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Protesters hope to put a freeze on war



Published: Sun, February 16, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Youngstown rally was part of an international anti-war effort.

& lt;a href=mailto:skolnick@vindy.com & gt;By DAVID SKOLNICK & lt;/a & gt;

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- About 300 people braved frigid weather conditions to voice their opposition to a war with Iraq.

"Going to war with Iraq could be a very negative thing for our country," said Jan Bigek of New Castle, Pa., one of the participants in the Valley Rally Against the War in Iraq. "It could be disastrous. We need to wait."

Rick Flak of Youngstown, another protester, said it was inspiring to see so many people outside the Thomas D. Lambros Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on Saturday speaking out against a potential invasion of Iraq.

"It feels so good to get with the community and see what everyone is thinking," he said. "There are people who share your beliefs and realize there are alternatives to war. People want to find out the truth."

Those attending the rally spilled over the sidewalk outside the federal building and onto Market Street while temperatures hovered around 20 degrees. Several vehicles driving past the rally honked their horns in support of the protesters.

About 500 people were expected to attend, but the cold conditions probably kept several people home, said Jim Hagan, one of the event's organizers.

"But we're real happy with the turnout, and the broad coalition of people involved in the event," he said.

The Youngstown rally was part of an international day of protest of military action against Iraq.

Showing dissent

"We are being sold a bill of goods; we're being told that everyone in this country supports war, and that isn't true," said Elsie Dursi, director of the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches.

There are about 130,000 members of the U.S. military in the Persian Gulf region waiting for President Bush to decide if there will be an invasion of Iraq. The president says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction in violation of U.N. resolutions, and that Saddam Hussein, its president, has ties to terrorist networks.

Bush has said war is his last resort but that time is about to run out for Saddam to disarm.

Several people at the rally say Bush appears eager to invade Iraq.

The Rev. Lonnie A. Simon, former pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown, said the presence of hundreds of people in downtown Youngstown shows that there are people in this country who oppose a war with Iraq.

State Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, said all diplomacy options with Iraq must be exhausted before an invasion is considered.

"Time and patience are the words needed to be stressed to President Bush," he told those attending the rally. "Diplomacy must be given a chance before we go to war."

Supporting troops, not war

Rally organizers say they support American military personnel, and the United States should not jeopardize their lives over what they call an unjust war.

The event was originally supposed to be held across the street at the Mahoning County Courthouse, but organizers changed it to the federal building because it provided a "better staging area," Hagan said.

& lt;a href=mailto:skolnick@vindy.com & gt;skolnick@vindy.com & lt;/a & gt;




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