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Tampa Bay residents divided on war issue

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 6, 2003

The Tampa Bay area stands divided when it comes to war, and not even Secretary of State Colin Powell's address Wednesday could pull everyone together.

There are those who believe the country should go to war, those who do not, and those converted by Powell's address.

"He had proof," said Algie Coleman, pastor of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church of Safety Harbor. "That's what we're all looking for. Proof. We don't want to go into a war not knowing the real truth."

About 30 people watched televisions in the lobby of the County Center building in downtown Tampa. A respectful silence eventually gave way to skeptical chatter.

"I think the main sentiment was, 'Where's the knockout punch that people hoped was coming?' " said Ken Kroll, a Sobik's Subs manager.

World War II veteran Charlie McGowan, 80, of Largo, listened to the speech via AM radio while running errands.

"This is just another clincher," said McGowan. "If those people don't understand that, there's something wrong with them."

Fellow veteran William Sanders, 72, said he was most impressed with recorded snippets of conversations among Iraqi officials.

"Something's got to be done," said Sanders, who was playing bingo at American Legion Post 14 in St. Petersburg. "After today I think a lot of people are going to take a second thought."

By contrast, the lunch crowd at TEN International Cafe in downtown Clearwater strongly criticized Bush.

"I don't think the people are ready for a war," said Alvaro Gonzalez, a native of Madrid who owns the cafe. "This is just more political rhetoric."

Gerard Andreani, 48, of Paris, took a more direct stance.

"(France) has been in two major wars in the last century," Andreani said. "War has never been a good solution. I'm still convinced you can get something more out of conversation."

-- Times staff writers Christopher Goffard and Dong-Phuong Nguyen contributed to this report. Adrienne P. Samuels can be reached at

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