March 9, 2003
Hundreds of people rallied Saturday in cities around the nation in support of, and against, a war with Iraq. But leaders of at least one group, demonstrating in biker boots and chaps, insisted they weren't taking sides.
"This isn't prowar, this isn't antiwar. It's just 100 percent support for the troops," said Amy Miller, an employee of Cycle Source magazine, a national motorcycling publication that helped sponsor a rally in Pittsburgh's Point State Park.
The crowd, estimated by police at 1,500 and by organizers at 2,500, waved flags, sang anthems and mixed in red, white and blue with all the leather.
Robert Bootay, 53, joined in support of his son, Spec. Glen Bootay, who is in Kuwait with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.
"They're a little disheartened with some of the (antiwar) reaction they're seeing though the media -- but they're ready," Bootay said.
Several thousand people chanted and cheered in Washington as women united against war pledged to rally a nation of daughters, mothers and grandmothers for peace.
"A lot of us are mothers and grandmothers and we identify with the women of Iraq who will suffer the most," said Sara Hinkley, 31, of Oakland, Calif. "Now women who may have never been politically active can relate to losing a child or having their home destroyed."
The rally at a park near the White House was part of International Women's Day. The event was organized by the group CodePink, which took its name as a protest against the government's color-coded terror alert system.
District of Columbia police and organizers estimated the crowd at between 4,000 and 10,000 people. Later in the afternoon, 25 protesters were arrested on charges of crossing a police line in front of the White House.
"We gave them three warnings, we gave them an opportunity to leave," said Sgt. Scott Fear, a spokesman for the United States Park Police. He said the arrests were handled calmly, and the protesters were expected to be processed and released within a few hours.
Demonstrators believed they were within the law by having only 25 people who sought access to the closed-off section, said Jodie Evans, a co-founder of Code Pink. "The White House is definitely afraid of women in pink and the power of love," she said.
In spite of windy, cold weather, a crowd estimated at 5,000 by organizer KFAB radio attended a rally in Omaha, Neb., where former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey urged them to support U.S. troops.
"If it becomes necessary for our commander in chief to order our sons and daughters into war, my belief is that America will come together as one nation and honor the commitment that our sons and daughters are making for us," said Kerrey, a former governor and Vietnam veteran who is president of New School University in New York.
"No one is here today because they like war," he said.
Nearly 300 people lined a neighborhood street in Columbus, Ohio, in an antiwar demonstration. Organizer Mira Molnar said she started it by knocking on neighbors' doors.
"What started with nine families five weeks ago turned into 150 people the next week and it has grown ever since," she said as the demonstrators waved signs, chanted antiwar slogans and urged motorists to honk in support.