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Marchers rally to support U.S. troops

©Associated Press

March 24, 2003

NEW YORK -- A day after massive antiwar rallies attracted thousands across the nation -- including more than 100,000 people in a march down Broadway -- hundreds of people gathered in Times Square and other cities Sunday to show support for the war in Iraq.

About 600 people waved American flags and chanted "U-S-A! "U-S-A!" at the Times Square demonstration.

"Thank God we have a president who is a real global leader, protecting our liberty and security, relentless in his pursuit of justice and not bending to the appeasers," said Republican activist Michael Benjamin, who is considering a run for U.S. Senate against Charles Schumer in 2004.

"The entire world community has said time and again that Saddam Hussein is a danger and that he must be disarmed," former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler said. "But it is the United States and the coalition of the willing which has finally been willing to stand up and say, 'What must be done, let it be done now.' "

On Saturday, a throng 30 city blocks long marched down Broadway to oppose the war. Organizers put the crowd at 250,000; police said it was 125,000. Police said 91 people were arrested, and 16 officers were hospitalized after they were sprayed with an unknown substance.

Near Richmond, Va., on Sunday, police said more than 5,000 people turned out to show their support for the war -- something veterans Terry Steer said they could have used during Vietnam.

"I'm here to support the troops because I know what it was like when people didn't," said Steer, 55, who fought during the 1968 Tet Offensive with the 1st Air Cavalry Division of the Army. "That can't happen again."

Forrest Winks, a 14-year-old corporal in his high school's Junior Army ROTC program, said he sees the soldiers on television and hears duty calling.

"I really wish I could be out there with them taking part, but it's very scary, too. I know that," Forrest said, in his dark green dress uniform and black beret. "I'm stuck here, at home."

Onstage at the outdoor pavilion, a historical re-enactor recited Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. Supporters sang the national anthem, removed their hats and bowed their heads in prayer.

In Washington, about 300 activists turned out for a promilitary rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, waving signs saying "God bless our troops" and "Freedom is not free." Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa said all Americans -- even the ones who oppose the war -- need to stand behind the troops now that the war is under way, and that some protesters have been displaying "un-American values."

On a day when prowar supporters made the most noise, antiwar demonstrators still made themselves heard.

Fourteen antiwar protesters were arrested on trespassing charges in St. Charles, Mo., on Sunday afternoon after they blocked the gate to a Boeing weapons plant where the company makes precision guidance technology used in the war against Iraq.

Two separate groups totaling a few hundred people -- one opposing war and another supporting U.S. military action -- rallied on opposite sides of Missouri Highway 94 about 25 miles north of St. Louis. Supporters of military action carried American flags and signs, including one that read, "Hey, Boeing! Ignore these other idiots and keep the missiles coming!"

Protesters in Los Angeles were ordered to end their antiwar rally Sunday when their permit expired after a three-hour demonstration that included scattered clashes with police and a few arrests near the Kodak Theatre where Oscars were being handed out. L.A. Deputy Chief Mike Hillman estimated the crowd at 1,000. Organizers estimated it closer to 5,000.

Rallies for and against the war were also held in Denver, Washington, Hartford, Conn., Providence, R.I., and several Florida cities.

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