By JASON ECK
About 500 people rallied in support of President George W. Bush, U.S. troops and possible war against Iraq on Saturday afternoon in downtown Sonora.
A sea of red, white and blue filled the sidewalk as a steady stream of marchers waved American flags, hoisted homemade signs, shouted slogans and sang patriotic songs on the route between Woods Creek Rotary Park near the Mother Lode Fairgrounds and Courthouse Square on North Washington Street.
The March for Freedom parade and rally was organized by siblings Todd and Melody Johnson of Twain Harte in response to a peace march held last month.
The Johnsons were among the approximately 60 people mostly veterans and their relatives who countered about 1,000 demonstrators gathered for the Sonora Peace March in Courthouse Square in February.
Todd Johnson told the crowd Saturday he was disappointed by the shortage of American flags he saw among the peace demonstrators, and wanted to show that "though the peace marchers were a very loud group, they are a small percent of the population."
Todd Johnson called Saturday's march and rally "inspiring" and said more people turned out than he anticipated.
The crowd carried signs that included "Support our troops, America has freedom, not the U.N.," "911 was not our choice," and "Saddam comply or say goodbye."
A handful of speakers rallied the crowd that gathered at the park.
Gus and Cheryl Allegri of Sonora, dressed in matching shirts with the words "United We Stand," said they were marching because they back the Bush Administration. They said they also wanted to show support for U.S. troops in the Middle East.
"People need to know that liberty comes with a price," Gus Allegri said.
"I think we need to stamp evil out of the world, and Saddam certainly is an evil, evil man," Cheryl Allegri said.