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People Line Up on Opposite Sides of Debate Over Iraq

Aired March 15, 2003 - 15:02   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: People are lining up on opposite sides of the debate over Iraq. Those who are opposed to U.S.-led military action are marching in several cities here in the U.S. and around the world.
Others are coming out to support President Bush and the U.S. troops poised in the desert.

Our CNN correspondents are covering all of this: Maria Hinojosa is live in Washington D.C., Thomas Roman is in San Francisco. We also have David Mattingly in Atlanta and our international coverage extends to Madrid, Spain, with Al Goodman.

Let's begin in the nation's capitol with Maria.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. Well, I didn't know I was first. But anyway, yes, here we are in the nation's capitol. It's been an extraordinarily beautiful day, certainly, in terms of the weather, which has meant that a lot of people have come out to the capitol.

As you can see, people are starting to leave, they're going to start marching down to the White House and down to the capitol as well. But we have heard of no plans for any kinds of civil disobedience.

A pretty large, pretty diverse crowd here, certainly not as large as February 15, which was the international day of rallies across the world.

But a long list of speakers with a lot of different issues that were being raised, though, many of the people who came out here were very specifically here for one reason. And that was to tell the president that they don't want this possible war with Iraq.

Now one of the speakers, if you can believe this, was only 10 years old. And he said he had a lot of problems with the president's policy towards Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For all the kids in America who are really scared by this war, think it's just a game. So those friends in K- mart and Wal-mart to make war toys into our Easter baskets, G.I. Joes, automatic rivals and tanks. There are a few toy figures they forgot to add. Where are the toy victims, little children without arms or legs or eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stand here today as a voice for the American Muslim student. And I join in solidarity with my brothers and sisters gathered today in Washington, D.C., in San Francisco and all around the world to send a clear message to President Bush, no war in Iraq. Not now, not in weeks, and not in months.


HINOJOSA: Now, even though the protesters have come out and are taking these stances, we also have to be very clear that they have, in fact, made some plans of what to do if there is a war, as soon as next week. They have said that in that case, they want people to come out to the streets immediately in different places, they will have meeting points.

So even the anti-war protesters are getting ready for what to do in case there is a possible war with Iraq -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Maria Hinojosa in Washington, D.C.

Well, let's head west about 3,000 miles to San Francisco, where our Thomas Roman is now.

And Thomas, a pretty significant crowd assembling there in San Francisco?

THOMAS ROMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm sorry. You broke up there for a second. But yes, there's a lot of people here at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco. Let me give you a look.

Around the plaza, there's an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people who have gathered here to protest any kind of military action in Iraq.

Right now, it's the rally portion of today's event. And people here are listening to speakers anywhere from community organizers to political dignitaries, and there's also Martin Sheen and Danny Glover, who have shown up today to lend their support to the issue.

Let me give you a bird's-eye view of today's...

WHITFIELD: All right. It looks as though we've lost that connection from KRON out in San Francisco, where Thomas Roman was explaining a very significant turn-out there, thousands of people, including Danny Glover, celebrities, as well as Martin Sheen.

All right. Let's head to Atlanta, where our David Mattingly is for a different kind of protest of sorts -- David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, promoters here were predicting a crowd of about 10,000 here at Atlanta, at the Rally for America, but they're now saying on the podium that they have more than doubled that.

Let's take a look at this crowd. People coming out today, decked out in their red, white and blue, thousands of people. Thousands of people carrying banners and signs, offering patriotic sentiments and supporting U.S. troops.

A part of what you're looking at could also be the power of talk radio. Stations across the country have been promoting rallies for America. They've been striking a chord that seems to resonate deeply with people in this crowd. They are pro-U.S., pro-military.

And some of the featured speakers also taking shots at anti-war demonstrators, particularly Hollywood celebrities protesting war in Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were starting to believe that we were surrounded by them, by the ones that are the freaks in the limousine, the ones with the hairy armpits and the lesbian, whatever that is. We thought we were being surrounded by California.

Today, today, I'm proud to tell you they are clear, we surround them.


MATTINGLY: Things wrapping up right now. They just had the song, "Proud to be an American" playing. People singing along with it.

Again quite a few thousand more people than they expected for this rally, particularly with this kind of rain. So promoters very happy with the showing here today and people leaving with a very good feeling that their opinion is being made known across the country.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: And David, to make it clear, the folks that are assembling there in Atlanta say this is not a pro-war rally but instead, it is one showing patriotism, showing support of the troops, as you mentioned, as well as the president's plans?

MATTINGLY: That is the theme here, support for the troops, for American soldiers right now in the Middle East. They say they don't want a repeat of what they saw after Vietnam, where soldiers came home and were not treated with respect. They want to make sure that does not happen again this time.

But there are some political undercurrents going on. There's a lot of signs here, a very partisan in support of the president, and a lot of signs critical of anti-war protesters, as we showed you before.

WHITFIELD: All right, David Mattingly, thank you very much from Atlanta.

Well, let's head across the seas to Madrid, Spain, where an anti- war protest is underway. And for that, we go to Al Goodman.

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, the main march in Madrid has just ended, but all around me there are still hundreds, several thousands of people. Right now, they've gotten into a bit of trying to chant down the televisions. They say that the televisions have not been giving the right information.

You can see, it's a pretty hot time here.

Now the march is in Spain, among the very largest, the marches in Spain were among the very largest in the world, they say, in Madrid and in Barcelona. There were upwards of a million people claimed by the organization in Madrid and 300,000, according to local police in Barcelona.

That was still smaller than a month ago, but they're trying to send a message to President George W. Bush, who's holding an emergency summit on the Azores Islands on Sunday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

The protesters saying that there's still time to disarm Iraq peacefully and saying that the United Nations should do that job. So that's the message they're trying to send out. That was the main part of the march before it got a little hot here.

Fredricka, if you can still hear me.

WHITFIELD: I can. Al, thank you very much.

Well, elsewhere, in the world, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against a possible military action in Iraq.

In Bangkok, they chanted no war and held banners, reading "No Bush Oil." Over 3,000 protesters marched to the U.N. building in Thailand's capitol city.

A throng of 10,000 moved through Tokyo's business district, chanting and carrying anti-war signs. The Japanese government supports President Bush, but polls show more than 80 percent of the Japanese people oppose war.

And in London, British Muslims marched to the embassies of Muslim countries. They're asking those countries to resist the push for war by refusing to let the U.S. use their air space, land and waterways.


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