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Crowds dwindle at antiwar protests

With the war in Iraq seemingly winding down, most activists have stopped attending the rallies.

©Associated Press
April 13, 2003

MIAMI BEACH -- Tourists, shoppers and beachgoers wandered around the site of what has been a weekly Saturday afternoon antiwar protest on trendy South Beach.

Problem was, no protesters showed up.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Erika Bingham, the organizer of the Miami Beach event, said by telephone from California, where she has been traveling. "I had hoped it would carry on."

What's happened on Miami Beach on Saturday mirrors a nationwide trend. Protests are still going on, but considerably fewer activists are turning out than in the months leading up to the conflict and the focus has shifted to bringing American troops home quickly.

Bingham said one reason the protests have appeared to grow smaller was that the war appeared to be winding up.

"You can't say 'no war' when the war has already happened," she said.

In Orlando, eight protesters held signs at a busy downtown intersection Saturday morning -- and they had to share a street corner with four people who were supporting the president. One placard read: "I saw Saddam with Elvis."

A heavily promoted march in Orlando the Saturday before the war started drew only 200, much to organizers' dismay.

Last weekend at the intersection that has been the focal point of protests since last autumn, there were about 40 people. By contrast, a support-the-troops rally held two weeks ago at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Central Florida drew about 8,000.

Even the founder of Peace Orlando, Kathy Dibernardo, said earlier this week she wouldn't be standing on a street corner holding protest signs -- because she doesn't see the point.

"I can't speak for the others, but I won't be out there, at least not for now," Dibernardo said.

Other peace rallies were planned Saturday in several Florida cities, including Melbourne, Lake Worth, St. Petersburg and Gainesville, with more events planned Sunday in Naples and Lakeland.

Antiwar demonstrations were also held Saturday in several other countries, including England, Germany, Italy, France, Bangladesh and South Korea.

They, too, were not on the scale of past protests. A rally in London drew an estimated 20,000 demonstrators -- a fraction of the total from a February march there.

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