Antiwar Demonstrators Cross the Line
After Peaceful Marches, 16 Arrested for Breaching Barriers
By Manny Fernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 20, 2003; Page B01
The flood of war protesters that washed over the Mall on Saturday dwindled to smaller but still-passionate numbers yesterday, as two marches merged outside the White House where several hundred rallied at police barricades.
The demonstration climaxed about 1 p.m. with the arrests of 16 people -- 11 women and five men -- for crossing a police line. They had climbed over barricades lining Lafayette Square at H Street NW near Vermont Avenue, protesters and police said. Later, after some protesters lay down on H Street NW and were physically removed by police, one woman was taken away in an ambulance, but there were no more arrests.
The arrests came after a youth and student march merged with another demonstration near the park across from the White House. In the days leading up to the demonstrations, some activists said that they planned to go to the White House to carry out acts of civil disobedience to show their opposition to a war with Iraq.
"We're doing this because the voice of the American people is being ignored," said Gordon Clark, 42, of Silver Spring, the national coordinator of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, one of the groups that organized yesterday's demonstrations. Clark said that the Lafayette Square rally was part of a nationwide call for civil disobedience in conjunction with the Martin Luther King holiday.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Secret Service has requested that the National Park Service deny permits for large demonstrations in the park, and Park Police Sgt. Scott Fear said that no more than 25 people are allowed to demonstrate in a group at Lafayette Square.
After antiwar demonstrators tried unsuccessfully to get into the park, about 50 protesters sat down in the middle of H Street after it had been reopened to traffic, Clark said. He said that police used "considerable force" in removing them and that one elderly woman was thrown toward the sidewalk by police and was taken away in an ambulance. Sgt. Joe Gentile, a D.C. police spokesman, said he was unaware of any police-related injury. He said that based on his observations during other parts of the protest, "our officers conducted themselves in a thoroughly professional manner." The woman, who authorities said is 82, was taken to George Washington University Hospital for treatment. Details of her condition were unavailable.
About 4 p.m., protesters headed to Farragut Square for a closing rally, calling the demonstration a success. "I believe we were extremely successful in conveying our message -- of not only opposition to the war, but of nonviolent resistance as a method of opposition to this war," Clark said.
The two marches attracted only a fraction of the crowd that converged on Washington Saturday. Organizers said that yesterday's turnout numbered about 2,000.
The first demonstration was organized by Youth and Student ANSWER, a spinoff of International ANSWER, the activist coalition that coordinated Saturday's demonstration. At 11 a.m., several hundred people -- many of them high school and college students from across the country -- gathered outside the FBI building at Pennsylvania Avenue and 10th Street NW to protest the crackdown on Arab American and Muslim communities as well as draw attention to youths protesting war with Iraq.
"The only reason this war is being fought is for oil interests," said David Gardner, 21, a student at the University of Chicago who came to Washington in a van caravan with about 25 classmates. "I think most students realize that."
The second demonstration was organized by two antiwar coalitions, D.C. Iraq Pledge of Resistance and United for Peace. United for Peace was formed in late October by more than 70 peace, activist and religious organizations. Pledge of Resistance formed in September out of more than a dozen national groups.
After an 11:30 a.m. rally at Farragut Square, several hundred who participated in those two groups' protest marched to the White House and rallied outside Lafayette Square. Shortly before 1 p.m., those in the youth and student march joined them, and both groups beat bongo drums and chanted antiwar slogans.
"War is not the answer," said Mary Appelhof, 66, of Kalamazoo, Mich.