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American Church People and Salvadorans Protest U.S. Policies

February 20, 1986

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ A group of American church people and Salvadoran mothers whose children are dead or missing marched Wednesday to the U.S. Embassy to protest what they said was the Reagan administration’s policy in Central America.

″We want to denounce the U.S. policy here of war rather than dialogue,″ said the Rev. Bill O’Donnell, a Roman Catholic priest from Berkley, Calif.

Carrying a wooden coffin and banners reading, ″We denounce the injustices of the people of Guazapa and all El Salvador,″ a group of about 50 people walked slowly for about a mile from the Metropolitan Cathedral to the embassy.

The Americans, about 10 of them, were accompanied by members of an organization called ″The committee of mothers of political prisoners, missing and murdered.″ The women wore black mourning garb, sunglasses and white scarves.

The church representatives said they were members of the California-based ″El Salvador Witness.″

Roughly 60,000 people have been killed in El Salvador’s six-year civil war. The Guazapa volcanic ridge, traditionally a guerrilla stronghold, became the focus of criticism because of a recent monthlong operation to clear the area of leftist rebels. It is located 11 miles north of the capital.

″Our primary concern is the civilians who have been forced to leave their land in Guazapa,″ said Baptist Bishop Jim Lowder of San Francisco, Calif.

The civilians in the area are mostly sympathizers of the Farabundi Marti National Liberation Front, a loose coalition of five guerrilla groups fighting the U.S.-backed government of El Salvador.

″It’s the Americans that help let this war continue,″ said Julia Penas, 33, a member of the mothers’ committee whose husband disappeared in 1982. ″We will not tire until there is respect for human rights.″

Spectators gathered along the curbs to watch the group pass. ″We don’t ask Reagan for helicopters and arms, we need food here,″ they chanted.

There was no reaction from the embassy, whose gates were locked when the demonstrators arrived. The American protesters read off the names of scores of dead and missing.

″We pray that Ronald Reagan, our President, will weep for the widows of war,″ O’Donnell said. Several of the women wept.

The demonstration broke up after about 45 minutes when the group hurled red and white carnations over the cement walls of the embassy compound.

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