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Group Plans Protests Over Berman’s Vote Backing Force in Gulf

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Peace activists in the San Fernando Valley said Tuesday they will stage a series of protests against Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) because he voted to support the use of military force in the Persian Gulf.

Members of the recently formed Valley Peace Coalition will meet tonight at the Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society to discuss details of the protests, which leader Jo Seidita said will probably consist of peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns.

“We’re going to be visible in all the creative ways we can think of,” said Seidita, a longtime anti-war activist who opposed the Vietnam War. “We do not want our sons and daughters dying over there.”

Several members marched briefly outside Berman’s Panorama City district office Monday. Last month, coalition representatives met with Berman’s aides to discuss a peaceful solution to the conflict.

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Berman was one of six California Democrats who voted Saturday to grant President Bush the power to authorize a military attack against Iraq. Berman spokesman Gene Smith said the congressman supported military action because he considered it the only way to resolve the crisis that began when Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in August.

Smith said Berman has worked for several years to persuade Congress to impose sanctions against Iraq because of its use of chemical weapons and support of international terrorism. “Having studied Iraq so intently, he came to this vote with a lot of expertise on Iraq and this was a vote where he had to draw on that knowledge and search his conscience,” Smith said.

He added that calls to Berman’s office in Washington in the days before Saturday’s vote ran about 5 to 1 against the authorization of war. Smith said, however, that those calls might not be an accurate measure of public support because opponents to upcoming votes generally call, while supporters are less vocal.

Seidita, who also is active in the state Democratic Party, said she and others in the informal coalition initially supported the deployment of troops in the Persian Gulf. But she said they became disillusioned by Bush’s unwillingness to allow sanctions to take effect and his varied reasons for justifying the presence of American troops.

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“Each week, he has a different line,” Seidita said.

The coalition, formed in November, is an informal group of about 300 Valley residents and has drawn members from organizations such as the Gray Panthers, Beyond War and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.


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