Sunday, January 19, 2003

Hundreds protest war

Peace push at Fountain Square

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Alicia Beck holds her son, August, as she and husband, David (left), all of Winton Place, participate in an anti-war rally on Fountain Square Saturday.
(Jeff Swinger photos)
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For 8-year-old Vincent Male, the reason for the rally was simple.

"War is bad," said the Amelia youth. "A whole country could die from it."

Clad in a thick coat, gloves and layers of headgear, Vincent was one of hundreds who braved the bitter cold at a peaceful anti-war rally held on Fountain Square Saturday afternoon.

The event coincided with larger demonstrations across the country. Protesters rallied by the thousands in Washington, D.C., and in capitals worldwide in a show of dissent against war with Iraq.

In Cincinnati, protesters carried signs with such messages as "No Blood for Oil," "Peace - It's Patriotic" and "Grow Up, George."

"This is not an effective way to fight a war on terrorism," said Mary Metz of Anderson Township, who along with her husband and 4-year-old daughter used mitten-clad hands to carry "No War" signs on a day when the high temperature was a brisk 21. "We figured that coming out even in this weather would send a clear message."

[photo] Anti-war protesters gathered on Fountain Square Saturday.
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Hazem Said, 32, attended the rally with his wife, Samar Bondok, 32, and son Yusuf, 2. The Clifton family felt an obligation to attend after hearing about the event a half-hour before it began.

"It is our religious duty," said Mr. Said, who is Muslim. "It is our duty to stand for peace and to stand for justice. This prospective war is unjust and will only bring more bloodshed."

The program was sponsored by Moms and Dads for Peace, a newly formed Greater Cincinnati group designed to accommodate the schedules of families while working toward peace.

"So many parents are restricted from going to rallies because of young children," said Kristen Barker, one of the founders and the mother of an infant. "Before I was a mother, I would have been in Washington this weekend."

The rally was organized in a week, following a workshop at Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Over-the-Rhine..

The Southeastern Ecumenical Ministry, a collaboration of 30 churches in the Anderson Township area, will observe a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a peace service Monday night.

The service begins with a soup and bread meal 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, 1950 Nagel Road, Anderson Township, and continues with a prayer vigil at 7:30 p.m.

Information: 474-4938.

"We want to make the world more peaceful for our kids - and the kids in Iraq," said Ruth Franke, Vincent's mother and an event organizer. "But there's this message that you're not patriotic if you're not for the war, and that's simply not true."

The family element was important for Alicia Beck, 30, of Winton Place, who attended the rally with husband David and son August, 8 months.

"We want our son to grow up in a world where he can love people of other countries," she said. "Bringing him here is a reminder to everyone that children don't want to live in a world full of conflict."

Marty Greenwell, 48, and wife Lisa Shuster, 43, of Clifton brought their 4-year-old twins, Avoset and Siena, along with a tall thermos of hot chocolate.

"We discuss war, but very gently. Their only impression of war is what they've seen in Return to Neverland," Mr. Greenwell said. "But we talk about being peaceful with other kids and how all kids are equal."

The girls finger-painted "No War'' signs.

"They don't fully understand all of this," Ms. Shuster said. "But they understand war hurts."

Not everyone agreed with the anti-war sentiment. Bill Hutchison, 46, of Over-the-Rhine stood across the square on Fifth Street to protest the protesters.

"If those people want to do something, they should do something about what's happening right here," he said, expressing disgust at recent violence in his neighborhood. "They should carry signs for what's happening in their own city."


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