March prompts debates on war

February 16, 2003 11:00 pm
PROTEST ORGANIZER Jim Toner speaks in Sonora's Courthouse Square while holding his 3-month-old son, Liam. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).
PROTEST ORGANIZER Jim Toner speaks in Sonora's Courthouse Square while holding his 3-month-old son, Liam. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).

By ABBY SOUZA

More than 1,000 protesters of a possible U.S. war with Iraq, and a smaller group supporting an attack on Iraq, crowded into downtown Sonora on Saturday.

The Sonora protest, including both a march and rally, was a part of national and international effort.

Not all demonstrations around the world were peaceful. More than 250 people were arrested, mostly for disorderly conduct, as tens of thousands packed a 20-block area north of United Nations headquarters. The New York protest was just one of scores this weekend. Rome claimed the biggest turnout — 1 million people, police said, and London reported more than 750,000 in what police called the city's largest protest ever.

The Sonora event resulted in no arrests but generated a fair amount of loud discussion and other noise. Protesters and the people who protested them got honks and waves from drivers heading up and down Washington Street.

"Where did you people come from?" organizer Jim Toner asked the huge crowd gathered at Woods Creek Rotary Park to begin the march at noon Saturday.

When the Columbia College instructor got the idea for a demonstration, he said, he envisioned a dozen people or so with a few signs — not the huge outpouring of support that arrived.

"This is so beautiful," he said.

Before the march began, participants — representing Tuolumne and Calaveras counties and several other communities — each got a printed list requesting them to stay peaceful, refrain from swearing and not resist if arrested.

But besides a few arguments, the war protest remained peaceful.

Many war protesters brought handmade signs, drums, flutes, guitars and even gourds to express their angst through statements and music. Others created clothing to express themselves.