Archive for Sunday, January 19, 2003

Lawrence protesters proclaim solidarity

January 19, 2003

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Nearly 400 people sang through scarves and held signs with mittened hands Saturday at what has become a weekly anti-war protest in front of the Douglas County Courthouse.

The Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice has sponsored the demonstrations since Sept. 7, and the crowd Saturday -- boosted no doubt by support for a larger march in Washington, D.C. -- suggested its message was getting noticed.

Young and old, men and women, veterans, dogs and anarchists -- all were part of what event organizer Allan Hanson said had become a bigger and more diverse crowd.

Although the event originally drew only a core group of people, now Hanson is seeing faces he doesn't recognize and hearing names he doesn't know.

"When a situation like this develops, then a whole lot of other people come forward and express their concerns," he said.

And those concerns -- and hopes -- were as various as the stocking caps that lined Massachusetts Street.

Kellyn Young, a 17-year-old Lawrence High School student, said she had never considered herself anti-war. She had never been to a coalition protest before, and she only came Saturday because a couple of friends suggested it.

But Young said she would to come another rally. She wants to represent middle-of-the-road Americans who haven't quite made up their minds on the stuff that is foreign policy.

Don't misunderstand, Young said. She doesn't care much for Saddam Hussein. But President Bush is wrong to suggest there is a strong pro-war movement in the United States.

"I just thought about it, and I didn't want innocent people to die," she said.


Another newcomer, Lawrence resident Jeannette Johnson, said she decided to put her Saturday to-do list on hold after realizing that not enough had changed in the 30 years since she had protested against Vietnam.

Johnson doesn't know whether Bush, who she called cynical, is paying attention. After all, with every passing weekend, the headlines in the newspapers increasingly tend to indicate coming war.

And although swaying the government is the ultimate goal, she said, it's not the only one.

Protesting "makes a difference to me," she said.

The demonstrations serve two main purposes, said Chris White, a Marine Corps veteran and Kansas University student who has attended all but two rallies and went to Washington to protest in October.

One is to network with those who have similar views, and the other is to draw new people to the cause. Getting the government's attention is nice, he said, but difficult, and remains a side issue.

The protests are more for the people themselves, he said.

Obviously the protests aren't directly stopping anything, said Corinna Brown, a 20-year-old Lawrence resident. But it's important that Americans continue to express their beliefs.

As a sign asking "Who would Jesus bomb?" waved, 5-gallon buckets were turned into drums and a nearby group sang about solidarity.

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