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Times Square activists urge peace, not war

Peace demonstrators
New York demonstrators want justice, not revenge.  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Hundreds of people marched peacefully from Union Square to Times Square to demonstrate against U.S. military action in the wake of terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, killing thousands.

"Peace, not war," chanted many of the crowd, many of whom appeared old enough to have been involved in similar demonstrations in the early 1970s.

Police estimated the crowd size at 900; an organizer estimated it to be "in the thousands."

"We feel that the acts committed last Tuesday are a crime against humanity and that those responsible should be held accountable," said a release to the news media announcing the Friday evening march.

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"We now have international mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court and the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal as forums for international justice. We call on the Bush administration to embrace these mechanisms and to work with the U.N. and the international community to prosecute these and other war criminals."

En route to Times Square, the marchers stopped at Madison Square Park, where about 50 Muslims had gathered to express their solidarity with family and friends of people killed or missing in the attacks.

Muslims join chorus for restraint

Because their permit to demonstrate had been rescinded, several of the Muslims instead joined with the peace marchers.

"We feel more and more under threat of backlash," said Sunita Mehta, a member of Women for Afghan Women. "We feel the atmosphere thickening."

Mehta said she is afraid of a possible backlash against people from Afghanistan who live in the United States. "It's important for our community and it's important for the world to see that there are Muslims in America who are not terrorists, who are for peace."

About the prospects of war, she said, "I pray that it won't happen."

"We seem to be on the brink of war," said Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, a member of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York City and Imam of the mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem.

"You cannot bomb away hatred, but you can pray away hatred. And so we encourage men and women throughout the nation to engage in prayer."

"As Muslims, we condemn the heinous crime, grieve and mourn with our fellow Americans, and stand in solidarity with them," said rally organizer Robi Niaz.

"I think this is the first time in my life when color of my skin, my religion has become such that when I walk on the street people stare at me," said Syed Dilawar.

"If, unfortunately, we cannot find the culprit and we do some kind of massive retaliation, there is a possibility that we might commit almost a similar crime that has been committed against us."

The marchers continued on to Times Square, where they rallied at a recruiting station for the armed forces.

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