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Thousands protest Iraq war in silence


Steven Barrie-Anthony, Los Angeles Times
Sunday, October 9, 2005

Los Angeles -- Thousands of people gathered in MacArthur Park on Saturday morning to advocate for peace -- but left banners and megaphones at home.

Activist mom Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, whose summer vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch crystallized antiwar sentiment, sat in silence with the others as Buddhist monk and longtime peace advocate Thich Nhat Hanh explained from an open stage: "We don't think shouting in anger can help. If you make people angry and fearful, then you cannot reduce violence and fear.

"When you speak to people, you should speak to them in a language they can understand. By doing that, we can turn our enemies into our friends."

Hanh, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by Martin Luther King Jr., conceived and organized this "silent peace walk" as a "gift to the people of Los Angeles."

"Walk as if you kiss the earth with your feet, really tenderly, with all your love," he told the crowd. "If you know how to touch the present moment, you will touch the ultimate, you will touch God."

And so approximately 3,000 people rose quietly and followed Hanh through the cordoned-off streets surrounding the park.

Monks and nuns, many from Hanh's Plum Village monastery in France, walked slowly with the rest. Except for whispers and the occasional cell-phone chime, it remained quiet for the nearly two-hour stroll, and even the dozen or so counterdemonstrators along the route let their anti-Hanh signs ("Down With Thich Nhat Hanh") do the talking.

Afterward, participants lounged on the grass surrounding the stage and ate lunch -- in silence.

"I've been to antiwar rallies where we carry picket signs and march, and it's very aggressive," said Michelle Thomas, a former actor from Westminster, sitting on a grassy hill after the stroll. "This wasn't one of those. I was actually able to feel in the present, something I've never been able to feel before. It just makes me feel that good things are possible."

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