Anti-war activists face `tough crowd'

Group's leaflets largely dismissed at Inner Harbor

April 14, 2003|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

The weather was warm, but the reception at Baltimore's Inner Harbor was chilly yesterday for two dozen peace activists who turned out to distribute leaflets urging an end to the United States' involvement in Iraq.

Sharon Kangas, 57, of Bel Air angrily took one of the group's leaflets and tore it up. "I support [President] Bush; I think he's doing a fabulous job," she said.

Describing Bush as "a Christian who listens to God," she said that if he hadn't gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, "10 years from now my daughter would be fighting them in our country."

Others strolling the promenade at Harborplace tucked the leaflets into their pockets or purses. Some even read them. But most seemed to wave them off, or dropped them in a trash can.

"My view is totally opposite," said John Welsh, 38, a visitor from Milltown, N.J., who declined the papers. "I support the troops, the war, the decision to defend freedom around the globe."

Max Obuszewski, a longtime anti-war activist from Rodgers Forge, took the rebuffs in stride. "This is a tough crowd," he said.

The activists were members of Iraq Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, a group created by the American Friends Service Committee. "We're trying to save people on both sides," Obuszewski said.

Eight members were arrested last month for leafleting at Towson Town Center. But a pair of Baltimore City police officers walked by yesterday without bothering them.

The anti-war message has become harder to deliver since American and British troops stormed Iraq and television pictures showed many Iraqis thankful to be rid of Hussein.

Brendan Walsh, another longtime peace activist in Baltimore, said that he had never heard anyone in the activist community say anything positive about Hussein. But he fears America's welcome in Iraq will be brief.

"I think things are going to get a lot worse," he said. "I don't think Bush will get anything like a free country over there." Instead, he anticipates a fight over who controls Iraq's oil.

Maria Allwine, 50, of Baltimore said U.S. actions in Iraq are illegal and immoral. Her fear is that the United States will take on other countries, such as Syria, without fulfilling promises to rebuild Afghanistan or Iraq. "I'll eat all my leaflets if we rebuild Iraq," she said.

Her worry about America's future military ambitions was reflected in the sign she carried. It asked, "Who's next?"

One tourist who walked past her offered an answer: "How about France?"

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