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Anti-War Protesters Step Up Campaign as War Draws Near


As the war with Iraq nears, anti-war demonstrators in the U.S. capital and other cities are stepping up their campaign of non-violent protest.

Public support for President Bush's ultimatum to Saddam Hussein is running high. The latest Gallup poll taken after Mr. Bush's Monday speech shows two-thirds of those asked approve and only 30 percent disapprove.

Numbers like these, however, have not diminished the determination of anti-war protesters. Ted Glick, a national organizer with the group United for Peace and Justice, said, in the past, anti-war movements never started out large.

"The opposition to the Vietnam War in the early days was very small, relatively isolated - there was a great deal of hostility. Over time, that changed," Mr. Glick said.

He said he believes the number of people who oppose the war will increase after the first shots are fired.

"If the bombs start to fall, there will be many, many more protests around the country. There is an entire national network. There's something like 10,000 people who have pledged that, if the bombs begin to fall, that they will risk arrest and commit non-violent civil disobedience," he said.

Anti-war protesters say they are willing to take risks for their convictions.

Peter Lumsdaine - in Santa Barbara, California - said the nearby Vandenberg Air Force base is one target for what he described only as a non-violent direct action.

"We are going into a base - at perhaps some risk to ourselves, we recognize that - that, in fact, functions as an operational strategic targeting for this war, the Aerospace Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, will be involved in the hour-to-hour, day-to-day operations of bombarding Iraq with hundreds, or even thousands, of bombs and cruise missiles," he said.

Mr. Lumsdaine said he also believes a war will cause opposition activities to intensify.

"It's really difficult for any of us to see far into the future, but I think, at least initially, anti-war movement or perhaps I should phrase it better, the peace and global justice movement - will continue to challenge this war," he said. "And I think that the opposition becomes extremely important in a different way once the war starts because I think that the task of the peace and justice movement is to challenge the war as it proceeds and to try to limit its duration, its extent, its escalation, its damage. "

Beth Rosdatter, from Lexington, Kentucky, has already paid a price for her anti-war protest.

"I've actually just gotten out of jail yesterday evening for a protest at the Bluegrass Army Depot," she said. "We've been holding witnesses there once a month, blocking a truck gate. The depot stockpiles and ships most of the small arms ammunition that will be used in the war. And we figure if we can block the bullets, then we're doing our part to stop the war."

Ms. Rosdatter says she was crushed when she heard President Bush deliver his ultimatum to Saddam Hussein on Monday. But she says she has a duty, as an American citizen who disagrees with the President, to speak out against what she sees as an unjust war.

She says she may not stop it, but that does not relieve her of the responsibility to try.

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