Anti-War Demonstrators Bring Back Touches of Vietnam Era With AM-Gulf-US Protests
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Anti-war protesters were back in the nation’s capital Saturday, urging an end to the bombing of Iraq but insisting that they support American soldiers just as much as the war’s backers do.
″We Support Our Troops. Bring Them Home Now Alive,″ read a sign carried by Emily Fawcett, 16, of Ithaca, N.Y., one of the demonstrators filling Pennsylvania Avenue. The demonstrators marched from the Capitol to the White House in Washington’s largest anti-war protest since the Vietnam era.
″People are accusing peace protesters of being against the troops,″ Fawcett said. ″I think that’s ridiculous. The whole point is to bring them home alive.″
The U.S. Park Police estimated the crowd at 75,000 by the time the group reached the Ellipse for a rally. Organizers said there were 200,000.
″We cannot and will not accept the bombing,″ said actress Susan Sarandon, one of several dozen activists, celebrities and political leaders who spoke at the rally. ″It is because we love our country that we want to save the lives of thousands of men and women stationed in the gulf.″
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said nobody should be accused of lacking patriotism because they oppose President Bush’s policy.
″We can support the warriors without supporting the war,″ Rangel said.
The war’s supporters were also on hand, although in much smaller numbers, waving banners and getting into shouting matches with the anti-war marchers.
″Free Kuwait Now,″ chanted several dozen people near the Capitol, holding a sign reading, ″Support Desert Storm.″ One shouted to passersby: ″Are there any real Americans out there who want to join us?″
″I’m supporting our troops,″ said Brian Minnich, a Senate staffer. ″I think there’s a silent majority in this country who support what’s going on in the Persian Gulf.″
In fact, opinion polls show overwhelming backing for Bush so far, although the war is young.
Protests against the Vietnam War started small in the mid-1960s, building to 50,000 people in the fall of 1967 and eventually to 250,000 on Nov. 15, 1969.
Saturday’s scene was reminiscent of the protests of 20 years before. Peter Yarrow and Dick Gregory sang ″We Shall Overcome.″ Tired demonstrators rested in the National Gallery of Art and other museums on the Mall, their signs piled by the dozens near the door.
The oversized papier-mache puppets of the Bread-and-Circus Theater were back. Along the parade route, entrepreneurs laid out T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers for sale.
There were some new touches for the new war.
Stacey Blatt, down from Manhattan for the day, carried a sign reading, ″New York Giants Fans Against the War.″
″Football fans are not hawks as we’re portrayed,″ she said. ″The NFL doesn’t speak for us.″
Did she disagree with the decision to play the Super Bowl on Sunday, despite the war?
″No, I think they should call off the war for the game,″ she said.