Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Protesters' message: Forget war




By Robert Anglen and Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As President Bush made what could be his strongest case yet for a possible military strike against Iraq, more than 2,000 demonstrators gathered Monday night on Cincinnati streets to deliver a message of peace.

        The demonstrators gathered along Ezzard Charles Drive and Western Avenue at the entrance to the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, where Mr. Bush delivered his nationwide address.

PHOTO GALLERY
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Police arrest a protestor who lay down in the street at the entrance to the Museum Center.
(AP photo/David Kohl)
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        The protests were peaceful before and during Mr. Bush's speech. But as the audience tried to leave the Museum Center parking lot afterward, dozens of people blocked the exits. It took about 50 police officers to clear a path so cars could get out.

        As the protests began early in the evening, some carried signs, some rosaries; some prayed, while others chanted. When Mr. Bush began his speech inside the rotunda of Union Terminal, many outside began their candlelight vigil.

        Mr. Bush's motorcade did not pass by the protests, and it is unlikely he would have heard or seen any of the demonstrators.

        “That doesn't discourage us. We oppose war. We want people to know that not everyone is going to support this like sheep,” said Cincinnatian Natalie Mathis, 27, of the International Socialist Organization. “We don't buy the argument that (the U.S.) should be a global peacekeeper.”

        Among those protesting were 45 students from the University of Dayton's Center for Social Concerns.

        “We just have a strong value and appreciation for life, especially now, especially this, when patriotism and the idea of violence is so visible,” said Julie Reider, 21, a senior from Toledo. “We have to be beacons of peace and create communities of peace.”

        Another demonstrator, Pam Conine, a school teacher from Yellow Springs, Ohio, said she came to make her voice known.

        “Conflict and war is no way to go,” she said. “Bush is asking the heartland to support his war. We're concerned citizens who say it is not right.”

        Across from Ms. Conine, Scott Gehring of Delhi Township waved a banner in support of the president.

        “I'm out here to show support for my president,” said Mr. Gehring, a University of Cincinnati student. “It's an important part of our duty to ensure Americans' safety.”

        Bill Re, 63, of Monfort Heights, said he doesn't support the prospect of military action. “It's all right to agree with the (weapons) inspections, especially if all the countries in the United Nations agree.”

        His friend, Dick Middendorf, 74, also of Monfort Heights, said that if he could speak to Mr. Bush, he'd say: “Be the first to walk in the front line of fighters, and we'll follow about 100 miles behind. Every son and grandson of everyone in Congress should be behind Bush first.”

        Lynnea Domienik, 15, a student at Walnut Hills High School, carried a sign that urged Mr. Bush to keep the United States out of Iraq.

        “My horror is that Bush is planning to oust Saddam Hussein. I don't support Saddam, per se, but any overthrow should come from his own people.”

        Jenny O'Donnell, 41, Linwood, a Democratic activist, said the turnout of protesters showed that many people are unconvinced that Mr. Bush is right. “I think the propaganda has been that the American people are behind Bush. This shows the propaganda is wrong. This is a very divided nation about this issue.”

        Cincinnati police said one person was arrested. Capt. Greg Snider said Lucas Schmitz, 22, of Flagstaff, Ariz., was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing official business. Capt. Snider said Mr. Schmitz lay down in the street at the entrance to the Museum Center and refused to allow an unmarked police car to pass. Police used a chemical irritant to make the arrest.

        Small protests at the Hamilton County courthouse and the federal building downtown Monday afternoon grew for a candlelight vigil at Laurel Park, about two blocks from the entrance to Museum Center.

        Some of Mr. Bush's supporters staged counter-protests, saying war is the only way to protect the country.

        “We're sending a positive, pro-Bush message,” said Drew McKenzie, a UC sophomore who belongs to the College Republicans. “We need to do what's in the best interest of our country here at home.”

        More than 120 College Republicans lined up close to the Union Terminal entrance just before the president's arrival.

        “I think it is important that we get rid of Saddam (Hussein) and other leaders who have weapons of mass destruction,” said Noah Meeks, 19, president of the College Republicans at Northern Kentucky University.

        “He is trying to convince the American public in general that a war with Iraq is worth their time and money.”

        E-mail ranglen@enquirer.com and kgoetz@enquirer.com

       



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