The prospects of a bloody ground war in the Persian Gulf prompted small protests on several Southland college campuses Thursday by determined anti-war organizers who argued that the billions spent on the war should be diverted to domestic programs to combat social ills.
The protests in Los Angeles drew scant crowds--about 150 at UCLA, which has 36,000 students, and 100 at 1,700-student Occidental College--and were among more than 180 staged at universities and colleges across America to coincide with the 26th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, the fiery black separatist.
More protests were held in Japan, Canada and other countries against the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
Some protesters said Thursday's demonstrations were poorly attended because many students--raised by parents who went to school during the Vietnam War-era protests--were uncertain about their feelings on the Gulf War. Others, particularly seniors, said they had higher priorities, such as graduating in four months.
"My big fear," said Occidental senior Maren Leed, 21, "is when I look back at this period, I'm going to regret not doing enough to protest this. . . . But many of the arguments are too emotional. I personally don't feel I can make a decision about (the war)."
Fellow senior Joyce Dillon, a 21-year-old English major who sat on a grassy knoll in near 90-degree weather to hear three anti-war speakers, said many at the Eagle Rock private college never thought the United States would go to war over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
"I was shocked by it," Dillon said.
At UCLA, eight speakers decried the war and other issues at an early afternoon rally that drew a crowd smaller than the one that had gathered for the Travelling Dingleberries, a rock band, at the same spot an hour earlier.
The students then marched through campus, chanting "Draft Dan Quayle!" and "No more war!" before constructing a "graveyard" of stakes with Islamic crescents, question marks, Stars of David, and crosses in front of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Los Angeles School Board President Jackie Goldberg, wearing a peace-sign pendant, urged protesters to "question authority" and not to yield to intimidation.
"If you don't attack American foreign policy, then your hands are as dirty as those dropping the bombs," she said. "Do not be disturbed by talks that 85% of the people support the war," she added, noting that the Vietnam War had overwhelming public backing initially. "Morality is not decided by majority vote."
At UC Berkeley, a sense of apathy prevailed. About 20 demonstrators performed anti-war street theater to a small crowd of spectators. An educational forum inside an auditorium attracted only about 20 spectators.
Activist Libby Sayre defended the turnout. "Our goal is to involve increasing numbers of people in educational efforts," he said. "I hope there will be a steady increase in anti-war sentiment on campus as people's understanding of the war increases."
Dissent was voiced off-campus as well. On the Westside of Los Angeles, a group of anti-war activists continued a sit-in and sleep-in at the field office of Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) that began Tuesday.
In New York, several hundred students staged a protest near the U.S. Courthouse and federal office buildings. The demonstration was peaceful, with protest organizers helping police keep the group from blocking traffic.
After the rally, the group marched to the Wall Street area.
In Chicago, about 200 protesters, some beating on empty plastic water buckets, marched into a downtown square, outnumbered by mounted police officers and foot patrols.
Times staff writer Barbara Koh in Westwood and free-lance writer Max Boot in Berkeley also contributed to this report.