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Rebuilding Iraq

N.E. groups travel to join masses

By Peter Demarco, Globe Correspondent, 2/16/2003

NEW YORK - Thirteen-year-old Annalise Ogle of Littleton stood on a Manhattan street corner for the first time in her life yesterday afternoon, her light-blue eyes as wide as a protester's peace buttons.

Closed to vehicular traffic, the street before her overflowed with antiwar crusaders marching toward the massive ''The World Says No to War'' rally near the United Nations building.

''Drop Bush, not Bombs'' they shouted through megaphones. ''Would Jesus Bomb?'' and ''Employment, not deployment,'' read their handmade signs. As police tried to corral the crowd, it surged back with drum beats and the chant: ''Let us through!''

''On this street, there must be a couple thousand people,'' said Ogle, standing on tiptoe to peer at the masses on Second Avenue. ''It's crazy.''

''We're pretty much just in awe of what's going on around us,'' said her mother, Elaine Santelmann, 46, a fourth-grade teacher. ''I don't think we'll ever forget this.''

Ogle, her mother, and grandfather, Bill Santelmann, were among more than 1,200 Boston area residents who boarded buses before dawn for the five-hour ride to New York City to take part in the massive protest against a possible war with Iraq. Other New Englanders rallied in Augusta, Maine, Concord, N.H., and Williamstown.

Departing from the Alewife, Park Street, Roxbury Crossing, and JFK-UMass MBTA stations, the protesters included everyone from college students to astrophysicists to self-proclaimed witches. Some bus riders were veteran protesters who last held a picket sign decades ago to oppose the Vietnam War. Others, such as Ogle, were first-timers.

Regardless of their backgrounds, all shared the same desire to show President Bush that not every American believes the country should invade Iraq.

''I feel that if I don't go to this rally, and just sit around my room all day, I'm giving my consent,'' said Lu Xia, 18, a freshman at Tufts University.

''There's a place for everybody in this,'' said Grove Harris, 44, a research project manager at Harvard University and self-professed Wiccan priestess. ''We need everybody to be on the side of peace.''

Protesters began arriving at the Alewife station in Cambridge at 5 a.m. to board buses chartered by United for Justice with Peace, the Boston-area group affiliated with the organization that organized the rally, United for Peace.

Rob Cameron, 46, of Medford, had persuaded six other members of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to join him for the rally.

Sayre Sheldon, 76, a literature professor at Boston University, was also on board. A founding member of Women's Action for New Directions, which began in the 1980s as an antinuclear group, Sheldon had arguably logged more time at demonstrations than anyone else in the group.

''It's patriotic to want your country to do the right thing,'' she said when asked whether she had qualms about opposing the government. ''I think Iraq is run by a very bad leader, and I think we should keep inspections going and keep them powerless. But I'm opposed to bombing, which is going to put all Americans in danger.''

As the protesters pulled into Manhattan, bus captain Walter Locke, 54, of Arlington, announced, ''I look forward to seeing you all back here warm, safe, and triumphant.'' Most on board, however, made it to the rally on First Avenue as it was ending, as hundreds of thousands crammed New York's streets, creating a waiting line longer than a mile.

Still, few protesters complained about the crowds.

''It actually makes me feel better that we can't get there,'' said Charlotte Fitzgerald, 15, a student at La Salle Academy in Providence, standing on a crowded street. ''It just shows there are that many people who believe in this.''

This story ran on page A22 of the Boston Globe on 2/16/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.





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