Sunday, March 16, 2003

Members of the community voiced their opposition to the impending war with Iraq yesterday near the convention center. Jim Kaufmann held his sign to passing traffic at the corner of Kapiolani Boulevard and Atkinson Street, while a group exiting the Honolulu Festival at the convention center waited to cross the street.

and professor join
eclectic antiwar crowd

USS Chosin leaves for Gulf

By Sally Apgar

He looked like an unlikely antiwar demonstrator.

But there he stood yesterday morning in the hot sun as the traffic on Kapiolani Boulevard whizzed past. A tall balding man wearing a neatly pressed gray suit and a striped necktie, he brandished a hand-made "No Bush War" sign as he barely balanced on a small, triangular safety island in front of Ala Moana Center.

"This is the first time I have ever protested a war," said Joseph Gedan, 68, a former U.S. magistrate and former assistant U.S. attorney in Hawaii, as he stood on the little concrete safety island explaining his political positions against the war.

Gedan wasn't the only first-time protester yesterday who waved a handmade sign from one of several corners along Kapiolani Boulevard and near the Hawaii Convention Center. As CNN news reports crackled with warnings of imminent war and the cruiser USS Chosin was deployed from Pearl Harbor, antiwar demonstrators took to the streets of Honolulu. Their numbers weren't huge, but the range of protester was wide and, in that way, perhaps telling of a broad spectrum of dissent against war with Iraq.

On the corner of Keeaumoku Street and Kapiolani Boulevard at about 11 a.m., protesters ranged from 2 to 86 years old. There were nuns protesting war publicly for the first time in their lives, wearing white marshmallow sneakers. Young, angry professors stood shoulder to shoulder with older Hawaiian women wearing straw hats wreathed in flowers. There were 10-year-old boys wearing board shorts and shoes with wheels hidden in their soles and old men leaning on canes, remembering their own wars.

Gedan, a first-timer in this small crowd, said, "I slept my way through the Vietnam War. I was for the war until I realized I had been lied to by (then President Richard) Nixon, (then National Security Adviser Henry) Kissinger and (former Secretary of Defense Robert) McNamara. I vowed I wouldn't be lied to again. And I won't be lied to by the Bush administration."

As cars zoomed around him, Gedan squinted against the sun and argued against the Bush administration's plans for war against Iraq.

"What we are planning to do in Iraq is Pearl Harbor without the surprise. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a pre-emptive strike and our strike on Iraq is one, too."

Gedan said the United States should not go to war for the sake of "arrogance, stupidity and recklessness." He added, "and anything we do will bring a massive retaliation."

A block away, Ian Beecher, 5, took a stand against war with Iraq in simpler terms: "No war. Because people and children are gonna die."

His mother, Cherie, 29, said, "The U.S. is the biggest threat to war."

Across the street from the Beechers, stood Kai Hamasaki, 11, of Kaneohe. Hamasaki and his cousin, Napu, held a white banner that said in neon orange letters: "Bombs and War Kill Kids. No war."

Next to a crowd of young men and women with spiked hair and pierced noses chanting against the war, stood a 75-year-old man beating a fry pan with a wooden spoon to the rap tempo the younger generation set.

"I go back to the anti-Vietnam War days," said the man, Oliver Lee, an activist and retired political science professor from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Asked to compare protests against Vietnam with those against war with Iraq, Lee said, "The worldwide antiwar movement today is already bigger and more visible than it ever was for Vietnam. The war hasn't even started and the protests are already big. People want to stop this war before it even begins. That wasn't true of Vietnam."

Lee said, "Sheer military technology isn't enough to win a war. How long can Bush and his war last without public support?"

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