Thousands Protest War’s 3rd Anniversary

Times Staff Writers

While some brought anti-war placards and petitions to Hollywood on Saturday, a group called Veterans for Peace crafted 100 flag-draped coffins from cardboard cartons and carried them down Sunset Boulevard to mark the more than 2,300 U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war.

At MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, the American Friends Service Committee laid out 240 pairs of boots, each bearing the name of a fallen soldier from California.

And in San Francisco, protesters dressed as members of President Bush’s cabinet and carried signs that read “United World Not United States” and “Stop U.S. Imperialism.”


Worldwide, demonstrations started Saturday with 500 people chanting anti-war slogans in Sydney, Australia, and rolled around the world, with major protests in Pakistan, London and the United States, where more than 1,000 people gathered in New York’s Times Square.

As many as 3,000 demonstrators were expected today in Seoul. South Korea has the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq, behind the U.S. and Britain. Another protest is planned outside the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the largest city in Malaysia.

In California on Saturday, thousands of people took part in activities to show their opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that began three years ago and to call for a pullout of American troops.

As he sat in MacArthur Park next to a worn pair of black boots with a tag bearing his son’s name, Fernando Suarez del Solar, 50, addressed the crowd in English and Spanish to encourage more Latinos to participate in the anti-war movement. A large image of his son was propped up behind him.

“My son died, and anything I do here will not bring him back ... but I think I can save other children,” he said. Suarez del Solar’s son was one of the first Marines killed in the war.

Gary Russell, 61, noted that the crowd at the park was small and that not many people were heading to Hollywood to listen to speeches there.

“I agree this march is not big -- not like the massive marches we had in the ‘60s -- but in time it will happen,” Russell said.

Later in the day, several thousand people marched in Hollywood to an area near the Kodak Theatre. Among them was Pablo Martin, who said he was joining an anti-war march for the first time. Martin, 32, of Los Angeles shouldered the corner of a prop coffin as he marched down Sunset Boulevard.

“I just got tired of not doing anything,” he said. “I think we’ve all been duped, and the young, the poor, the minorities are taking the brunt of it.”

Several of the protesters said they are growing discouraged at the length of the war.

“I don’t see any possible way for it to end any time soon,” said Flo Webster, 73, of Woodland Hills, who held up a hand-drawn sign reading “Grandmothers for Peace,” decorated with photos of her four grandchildren.

Those who addressed the crowd included Paul Haggis, who received two Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre this month for the best picture winner, “Crash.” He won for original screenwriting and was one of the producers honored for the film.

“This is my first time back to the Kodak Theatre since March 5 and I couldn’t be prouder to be with all of you,” Haggis said.

Actor Martin Sheen, who plays U.S. President Josiah Bartlet in the television series “The West Wing,” drew some of the loudest cheers with his call to end the war.

“Let my country awake,” he concluded, quoting India’s first Nobel laureate, the late Rabindranath Tagore.

After Sheen’s speech, Vietnam War veteran Edward Smith, 56, who opposes the war in Iraq, leaned over a metal guardrail and called out to Sheen, “Why isn’t anyone up there talking about the troops?”

Sheen paused to talk to Smith, pointing out the makeshift coffins carried by the protesters. “We want them home safely,” Sheen said of the troops.

In San Francisco, protesters danced in the streets and beat drums.

“It’s very painful to me that our country is doing this and killing innocent people,” said Joan Emerson, 70, of Mill Valley, who attended with the group Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. “I’m against all war, and I’m very concerned that I’m responsible as an American citizen for this kind of thing happening.”

Persis Karim, 33, said she was concerned that the United States might launch a preemptive strike on Iran.

“They may not do it in quite the same way as Iraq,” said Karim, a professor at San Jose State University. “But the agenda of the Bush administration is to secure the region, and obviously Iran is a problem to them.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.