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US Anti-War Demonstrators Continue Appeal Against War - 2003-03-18


As war against Iraq appears imminent, anti-war demonstrators in the United States are making a last-ditch effort to ensure that their voices are being heard.

Dozens of people opposing war with Iraq were arrested Monday during a peaceful protest on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Organizers say this action is just the start of anti-war activities planned all week across the country.

Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters came to Washington over the weekend. A candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday night was headlined by the folk group "Peter, Paul and Mary" - who were famous for their peace songs opposing the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

Under drizzling skies, many of the several thousand people gathered at the vigil sang along to the familiar words.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people came to Washington for what organizers characterized as an urgent effort to show public opposition to war with Iraq.

Janet Frick, 47, a childrens' book editor from New Jersey, carried a sign saying "U.S. Arrogance Loses Allies." "I just think our government is acting very foolishly and [President] Bush is charging ahead," she said.

Vince Newton, 41, from Virginia, says he is most concerned about the loss of innocent lives.

"The 'Shock and Awe Program' that the Pentagon wants to do is supposed to drop 3,000 bombs on the city of Baghdad in two days," he said. "It's a city of four million people. And I don't care how smart the bombs are, they will kill civilians. That's what it's all about to me."

Not everyone came to demonstrate against the war, though. Scott Gill, 36, carried a sign calling on the American public to boycott French goods. When confronted by an anti-war protester, he rejected allegations that the purpose of the war is to control of Iraq's oil.

"[Iraqi leader] Saddam [Hussein] killed a million and a half people - that's what we're stopping," he said.

Mary Travers called on the audience at Sunday's vigil to use the democratic process to show their opposition to war.

"Let's say, for argument's sake, it doesn't go well," she said. "Have we lost something? No; to the contrary. We have begun something. We have begun to speak out. In the last presidential election, 36 percent of the eligible voters voted. That will not happen in two years."

The group United for Peace and Justice, which serves as an Internet clearinghouse for anti-war activities, lists more than 100 rallies and vigils around the country, planned for the day after a war starts.