Thousands in LA Protest Possible War
Sat Jan 11,10:36 PM ET
By SANDRA MARQUEZ, Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES - With the U.S. government moving closer to war with Iraq, thousands of demonstrators, some pushing strollers and walking dogs, took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles Saturday to voice their protest.
"Here, take a picture of my sons' first protest," Maria Negrete, 27, goaded relatives as waves of people streamed by in a festival-like atmosphere.
A mother of three small children, Negrete echoed the views of many accidental activists who said although a war with Iraq might be inevitable, they weren't going to sit back without a nonviolent fight.
"There are going to be children like mine who will die for oil, which I think is crazy, stupid and dumb," Negrete said. "So I brought my sons, who are just as beautiful as any in Iraq."
The demonstration came a day after the Bush administration issued a massive deployment order to send about 35,000 new troops to the Persian Gulf region. Famed Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, who uses a wheelchair, led the protesters.
Others lending their celebrity to the cause included Martin Sheen, star of NBC's "West Wing," and pop singer Jackson Browne.
Organizers put the turnout at 20,000. But police offered a much smaller estimate of 3,000. There were no reports of arrests or incidents, said Officer Grace Brady, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Kovic, whose autobiography "Born on the Fourth of July," was made into a movie, predicted the protest would mark the start of "one of the greatest anti-war movements in the history of the United States."
Additional demonstrations, timed to coincide with the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, are scheduled to take place in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., next Saturday.
"I and others are entering a deployment order for citizens of this country to go to the streets and to protest in mass," Kovic said.
Standing nearby, retired school teacher Bill Payne, 65, said he had not participated in anti-war protests during the Vietnam era. But his feelings about activism changed over the years, prompting him to drive two hours from his home in Yucaipa.
"I don't want to see any kids killed. That's it. That's all there is to it," he said. "No kids in Iraq killed, no kids any place killed."
But he said the U.S. war machine might be unstoppable.
"I am sure that (President Bush (news - web sites)) is going to start his war anyway," he said. "I hope that he is getting stronger and stronger messages all the time that there are more and more people who really don't want this thing to happen."
Many of the signs at the protest appeared to be directed at the president.
"Mr. Bush, don't repeat your daddy's mistakes," read one.
"Bush is the real terrorist," said another.
"Bush, we are not your cattle," read a piece of white cloth hanging from a green rake.
Oscar Sanchez, an art student from El Salvador (news - web sites), found a creative way to express his dissent and belief that the conflict was being driven by oil.
Trailing behind his bicycle was a large military tank made of cardboard.
The names of two oil companies and the words "Just Married" were emblazoned on the make-believe military craft.
"By making it out of cardboard, I am showing that it can be discarded," Sanchez said.