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One mind with many signs

Even though their clothes were soaked with falling rain, about 180 protesters kept smiling Saturday morning when they met for an anti-war rally in the shadow of the USS Turner Joy on the Bremerton Boardwalk.

“War can be prevented just as surely as it can be provoked,” shouted Betty Scott — a World War II veteran — into the microphone. She served in the WAVES program, which stands for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, during the war.

Scott joined veterans from all over the Kitsap Peninsula and as far away as Sequim who came to clinch their fists and spew their opposition to an impending war on Iraq. A few local residents mingled in the crowd as well.

They chose the location next to the Turner Joy because of the ship’s history in the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which led to further U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war.

After spending about two hours on the Boardwalk, many hopped on the ferry for Seattle and joined a 25,000-person march there. Around the world on Saturday, 750,000 marched in London, one million in Rome and about 500,000 filled the streets of New York.

After the recent outpouring of anti-war sentiment and UN Security Council scrutiny, the United States and Britain are currently reworking an earlier draft authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

It may involve more time for inspections, which many protesters are calling for.

Currently, Australia, Kuwait and Japan are the strongest supporters of the U.S. and British stance that military force should be used to solve the current situation.

“As a Vietnam veteran, I saw two things happen,” said Jim Hauser, a Vashon Island resident who helped organize the Bremerton protest. “I saw the length of deception that the administration would go to to galvanize us for war, and second, I’ve seen the brutality unleashed in war.”

Hauser said he started protesting for peace because he was “tired of yelling at the television set.”

Although Hauser and Scott recognize that Vietnam and the impending Iraq war are drastically different circumstances, Scott says there is a similarity.

“This is undeclared war, just like Vietnam,” she said.

Those who came to listen offered other reasons why the United States should not use their military strength on Iraq.

“Of all the options available to deal with Iraq, (war) is the one that hurts the most people and costs the most,” Seth Rolland of Port Townsend said.

“The projected cost is expected to be $100-200 billion. That is actually $1,000 per person in this country. Would you pay $1,000 for a war against Saddam Hussein?”

Rolland’s two-year-old and five-year-old children mingled through his legs while he spoke. Next to him was fellow Port Townsend resident Willy Stark, who also brought his toddlers.

“The way to make us safe from terrorism is for the United States to stop terrorism as a foreign policy,” Stark said.

Farther back from the crowd, watching with a stroller in front of him while the wind ripped around him, was Manette resident Chris Davis.

“I fear for our soldiers,” Davis said. “We have friends that are in the military.” Davis said he wants the inspections to continue for at least one more month.

Sandy Gold came down to the march with her college-aged daughter, Anna, and ended up with very wet feet. “Both of us feel this is just Bush’s little war and it is going to decimate our country,” Sandy said.

Sandy said she knows a variety of young people in the military who are currently serving but do not agree with Bush’s foreign policy ideas.

Meanwhile, Gold and other protesters expressed their support of troops overseas. But they just want them home.

While the protesters bumped elbows on the boardwalk dock, about five men and a high school-aged youth stood at the edge of the boardwalk shouting their own message.

“All in all, I am in support of our troops, even though war is a nasty thing. Why should we wait any longer?” said Chris Moore. “Something big is coming up and we are trying to stop it before it happens.”

It was the first time Moore had ever rallied for something. He brought along his son Travis, a student at North Kitsap High School.

“I want the troops to know that everyone is not against them,” Travis said.

Chris Moore said he was worried about chemical terrorism against the United States.

“You can’t fight against gases or germ warfare,” he said. If American families are victimized by terrorism in the future, he thinks a lot of the protesters will change their minds.

Back on the dock, Chris Davis said he has not gone out and purchased duct tape or plastic sheeting like politicians on television networks have recently advertised.

“I’m not going to let fear run my life,” Davis said. “I don’t pay attention to the terror alerts.”

Added his wife Elaine, “I think the media plays it up a lot. They have got it down there (on the bottom of the screen) like it is a weather report.”

Betty Scott thought the protest was very successful, even if George W. Bush might never hear her words.

“There were just so many people for peace together. And they were so upbeat about the possibility,” she said.

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