Orderly protests, Mass call for peace

Posted: March 22, 2003

During a day filled with with strong emotions on the war in Iraq, young activists staged a "die-in" in front of City Hall yesterday, antiwar protesters took to the streets of Delaware County, and Philadelphia Archbishop Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua said a special Mass in which he called for peace.

The day's only arrests took place at the federal courthouse in Camden, where 11 people were detained after blocking entrances for about half an hour.

But protesters, and a handful of counterprotesters, filled the air with noise and occupied the attention of hundreds of police officers as the war in Iraq entered its second full day yesterday.

In Center City, a group of about 100 youthful protesters rallied at noon at City Hall before marching to the Immigration and Naturalization Service office at 16th and Callowhill Streets.

"We won't be silenced. We won't be tamed. This war in Iraq is not in our name," protesters chanted.

Upon returning to Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall, protesters staged a "die-in," collapsing to the ground "to represent what it looks like in Iraq right now," said protester Ami Verrill, 19, a University of the Arts student.

Sarah Kodish-Eskind, 16, of West Philadelphia, came with her sister Ruth, 12, and her mother.

Kodish-Eskind left Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts in South Philadelphia to attend the rally, and her sister walked out of Masterman School on Spring Garden Street.

"I don't think we have any reason to be going to war with Iraq," Kodish-Eskind said. "I think it's terrible.

"Nobody should be bombed."

Three students from Cheltenham High School, who had participated in Thursday's walkout at their school and attended a Center City demonstration that night, said they cut school yesterday to continue protesting the war.

"Our parents are all for this," said Elisabeth Bomstein, 17, a junior.

Bomstein and the other demonstrators drew jeers from some pedestrians and prompted one South Philadelphia man, who would not give his name, to engage in a one-man counterprotest.

"You are all traitors! Traitors to your country," bellowed the man through a bullhorn.

At evening rush hour, a second City Hall protest drew a wide variety of protesters representing diverse interests, including opposition to police brutality and support for Third World self-determination.

"It's not just for peace," said Alison Hoehne of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement.

As with the earlier protest, the demonstration drew a crowd of police equal to or larger than the crowd of activists.

"They were out of control yesterday, and you can't allow that to go on," said Deputy Police Commissioner Robert Mitchell. On Thursday, more than 100 protesters were arrested outside the Federal Building at Sixth and Market Streets.

Inspector William Colarulo, a police spokesman, said that more protests were expected this weekend and that officers would be "poised and ready" for any demonstrations.

"In addition to using our Civil Affairs unit, [Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson] has assured that a sufficient number of police personnel will be available to not only protect the rights of the protesters, but to ensure that everyone is protected," Colarulo said last night.

Even Camden's protests and arrests were orderly. Those arrested had set out to be arrested, and were promised in advance by Camden Police Lt. Jim Phillips that they would be detained "in a kinder, gentler way."

A crowd of 60 had earlier marched through the streets to the courthouse. Among those arrested was the Rev. Jeff Putthoff, a Jesuit priest with Holy Name Catholic Church in North Camden. During the march, he said that he was nervous about being arrested, but that he had to "put my body where my words are."

"My fear isn't anything compared to what's happening now," he said. "People are being killed, and I'm going to sit in front of the federal courthouse."

The protesters carried signs and two homemade coffins, one draped with a U.S. flag and one draped with an Iraqi flag. There were several hecklers along the route. Police briefly had to restrain a man who wandered into the crowd of marchers.

In Media, a small group of protesters wearing antiwar pins and carrying signs stood along State Street, handing out flyers and engaging passersby.

"We're here to protest the war. But we want people to know we're not here to undercut the troops," said Sue Edwards, 56, of Swarthmore, who was holding a sign that read "Support the Troops, Not the War."

Edwards, cochairwoman of the activist group Delaware County Wage Peace and Justice, joined a handful of other people in a lunch-hour vigil yesterday. The group has been protesting regularly in Media since talk of war with Iraq began.

Bevilacqua's sermon at the noontime Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul proved less polarizing. Though Pope John Paul II has argued against the war in Iraq, Bevilacqua acknowledged that "there are people in our land and even in this cathedral who have different opinions on this war."

The service, attended by about 200 people, included prayers for President Bush, American troops and Iraqi civilians. Bevilacqua also prayed that world leaders would "bring about in the Mideast and other critical regions a conclusion to the conflicts and unjust conditions that are the seeds of war."

After the Mass, parishioners on both sides of the issue claimed to have the cardinal on their side.

"I just wanted to hear him support the troops," said Linda Mann, 58, of Northeast Philadelphia. Mann said she thought the war was a necessity, but prayed that a quick Iraqi surrender would save lives.

Lawrence Blumette, 58, a firm opponent of the war who lives in Chester County, said: "I'm glad the cardinal and the Pope are trying to take a stand against this."

Contact staff writer Michael Currie Schaffer at 215-854-4565 or mcschaffer@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writers Martha Woodall, Ira Porter, Thomas J. Gibbons Jr., Troy Graham and Tina Moore contributed to this article.

Traffic Watch

A pro-military rally is planned at 9 a.m. today at Dilworth Plaza. The group will march from the plaza to the Federal Building at Sixth and Market Streets.

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