SCMP Monday, October 1, 2001
Prospect of retaliation brings out thousands of protesters
AGENCIES in Washington
Thousands of anti-war demonstrators took to the streets of Washington and San Francisco at the weekend to protest against possible military retaliation for last month's terror attacks on the United States.
In the US capital, a handful of demonstrators briefly clashed with authorities, leading police to use pepper spray to control the crowd, but the protest was largely peaceful.
"We know that a new war will only deepen the cycle of violence," one of the organisers, Brian Backer of International Answer, told the anti-war protesters.
"The primary source of terrorism in the world is indeed the United States," said another speaker, the Reverend Lucius Walker, of Pastors for Peace. The world should focus on the reason why the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington occurred. "The answer to that is in the misguided use of our military power around the world and corporate America."
The Washington protest drew 5,000 people - including many anti-globalisation militants - who waved banners, flags and posters proclaiming "No War No Racism", "Love Not Fear" and "Heal, Don't Hurt". Some dressed as doves of peace.
"Destroy imperialism, not Afghanistan," read one flag waved by demonstrators.
Americans overwhelmingly back military action, polls show.
"Some say that it is unpatriotic to voice dissidence now," said Cynthia Taylor, a student from Oberlin College in Ohio. "But keeping silent would be letting the terrorists win. I think going to war is the wrong decision."
Gill Smith, a 63-year-old demonstrator from New Jersey, said: "The nation's in grief. But adding more victims to the list is not going to do anyone any good."
The protesters also condemned the backlash against Arabs and Muslims and said the Bush administration had used the attacks as an excuse to curtail civil liberties.
John Movious, 21, a New York teacher, attended a peace rally yesterday a few blocks from the White House to oppose more violence. "We have seen enough killing and we have seen enough grief," he said. "An eye for an eye doesn't solve anything."
James Creedon, 24, a paramedic injured in the attack on the World Trade Centre, said: "Do you know what war looks like? Because I do, down at ground zero. It scars the memory of the innocent people who lost their lives to kill more innocent people in their name."
A few blocks away, a group of about 70 counter-demonstrators assembled with American flags and signs reading: "Shame For Disturbing a City in Mourning".
Among them was Chuck Ricca, a 47-year-old businessman from New Jersey. "I wish these protesters would do something to help their fellow citizens. It seems like they hate this country."
In San Francisco, nearly 7,000 people converged on a park for a peaceful, carnival-like rally to denounce the decision to use military might to fight terrorism.
Najaoka Tatsuo, of Napa, California, whose parents were living in a World War II internment camp in Arkansas when he was born, joined Japanese-American protesters in San Francisco.
He described as "gut-wrenching" the news that people of Middle East and Asian appearance were being treated as scapegoats for the recent attacks.
In Hong Kong, more than 100 people staged an anti-war protest in Central urging the US to resort to peaceful means to combat terrorism. Members of the Committee For Peace Not War gathered at Statue Square to perform street drama and sing songs before marching to the US Consulate in Garden Road, where they offered flowers to the victims of the attacks and held a moment's silence.
They then handed over a peace statement with signatures.
Anti-war rallies were also held in London, Barcelona and Sydney.