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by ANNA KUNKIN Tuesday, Oct. 02, 2001 at 5:51 PM

Between two and three thousand people gathered at the Federal Building in Westwood, California Saturday, joining in solidarity with the September 29th nation wide protest against the pending war on Afghanistan.

The new anti-war protestors are people of all ages and all walks of life. The expected old- guard-activists were excited to see in their midst not only people of the newer anti-globalization movement and anarchists, but also a majority of new faces; normally mainstream people feeling compelled to take a stand and have their voices counted with the growing number of dissenters against what they perceive as the looming war by the United States against innocent civilian victims, and the potential for complete global disaster if this is allowed to transpire.

People enjoying a Saturday afternoon coffee at the many sidewalk cafes lining the streets of Westwood were surprised when the protesters marched through the streets of the village wielding signs saying things like “Peace Is Patriotic,” “ War Does Not Stop Violence,” “Wage Peace,” and “Don’t Terrorize The Innocent,” sending the message that many Americans, while deeply effected by the thousands of deaths that occurred in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, do not feel that unleashing the power of the American militia on Afghani citizens is any kind of an appropriate response.

There were many reactions from the onlookers, some interested and wanting to know more about the movement, and some passionately against the marchers and what they stood for; adopting the standard “Anti-War Equals Pro-Terrorist and Anti-American” rhetoric promoted by the Bush administration. Signs saying “Act Now to Stop War and End Racism,” confused many. These signs, endorsed by The International Action Committee, seemed to have too general a message to really speak to the specific issue. Hopefully a lesson learned.

The numbers of participants swelled from maybe 1500 at the beginning of the march to what the police estimated to be around 2500 people by the time the crowd gathered back at the Federal Building for a rally and speeches. Speakers included Madga Miller from the International Action Center, Jim Lafferty from the National Lawyers Guild, Steve Martin, councilman from West Hollywood, and long time peace and justice activists Teresa and Blase Bonpane among others, who spoke of uniting to promote aleternatives to war.

Jim Lafferty celebrated the fact that during the anti-war movement in the 60’s it took years to get the kind of response generated now in less than two weeks, and reminded the crowd that the people marching in the streets was exactly the thing that ended the Vietnam war.

The rally served the duo purpose of allowing the thousands of people driving by see that there are many who don’t feel compelled to go along with the sheep-like frenzy of American flag waving and war mongering that has gripped the nation. People driving by honked their horns and displayed the peace sign in solidarity. Many stopped and joined the protestors, saying they were relieved and excited to discover that they were not the only ones with a different opinion, some saying they feel like martians in their offices and amongst their friends, but know in their hearts they can’t agree with the constant drumbeat of war surrounding them.

While the police in attendance as guards were polite, saying they were there to protect the gathering from potential attacks from dissenters, there were reports of parking lots not allowing people claiming to be demonstrators to park in their structures, and of closed freeway exits; blocking people’s approach to the Federal building. It is not known how many were prevented from participating in the event, and of course many speculated about the government’s role in this.

“It’s a great day for the movement,” said one veteran of the 60’s, and yes; the day ended with great feelings of hope and enthusiasm for the coming days as more people are expected to join in solidarity for peace. Demonstrations are scheduled for every Saturday at noon at the Federal building in Westwood.
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