Anti-war groups stage protests in city

Ellicott City rally shows support for U.S. troops

War in Iraq

March 23, 2003|By Josh Mitchell and Rebecca McClay | Josh Mitchell and Rebecca McClay,SUN STAFF

Anti-war demonstrators marched again on Baltimore's streets yesterday, publicly washing an American flag of oil and red paint, parading in decorated cars and congregating in a west-side church to speak out against the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq.

Occurring the day after 40 people were arrested in a demonstration in front of the federal courthouse downtown, the protests were generally quiet and without incident. City police reported no arrests or injuries.

Instead protesters held symbolic demonstrations filled with emotional speeches. In the day's biggest rally, demonstrators paraded around the city in a 12-car caravan that was escorted by city police. The cars, bearing anti-war signs and flags, pulled up at Unity United Methodist Church on Edmondson Avenue, where about 65 people listened to Native American flute music, poetry and several speeches.

"What you did today is probably the best thing you can do - not just standing around, but moving," Larry Holmes, national coordinator for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, told the crowd at the church. "We're a snowball, and we could go through hell and we'd still be getting bigger."

Not all of yesterday's demonstrations were against the war. About 75 people gathered outside Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City to support President Bush and American troops in Iraq. They waved flags and urged passing motorists to honk to show support for the troops.

"I just want to let people [in the military] know that we do support them," said Kevin Milgram, one of two Mount Hebron students who organized the rally. "They have a critical job to do. They are our best and bravest."

In the city, the anti-war protests began about 11:30 a.m. with 30 people gathering in front of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House on East Pratt Street to hold a "flag-washing." One demonstrator read a speech through a megaphone as another scrubbed an American flag tainted with oil and red paint.

"This is as good a time as ever to try to wash out the blood and filth this [Bush] regime has dragged our flag through," A. Robert Kaufman of the Baltimore Coalition to End War and Terrorism told the crowd.

As in the other demonstrations, the crowd included people of all ages. College students and soccer moms joined at least one war veteran as they held signs that read, "War is Terrorism," "U.S. Foreign Policy is as humanitarian as the Sopranos" and "It's the oil profits, stupid!"

After the flag-washing, they chanted, "Hey Bush, what do you say, how many kids did you kill today?"

Kaufman said his group's main goal was to break down the Bush administration's arguments for war.

"A lot of us believe some wars are worth fighting," said Kaufman, 72, one of Baltimore's best-known leftist activists. "I'm not a pacifist. You give me a good reason to kill somebody and I'll kill him. But you've got to give me a good reason, and this government hasn't even given us a poor reason."

Others said they were there simply to advocate peace.

"I'm getting upset about being seen as anti-patriotic for wanting peace," said Joann Egan, 31, who carried her 23-month-old daughter on her back. "I think peace is patriotic."

Sun staff writer Liz Kay contributed to this article.

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