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Hundreds Rally For and Against Iraq War

March 9, 2003

Thousands of people rallied in cities around the nation in support of, and against, a possible war with Iraq. But leaders of at least one group, demonstrating in biker boots and chaps, insisted they weren’t taking sides.

``This isn’t pro-war, this isn’t anti-war. It’s just 100 percent support for the troops,″ said Amy Miller, an employee of Cycle Source Magazine, a national motorcycling publication that helped sponsor a rally Saturday in Pittsburgh’s Point State Park.

The crowd, estimated by police at 1,500 and by organizers at 2,500, waved flags, sang anthems and mixed in red, white and blue with all the leather.

Robert Bootay, 53, joined in support of his son, Spec. Glen Bootay, who is in Kuwait with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

``They’re a little disheartened with some of the (anti-war) reaction they’re seeing though the media _ but they’re ready,″ Bootay said.

In Washington, several thousand people rallied at a park not far from the White House as part of International Women’s Day. The event was organized by the group CodePink, which took its name as a protest against the government’s color-coded terror alert system.

District of Columbia police and organizers estimated the crowd at between 4,000 and 10,000 people. Later in the afternoon, 25 protesters were arrested on charges of crossing a police line in front of the White House.

``We gave them three warnings, we gave them an opportunity to leave,″ said Sgt. Scott Fear, a spokesman for the United States Park Police. He said the arrests were handled calmly, and the protesters were expected to be processed and released within hours.

Demonstrators believed they were within the law, said Jodie Evans, a co-founder of Code Pink. ``The White House is definitely afraid of women in pink and the power of love,″ she said.

In Fayetteville, N.C., home of Fort Bragg, where 20,000 troops have been deployed for a possible war with Iraq, police estimated 1,000 gathered to show support for U.S. soldiers overseas.

``My heroes wear camouflage,″ read one handmade poster in the crowd.

No arrests were made in Los Angeles, where authorities estimated more than 600 anti-war demonstrators converged on the federal building, including a group led by actor Danny Glover.

``Women are most affected by war,″ Glover said, also acknowledging International Women’s Day. ``It is the real caregivers of this mother Earth who are most devastated.″

Joining them on federal grounds were four women followers of the Raelian sect who stripped down to their thong underwear as a sign of opposition to war. The sect believes life on Earth was created by space aliens and claims to have produced human clones.

``Whenever everybody undresses, the ego goes away and then we can make decisions,″ said Nadine Gary. ``Imagine President Bush nude addressing the state of the union. Imagine Saddam Hussein nude.″

In Dallas, hundreds of Kurdish Americans rallied to support Bush’s push to disarm Iraq and called for the ouster of Saddam Hussein. ``Saddam is an evil guy,″ Bakh Dargali said. ``I mean, you have to take him out. I know war is bad, but we have no other choice.″

Demonstrators chanted ``Life, Life for Kurdistan″ on the 12th anniversary of the Kurdish revolt that created their autonomous enclave in northern Iraq. Saddam’s attempts to crush the March 1991 uprising created a refugee crisis that displaced millions.

In spite of windy, cold weather, a crowd estimated at 5,000 by organizer KFAB radio attended a rally in Omaha, Neb., where former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey urged them to support U.S. troops.

``If it becomes necessary for our commander in chief to order our sons and daughters into war, my belief is that America will come together as one nation and honor the commitment that our sons and daughters are making for us,″ said Kerrey, a former governor and Vietnam veteran who now is president of New School University in New York.

``No one is here today because they like war,″ he added.

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