Protesters take to streets, armory against U.S. attack WAR IN THE GULF

January 18, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

The signs read: "No Blood For Oil" and "How Many Body Bags?" and "Iraqis Are Our Brothers And Sisters."

The marchers chanted: "We want jobs. We want peace. U.S. out of the Middle East."

And every once in a while, as about 500 anti-war protesters thronged Baltimore's 5th Regiment Armory yesterday afternoon, a passing motorist would show disapproval -- like the one who tapped lightly on his car horn and then raised a finger in an obscene gesture.

On the day after American planes began bombing Baghdad, Iraq, Baltimoreans who oppose the fighting gathered at Howard and Preston streets to protest war and plead for peace. Police officers stood by calmly, even when seven members of the Baltimore Emergency Response Network clambered up a ladder to the roof of one wing of the armory and poured human blood, oil and sand on a large metal sign.

Those protesters were quietly arrested shortly after 6 p.m., after occupying the roof for more than two hours. Another three were arrested about 7:45 p.m. as they tried to block traffic on Light Street.

The crowd on the street was loud but well-behaved. They carried signs that protested U.S. policy in Central America and racial politics in South Africa as well as the Iraqi bombing.

Matt Ginsburg, the student body president at Park School, came to the protest after a school day dominated by talk of war. "The classes are there. The students are there. But most classes eventually gravitate to the war," Mr. Ginsburg said.

Julia Barss, Polly Breyer and Holly Winer, Friends School seniors, took an exam yesterday morning, then came downtown to join the march.

Barbara Murock, 34, a Quaker, spent about a half-hour sitting on the cold concrete outside the armory and another half-hour in the middle of Howard Street, waiting for an arrest that never came. "I do this out of religious conviction," said Ms. Murock, whose husband and two small children were among the protesters.

But Ms. Murock failed in her bid for arrest. About two dozen police officers, most of whom waited inside the armory, out of the protesters' sight, did not seem anxious to begin hauling people into patrol wagons.

"It's going to get awfully cold out there," police Capt. M. J. Andrew said when told that Ms. Murock and others had vowed to sit on the sidewalk until they were arrested.

After more than two hours at the armory, the protesters marched to Harborplace, where some sat in Light Street and stalled traffic until police led three demonstrators away. About 8 p.m., a group of about 40 marched from the harbor north along Charles Street back to the armory, where they dispersed.

Other protests were reported around Baltimore yesterday. Nine Baltimore City College students were suspended after burning an American flag in a noontime anti-war demonstration in a courtyard outside the high school's cafeteria.

Principal Joseph Antenson said he informed the student body of the suspensions at the end of the day, emphasizing that the disciplinary action was taken "because of unauthorized activity that could endanger the safety of students, not because of the flag burning."

At a news conference earlier yesterday, Baltimore peace activists said the Persian Gulf crisis is wrong for two reasons: It is costing lives in the Middle East, and it is drawing attention from such issues as injustice in Central America and South Africa, homelessness in the United States and the AIDS epidemic.

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