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Old 01-20-2003, 12:03 PM
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Default 20,000 Rally Against War

Peace Rallies Held Around The Globe

PORTLAND -- More than 20,000 people marched through downtown Portland Saturday to protest a possible war in Iraq in one of the city's largest peace rallies ever.
Downtown streets rang with drumbeats, cheers and peace hymns, and marchers hoisted signs that read "War is Just Terrorism With a Bigger Budget," "Preventative War: An Oxymoronic Idea" and "Grandmas for Peace."

Elderly women in wheelchairs joined families with small children, couples with dogs and hooded protesters dressed in black as the eclectic crowd wound through the city, at times stopping traffic.

"Bush keeps saying he represents the will of the people, but he does not," said Barry Vandiver, 58, of Salem. "Two hundred billion dollars could be well-spent fighting hunger and the world problems that cause us to fight these wars."

Vandiver said he had protested against the Vietnam War too, years ago and half a continent away in Arkansas.

Fifty-year-old Candy Ouellette, of Portland, said her son, a U.S. Marine, left Friday from San Diego on a ship bound for Kuwait, possibly to fight a war in which neither of them believe.

"We have got a president who is playing power games with our kids. He hasn't even explored all the options," she said. "It's a powder keg over there -- war is a big mistake."

A more radical group of protestors -- including anarchists -- occasionally splintered off from the main gathering and waded into traffic-filled streets, saying they wanted to speak out for peace, but also against capitalism.

"I think the U.S. is becoming a world terrorist," said Grace Grantham, 62, of Portland, a bookstore worker who said she'd been marching in protests since the civil rights era. Her own country, she thought, was more of a threat than either North Korea or Iraq.

Police pegged the number of demonstrators at "at least" 20,000, making it one of the largest peace rallies ever in the city, far above the 12,000 who turned out to protest the Persian Gulf War in January of 1991.

Portland and Eugene become epicenters for Vietnam War protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 2002, the city was home to several large protests, including one during a Bush visit in which marchers clashed with police, and another in November at which about 10,000 people peacefully protested war with Iraq.

On Saturday, there was a medium-sized police presence along the rally route, although no arrests or scuffles were immediately reported. One small group of protesters burned an American flag in the middle of a street.

Demonstrators around the world said they hoped the protests and more ahead would win over an American public unsettled by the prospect of an Iraq war yet supportive of Bush's leadership. Some hoped their activism would give his administration pause.

"We've seen this movement only build over the last several months and we're very hopeful we can stop this war," said Portland protest organizer Will Seaman.

Other protests were held in big cities, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Indianapolis; in small towns, like Venice, Fla.; and in international capitals, like Moscow and Tokyo.

In Portland, demonstrators said they doubted Bush's reasons for going to war.

Marchers carried signs opposing Bush that read "Drop Bush, Not Bombs" and "War is Camouflage: Emperor George Has No Clothes." Many protesters suggested Bush was involved with Iraq because of its vast reserves of oil - and not because of suspected nuclear weapons.

"If we want to right all the ills in the world, there is a long list," said Portland retiree Edward Ryan, mentioning world hunger and poverty in Africa. "Of course, there's no oil there."
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