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Last-Ditch Peace Protests Continue as Nation Prepares Grimly for War

January 16, 1991

Undated (AP) _ Demonstrators pleaded, prayed and continued to demand peace today as America girded emotionally for a war that could begin at any moment, and an Iraqi fugitive wanted on explosives charges was sought in California.

Thousands were arrested Tuesday.

Hundreds of demonstrators remained outside the White House today after the midnight deadline passed for Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to pull out of Kuwait or face attack.

″Wake up, Bush 3/8 Don’t go to sleep tonight 3/8″ a demonstrator yelled as others shouted, pounded on drums or honked horns. The White House, surrounded by double its usual security force, was largely dark.

But while people protested, the military buildup continued.

Medical personnel from the Air Force Reserve’s 419th Tactical Fighter Wing - 68 men and women, including five doctors - were called to active duty today at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. The unit includes members from Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Texas and Wyoming.

Demonstrators occupied the Washington state House chambers overnight in Olympia, but all but five left early today as the Washington Legislature prepared for its third day of business in the 1991 session.

″The government we supposedly elect hasn’t listened to us when we say we don’t want to go to war,″ said Sarah Zainfeld, a student at The Evergreen State College near Olympia.

In Boston, 18 demonstrators were arrested around 8 a.m. today for trying to block traffic, police said. They were charged with disorderly conduct. Protesters shouting ″No blood for oil″ also blocked traffic at a downtown Boston intersection today. Police later arrested about 35 demonstrators who tried to block a downtown off-ramp of Interstate 93.

In a separate incident near Boston City Hall, about 350 protesters waving signs and chanting slogans stopped traffic and taunted the driver of a Texaco heating fuel truck.

Earlier in the day, peace activists around the country began to acknowledge that their cause might be lost.

Saddam and Bush are playing ″a game of chicken to see who gets off the road first,″ said Vietnam veteran Ron Weekly, who took part in a Denver demonstration.

″We must pray that a miracle happens and war does not,″ the Rev. Bill Fontaine told a candlelight rally in Kansas City, Mo. ″Only God can stop this.″

Meanwhile, much of the nation went about the grim task of preparing for war.

Military installations, nuclear plants and other possible targets of terrorist attack tightened security. Security was also stepped up along the 800-mile Alaska oil pipeline and its marine terminal, its operators said.

Police in southern California searched today for an Iraqi national sought on weapons and explosives charges whose car was sighted Tuesday near the main gate of March Air Force Base, home of the Strategic Air Command’s 22nd Air Refueling Wing.

The Iraqi, Duraid S. Azawi, whose visitors visa is expired, is wanted by San Luis Obispo police for failure to appear for trial last month on charges of possession of fraudulent credit cards, a sawed-off shotgun and possession of what was believed to be an explosive device, said police Lt. Robert Downey.

At Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Lt. Col. George I. Paskewitz, a psychiatrist, said plans are in place to counsel soldiers suffering battle stress. ″One of the principal things we’d do is early intervention ... before it has a chance to damage a person psychologically,″ he said.

Fred Rogers of television’s ″Mister Rogers Neighborhood″ taped public service announcements for parents and children on how to deal with war. They were to begin airing today. ″The least, and best, we adults can do is let our children know that we’ll take good care of them no matter what,″ he said in one message.

″This morning I slept two hours, and I was awake at 3 a.m.,″ Arlene Colburn of Rockland, Mass., whose 20-year-old son, Scott, is an Air Force technician stationed in Saudi Arabia, said on Tuesday. ″My legs shook, my heart was racing, and my mind was running like a fast computer.″

Amid the preparations, demonstrators in every major city and in scores of smaller communities pleaded for peace.

″The big lie this time, echoed again and again by the press, is that only Saddam Hussein can stop the impending high-tech butchery,″ author Kurt Vonnegut told a rally of more than 1,500 people at Columbia University in New York City. ″What a whopping lie.″

In San Francisco, more than 400 people, some zipped into body bags, were arrested by riot police using clubs and tear gas. The protesters, part of a group of 3,000 to 10,000, blocked the entrance to a federal building. About 100 more were arrested in protests that blocked traffic on the Bay Bridge between Oakland and San Francisco.

A final late-night rally involving more than 10,000 people took place peacefully in downtown San Francisco.

In Chicago, 200 to 300 people blocked traffic during the evening rush hour. At least 36 were arrested citywide. National Park police in Washington said about 70 people were arrested, mainly for protesting in off-limits areas near the White House.

Protesters in several cities noted grimly that Tuesday was the 62nd birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the apostle of non-violence. ″It is appalling that Martin Luther King’s birthday should be used as the date when George Bush says this country is going to go to war,″ said Barry Romo in Chicago.

In Los Angeles and Concord, N.H., hundreds of students walked out of their classes.

Update hourly