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October 27, 2002

Thousands March in Washington Against Going to War in Iraq


WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 — Thousands of protesters marched through Washington's streets, chanting and waving banners against possible military action against Iraq. The rally was one of several held in American and foreign cities today.

Fewer people attended than organizers had said they hoped for, even though after days of cold, wet weather, the sun came out this morning. Participants said the shootings in and around the city in the last three weeks had kept people from planning to visit Washington.

Others, though, continued to organize delegations over the last few weeks.

Among them was Liz Mason-Deese, a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has sold $20 bus tickets in front of the student union and handed out antiwar flyers at college football games to get more students to pay attention to the issue. She said eight busloads of supporters had made the trip.

She rescheduled two midterm exams to make the trip possible. "Most of my professors are against the war," she said. "So when I told them what I was doing, they just said: `Hey, that's cool. Good luck.' "

The latest Gallup poll, taken Oct. 14-17, showed that 56 percent of Americans favored sending ground troops into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. But other polls detect a wish to wait for allied support and for United Nations inspectors to act in Iraq.

Some of the protesters said the polls reflected confusion among Americans on the war question. Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at M.I.T., said she saw a growing reluctance to edge toward war. "The people here are not automatic antiwar," she said. "Many of the experts in the field, many of whom are notorious hawks, are opposing this war. This is not just radicals."

Ms. Kanwisher, 44, said she had not taken part in a political protest in years, but had helped organize an open letter from academics opposing a war. More than 27,000 scholars, from more than 7,000 colleges and universities, signed the petition, which was circulated on the Internet., another of the many groups taking part in the protests, also conducted an Internet-based organizing campaign, in response to the Congressional resolution on Iraq. The group said it raised $1.8 million in 11 days in an online campaign for the members of the House and Senate who voted against the resolution and for challengers in the election next month who have taken a stance against a pre-emptive strike.

Eli Pariser, 21, who directed international campaigns for, said the Internet expanded the scope of organizing to people and places that marches can never reach. "It's a safe and instant way of getting involved," he said.

Still, Mr. Pariser said hundreds who supported his group's fund-raising drive had made the trip to Washington to take part in the march.

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