Tens of Thousands March in Opposition to War in Iraq
They formed a peace dove on the beach and burned incense sticks in the sand. They cheered on a Hollywood celebrity who plays the U.S. president on TV. And in several suburbs, the antiwar protesters marched through their streets, some in tie-dye shirts, chanting, “Killing begets killing.”
In an array of peaceful protests from Santa Monica to Hollywood to the city of Orange, thousands of Southern California demonstrators -- some of whom had never attended an antiwar rally before -- voiced their opposition to a war in Iraq.
The largest crowd was drawn to Hollywood Boulevard for a 1 1/2-mile march. Police estimated the crowd at 30,000, while organizers placed the number at 75,000.
With Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as a backdrop and the Hollywood Walk of Fame paving their way, protesters began their march about 1 p.m. behind a phalanx of celebrities, including actors Martin Sheen, Anjelica Huston, Alfre Woodard and Mike Farrell.
Parents pushing strollers, college students and a few people dressed as superheroes and battle-bloodied soldiers flowed out of the Red Line Subway stations. At their peak, they stretched more than a quarter-mile along Hollywood Boulevard.
Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlet on the NBC series “The West Wing,” paraphrased a religious song, telling the crowd to “Make us an instrument of your peace,” as they cheered his words.
At the end of the march, two men allegedly rushed two police officers and tried to pull them off their motorcycles as the rally dispersed near Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue.
About 75 police officers on motorcycles and in riot gear cordoned off a three-block area around the intersection as a crowd gathered to watch the arrest of the two, dressed in black with bandannas tied over their mouths. They were taken to the LAPD’s Hollywood station. Police arrested five others on various misdemeanor offenses.
Lt. Horace Frank said the officers moved in quickly and stood guard as a “preventative measure,” and the episode was largely cleared up within an hour as demonstrators continued on their way back home.
As for the conflicting crowd numbers, Police Capt. Steven Jacobs said such estimates are just that, “a guess, an approximation.”
Michael Albert, a Vietnam combat veteran, and his wife, Johanna Derbolowsky, traveled from Redondo Beach to become part of the antiwar voice in America and to give their children, ages 10 and 5, a participatory history lesson.
“My mom told me we were going on a walk this morning to stop the war,” said Max Albert, 10. “We don’t want to have the war against Iraq.”
“I had a 13-month stint in Vietnam and vowed never again,” Michael Albert said. “Certainly not for this reason.”
The local rallies coincided with about 350 peace rallies around the world, including in New York, London and Rome. The New York rally filled the streets around the United Nations with thousands of protesters.
In California, several thousand massed on the steps and lawn of the state Capitol, calling for peace and unity, while marches also unfolded in Long Beach and San Diego.
In a distinctly Southern California event, between 2,000 and 3,000 marchers joined up with 500 meditators who sat cross-legged on mats, incense swirling around them, at Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica. Theirs was billed as a spiritual gathering that combined American Indian rites, poetry readings and Buddhist prayer to express their antiwar sentiments.
“Breathe in the sound of the ocean, breathe out your wish for peace,” said Mumun Algernon D’Amassa, one of the meditation leaders.
As part of an American Indian prayer, the Santa Monica crowd stood with arms outstretched toward the ocean to symbolize balance, then faced east, the direction of understanding, south for renewal and north for will power.
“We bring peace in a silent way, and we pray for the leaders trying to bring war,” said demonstrator Anita Campion. “We intend to cleanse out the negative energy.”
The gathering concluded with demonstrators lining themselves on the sand in the shape of a dove and a human face, an image based on Pablo Picasso’s “The Face of Peace.”
In the city of Orange, another 2,000 demonstrators, an eclectic group of well-dressed grandmothers and college students, soccer moms and ponytailed protesters wearing tie-dyed shirts took part in a three-mile march.
The crowd made its way from Hart Park into downtown Orange, some waving signs that said, “Killing begets killing” and “Axis of Evil: Bush, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.” One demonstrator shouted, “Drop Bush, not bombs!” through a bullhorn.
The political rhetoric disturbed some.
“I’m a little disappointed how partisan it is,” said David Dawes, 42, of Lakewood, who attended the Orange rally. “During the Gulf War, it was either you are supporting the troops or you are not supporting the troops.” Now, Dawes said, the discourse seems more focused on President Bush.
Nearby, Dawes’ 5-year-old son, William, played with toy soldiers, tanks and missile launchers on a picnic table. “He wanted his toys.... I thought it was amusing ... for the ironic value of it,” Dawes said.
“People are sick of being told what to believe,” said Lisa Crummett, 27, of Fullerton. “This is not so much about making a statement to the government, but making a statement to the people so that if you believe in peace, you are not alone.”
Honks of Support
In nearby Brea, Michael Clark stood on a sidewalk with about 15 others holding signs opposing war with Iraq. “We are getting a lot of supportive honks,” he said.
Amid the demonstrations against a war, about 25 supporters of Bush and five antiwar protesters turned out for a brief rally on Seal Beach’s Main Street.
Contributing to this report were Times staff writers Daren Briscoe, Stephanie Chavez, Daniel Hernandez, Kimi Yoshino, Daniel Yi and Joy Woodson.
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