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Peace Protest at Irvine School With USMC Parents Hits Nerve

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Shouting, “Honk for peace!” and waving placards at motorists, about 45 students staged a lunchtime anti-war protest Thursday in front of University High School.

It was the first time anyone can recall a demonstration at the school and the third peace demonstration held at Orange County high schools since U.S. troops were sent to Saudi Arabia in response to Iraq’s August invasion of Kuwait.

Decked out in a floral vest, a bead necklace, round sunglasses and a leather headband, Louise Wright, 14, said she organized the event to protest what she called aggressive U.S. posturing in the Persian Gulf.

“President Bush isn’t giving sanctions enough time to work,” said Wright, a freshman at the school.

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Rather than increasing sanctions and extending a blockade against Iraq, Bush’s policy seems to be to go to war as quickly as possible, she said.

“All those lives that will be lost,” she said. “And each one affects so many lives back here that it’s totally not worth it to have a bloody war (in a situation) that will work itself out if we give it enough time.”

As people drove past the intersection of Culver and Campus drives in Irvine, several drivers honked, waved or flashed peace signs to the students. Across the street in the school parking lot, members of the campus Young Republicans watched but decided not to stage a counterdemonstration.

“I don’t think they represent the opinion on campus,” said Nick Kuritzky, 16, a junior on the Young Republican side of the street. “I’m not for war. I think it should be the last means. But it will be necessary unless Iraq gets out of Kuwait.”

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Patricia Bowers, 17, a senior whose father is a Marine stationed at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, said the peace demonstration displeased some students with family members stationed in the gulf region because it showed a lack of support for the U.S. troops.

“Some of their parents are over there, and some aren’t coming back,” Bowers said.

She watched the demonstration wearing a T-shirt reading “United States Marine Corps” and with a yellow ribbon pinned to her jacket.

University High School has about 100 students with parents stationed at El Toro, many of whom have been deployed to the gulf, Assistant Principal Sue Buettell said.

Wendy Leeds, 14, whose father is a Marine sergeant now stationed in Bahrain, said when she first heard that Wright was planning the protest, she did not like it.

“But then I started to think about it, and I think it’s a good idea,” said Leeds, who crossed the street to join the protesters. “I don’t agree with the idea that there must be bloodshed or war, period.”

The 40-minute protest ended when the bell signaled an end to the lunch break and the students filtered back to class.

Buettell said she was heartened to see a revival of student activism. Just a few years ago, she said, high school students did not seem to care what was happening beyond their own lives.

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“I think it’s excellent that kids are getting less egocentric and know what’s going on in the world,” she said.


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