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7,000 march on Michigan Avenue

NWI residents join in Chicago anti-war protests


Northwest Indiana Times Correspondent

This story ran on nwitimes.com on Sunday, March 19, 2006 12:03 AM CST - LINK

CHICAGO | Northwest Indiana residents were among an estimated 7,000 people who peacefully marched Chicago's Magnificent Mile on Saturday to protest the Iraq War.

Chicago police said they made no arrests, in sharp contrast with a rally two years ago when hundreds were arrested after a Lake Shore Drive march spilled onto Michigan Avenue.

Gathering at State and Walton streets Saturday, demonstrators said it was important they be allowed to march through the heart of the Gold Coast neighborhood, where many were arrested in 2003.

"The importance of Michigan Avenue is that this is the place where every voice can be heard," said Andy Thayer, of the Gay Liberation Network, whose float led Saturday's march.

"Around the world people have been able to protest on main thoroughfares. We were not able to do that until tonight."

A police spokeswoman estimated the number of protesters at 7,000 late Saturday.

Police spokesman Pat Camden, who walked the protest route with Police Superintendent Phil Cline and hundreds of fellow officers, said the police presence was necessary for marchers and the general public.

"We're here to make sure the First Amendment rights of the protesters are met, as well as the rights of the citizens on the street," Camden said. "Public safety is always a concern."

Just as marchers turned south on Michigan from Oak Street, the site of a dramatic stand-off with police two years ago, Cline said no arrests had been made. When the march ended two hours later, the spokeswoman confirmed there were no arrests.

Karen Kroczek, of Munster, a member of the Northwest Indiana Coalition Against the Iraq War, said many of Saturday's protesters, including her, did not participate in the 2003 rally.

"I think two years ago I and many others were pretty unaware," Kroczek said.

"As the war has evolved, I've basically been radicalized."

Jan Stewart, of Chesterton, said she believes Saturday's protests in Chicago and around the world will continue to sway public opinion against the war.

Bob Cavallo, 58, of Hammond, said the coalition's rallies every Saturday at Ridge Road and Indianapolis Boulevard have drawn an increasing show of support from passersby.

"I'd say the people who honk in support outnumber the people who give us the finger by 10 or 20 to 1," Cavallo said.

Many protesters said they oppose the war because President Bush used false pretenses to gain support for it.

"I believe it is wrong," said veteran Bruce Hyland, 54, of Munster, who served in the Army from 1972 to 1975. "We went there for the wrong reasons," he said.

"There was no reason to go to war in the first place," coalition leader Nick Egnatz said. "We should pull out because Iraq belongs to Iraq. Our continued presence only makes things worse."


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