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Unexpected stories behind war protesters

By Maria Hinojosa
CNN

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CNN's Maria Hinojosa

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As protests against a war in Iraq heats up, some new faces are joining veteran activists in the demonstrations. CNN's Maria Hinojosa reports (February 14)
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Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news around the world.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- When I was in the Bronx yesterday reporting on this story, a middle-aged woman was giving out leaflets in the bitter cold -- 10 degrees in the heart of the Bronx.

When I went up to ask her about her story, I didn't expect to hear this I thought she would tell me she was a longtime activist -- she said to me, "I've never done this before in my life. I have never been involved in a protest movement."

She said, "I have never given out leaflets, but my son is in the Marines, and he went into the Marines because he needed money to pay for his education, and now he's going to have to die for it?"

Her story continued.

"I raised my son to appreciate life," she said. "It's not that I'm afraid of him dying. I don't want him killing innocent people because that's not the way I raised him."

And that just stopped me in my tracks: The sense of people who might have sons in the Marines, who might be extremely patriotic, but have a tremendous fear of what might happen if their own children are involved in a situation where there might be lots of deaths.

I think that if there is a similar mindset among the protesters gathering in New York this weekend it is that there is a great fear of the number of civilian deaths that could occur as the result of this war.

There's also a sense, particularly because this is New York, that New York will become more vulnerable if a war breaks out.

There are people here from September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. These are people who lost family members in the attacks of September 11, 2001. They say that their motivation for being here is they know the feeling of loss and don't want any other families to have to go through this.

And then there are people who are very much against President Bush and his policies.

But I'd say more people are taking to the streets because they want to exercise their rights as Americans to have free speech at a time when they see there has been some clamping down on this. Even in New York City, all permits for protests have been denied until now. So there's a feeling that just being able to voice your opinion has become more difficult.

The phone lines have been ringing off the hooks since early this morning because there was quite a bit of confusion regarding Saturday's demonstration. It wasn't clear where it was going to happen, if it was going to happen and whether demonstrators would be allowed to march. So a lot of people called to try to find out if this demonstration is going to happen.

The people organizing this demonstration are not who you'd think of as war protesters.

As I look around the room right now, I couldn't tell you that they're all one kind of person. There's someone I'm looking at right now whose son is in the Marines, who is part of a group that has recently been formed called Military Families Speak Out. These are people who have their own children in the military and who are against a war in Iraq.

There are longtime activists, people who have been involved in the anti-war or peace movements for years and years.

There are young college students who have never been involved, and there are people of different races, different backgrounds.

There has been quite a bit of activity since yesterday to prepare for the demonstration.

There are lots of posters in different languages. The posters say "The World Says No To War" in English, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, French, Chinese and even Korean.

They are trying here to make this a part of an international presence against a war. Right now, it's reported that activists in 602 cities will be demonstrating.


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