police reported no incidents.
"All is well and all is quiet," said Officer Kelly McMurry, a spokesman for the city's Metropolitan Police Department.
Capitol Police reported two arrests, one for disorderly conduct and one for defacing government property, but officials said they were satisfied with the peacefulness of the demonstrations.
Some speakers accused the administration of targeting Iraq only because of oil, disdaining claims that ordinary Iraqis will benefit if Hussein is removed from power. Others said the United States should concentrate on providing relief to the poor and afflicted in this country and around the world.
And others registered moral objections to war.
"War is not the will of God," the Rev. John Dear, an ally of the late peace activist Phillip Berrigan, told the crowd. "War is a mortal sin."
"It's time to find a solution to evil that does not involve becoming evil ourselves," said Tyne Daly, the former "Cagney and Lacey" actress.
And others noted that the holiday celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. arrives Monday.
"We are building a global movement that would make Dr. King proud," said Medea Benjamin, director of Global Exchange, a peace organization.
Lawrence attendees of the rally were receptive to such messages and hopeful about the possibilities of peace.
"I think (the rally) sends a message internationally that the decisions of this administration are not consistent with the views of many of the people," Lawrence resident Kirsten Bosnak said.
|In the event of an attack, the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice will invite the public to meet at the Douglas County Courthouse with candles at 6 p.m. on the day of the attack.|
But many were skeptical.
"Bush may not listen," Cook said. "The administration may not listen. But they should."