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Protesters decry Iraq war

About 40 to 50 gather at Square, the majority of them young.
By Sarah Overstreet

The parade leader and head cheerleader had on fishnet stockings and a skirt, but he was reluctant to give his name.

Others with him for the protest and march on Park Central Square, however, were not.

Alder Groves, a former Central High School student who says he now does volunteer work in the community and was ululating (an emotion-packed Arabic cry, done in the throat) had no problem telling why he was there: "To bring about the end of the Bush regime."

The crowd of about 40-50, mostly teens and young adults, gathered on the Square at noon — some staying several hours on the gorgeous autumn Wednesday — to demonstrate hatred of the Iraq war. They beat sacks of aluminum cans and shook plastic milk jugs with coins in them as they repeatedly ringed the Square. One beat on a coffee-can drum. They chanted anthems such as "People united, we'll never be defeated," and "Two, four, six, eight, (expletive deleted) this police state. Show us your identification, so we can start the interrogation."

A teen wearing a hood and black clothes portrayed an Abu Ghraib prisoner as he sat on his knees and cried out in Arabic. Talking to him was to no avail: "He won't talk to you unless it's in Arabic," offered a protester standing near him, who wouldn't give her name. Beneath the play-prisoner's hood was collar-length light red hair, but he wasn't talking — except in Arabic.

"Does he speak Arabic?"

"Well, he knows a few phrases."

The protest date was important: the anniversary of President Bush's second election. They were spurred by a nationwide call for protesters, instigated by the "World Can't Wait" anti-Bush organization, which advocated a nationwide workplace and school walkout. The walkout was circulated widely on the Internet and in print materials, said Patrick Bynum, a 17-year-old Central student, who wasn't dressed in costume.

"Someone gave me a flyer about it in my algebra class, and I copied it and started handing them out to people," he said.

While several of the protesters were reluctant to give their names, Pat Chipman was outspoken. "I believe the war in Iraq is terribly wrong, and I think our foreign policy is mad," said the street-clothed retired public school teacher and member of the Ozarks Peace Network.

"We organized before the war began, because we understood the Bush administration was serious about their intention to build a world empire. We listened to Scott Ritter," she explained, referring to the former United Nations weapons inspector who contends the Iraqis never had weapons of mass destruction.

Jacob Lawson, a 17-year-old Central student, was trying to negotiate his wheelchair over a 1 1/2-inch ridge line to follow the others along the sidewalk. The chair couldn't bridge the gap, but it wouldn't have done Lawson any good because just beyond the worthless incline onto the sidewalk, there was a 1 1/2-foot step to get onto the rest of the sidewalk. Not being able to follow the others didn't dampen his resolve.

"I don't agree with what Bush is doing in office," Lawson said. "I think he should lower our gas tax and stop the cuts to our health care."

Two retired couples showed up to either join or protest against the protest.

"She's a very active Democrat," Bob Pace of his partner Kay Lang. "She has a grandson who's very active." The couple, from Albuquerque, N.M., were vacationing in Branson and knew about the planned Springfield demonstration.

"I keep up with everything World Can't Wait does," Lang said.

Across the Square on a corner was the other retired couple, just as resolute in the reason they came there. Holding a sign that said, "We support President Bush, our Troops and Freedom," Dave and Cindy Evans of O'Fallon, explained why they made the 3 1/2-hour drive to Springfield after hearing about the event.

"I grew up in the Vietnam era when so many soldiers came home and got spit on," Dave said. "We want to make sure there's support for our military — they're doing a fine job."

As protesters yelled and circled, the rumor circulated that some Springfield high-school students had been locked in their classrooms rather than allowed to come to the demonstration. SPS public information officer Robert Keyes denied that any students were locked in classrooms, but said those who left had committed truancy. Truancy is defined as intentionally refusing to attend mandatory school activities or classes and is punishable by in-school suspension, the amount of days to be determined by the number of offenses.

Sarah Kaine, 16, a Parkview student dressed in regular garb, said the punishment didn't matter.



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