As War Goes On, So, Too, Do the Demonstrations
On the first full day of the allied ground offensive in the Middle East, small groups of demonstrators gathered in the Southland to support and denounce the effort, while San Francisco was the scene of the largest protest march in weeks.
A crowd estimated at 1,000 by police and 4,000 by organizers marched up San Francisco’s Market Street on Sunday night, shouting: “Who’s going to stop the war? We’re going to stop the war.”
Police characterized the march as orderly, and--unlike in earlier demonstrations--traffic disruptions were minor.
“This war is for the rich, for oil company executives, for Pentagon brass,” Gloria La Riva, a rally leader, told the crowd. “We need money for AIDS, for housing, for jobs, for day care.”
In contrast, one of the smallest crowds to date gathered Sunday afternoon and evening at the Federal Building in Westwood.
Earlier in the day, the building’s grounds belonged to about 50 people who had gone there to express support for U.S. troops.
But by evening, they were outnumbered by about 250 sign-carrying anti-war demonstrators who held a brief candlelight vigil occasionally punctuated by the now familiar slogan: “One, Two, Three, Four, stop the fighting, stop the war.”
The demonstration was sponsored by the L.A. Coalition Against U.S. Intervention in the Middle East, which has held weekly demonstrations in Westwood to denounce the war.
Spokesman and UCLA graduate student Ahmed Naffef, 24, said the land war meant “more and more people will be killed--more Iraqis, more Kuwaitis and now, more Americans.”
He was joined by radio personality and rally regular Casey Kasem, who said: " We know this war is evil. Our President could have prevented it if he had taken the time to negotiate.”
Shortly before dawn in Hollywood, five anti-war activists representing a group called Operation Hollywood Peace Sign, used ropes and bed sheets to change the first “O” in the famed sign overlooking the Hollywood Freeway into a 50-foot-high peace symbol, police said.
In a prepared statement, the group said it selected the Hollywood sign because it is a “universal symbol of the values that America exports to the world.
“We are members of the endangered human race,” the statement continued. “This peace sign is a symbol of our hope for peace in the Middle East and throughout our world.”
A Hollywood area police officer said park rangers later removed the sheets.
It was the second alteration of the sign since U.S. troops were sent to the Persian Gulf after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait last Aug. 2. On Sept. 21, a group calling itself Artists for Social Responsibility draped sheets over the landmark’s 50-foot-high metal letters to spell “OIL WAR.”
Meanwhile, in San Diego’s Balboa Park, a weekly peace rally was much like the dozen or so held on previous Sundays--about 700 people chanted and waved placards painted with anti-war slogans such as “Buy Bread, Not Bombs.”
But there were signs that the outbreak of the ground war had brought new urgency to the gathering. For the first time, the march was led by a group of college students who danced just ahead of the procession, each grasping a stick of chalk. Every few moments, another student threw himself onto the asphalt as friends hurried to draw an outline of his body in the street.
“We want to put down as many of these things as possible so people will remember--there could be bodies in them,” Damon Avee, a 21-year-old freshman at San Diego State, said of the hastily drawn silhouettes.
Times staff writer Amy Wallace in San Diego and Times wire services contributed to this report