Weekend of Anti-War Demonstrations Planned Around Country
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Opponents of the Persian Gulf War are orchestrating a confrontation at a New England Air Force base, drum beating near President Bush’s seaside home and a rally in New York’s Times Square among scores of weekend protests around the country.
″We are trying to keep a presence so that people won’t say, ‘Well, you marched in Washington, but where have you been since?’,″ said Bonnie Garvin, spokeswoman for the New York-based National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, which is coordinating the demonstrations.
An estimated 75,000 people marched past the White House on Jan. 26 in the largest U.S. demonstration since the war against Iraq broke out Jan. 17.
This time, the size of the demonstrations will vary widely. And a new, unknown factor was today’s announcement by Bagdad radio that Iraq was willing to withdraw from Kuwait - providing that the withdrawal be linked to a pullout of allied forces from the region, an Israeli pullout from the occupied lands and a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
In New York, where the Times Square rally is planned for Sunday, Ms. Garvin said she expects ″maybe a couple of thousand; I don’t think it’s going to be huge.″
In Orlando, Fla., organizer Bruce Cagnon predicted that a downtown event Saturday will draw ″a couple hundred; for around here, you know, that’s a pretty good-sized demonstration.″
And in Reading, Pa., Dale Vitale, an organizer of a Friday night lecture at a Unitarian-Universalist Church said, ″In all honesty, we are confident we will have 50 people. Seventy-five to 100 is possible and we are hoping we’ll get 150.″
In Maine, Sarah Carpenter of Somerset County People for Peace said the group planned daylong vigils Saturday and Sunday at the Village Green in Kennebunkport, about a mile and a half from the compound where the president will spend the President’s Day weekend. Organizers said many protesters would bring drums and beat them, as protesters have done across from the White House in Washington’s Lafayette Park.
″These are the real grass roots of what’s going on,″ said Ms. Garvin. ″It’s the national action, the big one in Washington, that gets attention. But it’s important that, between those big actions, people are out there doing these small things even if it’s only getting 50 people out.″
The events have been planned for weeks, but were given fresh urgency by Wednesday’s bombing attack on what Iraqi authorities said was a suburban Baghdad air raid shelter, killing scores and perhaps hundreds of civilians. U.S. officials said the bunker was a military command and control center.
″The pictures from Baghdad confirm the anti-war movement’s contention that these ‘smart’ bombs are wreaking senseless havoc and massive destruction on the civilian population of Iraq,″ said Leslie Cagan, coordinator of the national campaign. ″We demand the Bush administration stop its reign of terror.″
″Emotions are running very high here on both sides of the issue and, for the most part, we try not to be confrontational,″ said Vitale in Reading.
In a more confrontational mode, protesters organized by the American Friends Service Committee in Northampton, Mass., said they will try again Saturday to shut down nearby Westover Air Force Base, where 12 to 16 supply planes take off for Saudi Arabia daily.
Spokeswoman Hattie Nestle said training sessions in civil disobedience have been held all week.
Protesters plan a variety of events elsewhere, in about 65 communities in approximately half of the states.
In Nevada City, Calif., 2,500 feet up in the Sierra Nevadas, protesters will hold up banners at a park near a freeway entrance to show passing motorists their opposition to the war.
At Morristown, N.J., on Saturday, demonstrators will display a 45-foot-long yellow ribbon with an anti-war message. A number of colleges plan ″teach- ins″ on Friday and Saturday. In Omaha, there will be an interfaith service, in Connecticut a rally at the Groton Submarine Base.
In Boulder, Colo., the Rocky Mountain Peace Center has organized civil disobedience at a local recruiting station.
Cagnon said that at training sessions in Orlando a number of young people ″were very interested in exploring the idea of doing civil disobedience to try to stop the war, so I think that will become more and more a component of our activities.″
Ms. Garvin, however, said, ″That hasn’t been the direction we have been going in thus far. That tends to be something fewer people are going to respond to. We are trying to organize in a way that is going to be able to involve the maximum number of people.″