WASHINGTON – Sam Legg may have to “figure out how to carry a bucket of tissues” with him, but the 86-year-old Baltimore resident said he won’t let a cold keep him from Saturday’s peace rally.
Legg is one of thousands of Maryland residents heading into Washington this weekend for a peace rally that is expected to draw up to 200,000 people from around the country — as well as about 1,000 counter-protesters.
“The antiwar protesters won’t take to streets unanswered by patriotic Americans,” said Kristinn Taylor, president of the D.C. Chapter of Free Republic.
Organizers on both sides said they expect a significant part of their supporters will be Marylanders.
The peace protesters plan to gather on the Mall to rally against war with Iraq, then march down to the Washington Navy Yard by way of Capitol Hill and the Marine barracks at Eighth and I streets SE.
The counter-protesters plan to assemble at Constitution Gardens, near the Mall, and then regroup on the sidewalks near the Marine barracks and “offer our opinion for the antiwar movement as it comes out,” said Taylor.
The American Friends Service Committee in Baltimore, one of the national organizers of the rally, plans on sending several busloads of people to the District from Maryland.
“We have two buses already filled, and a third bus has been getting a good response,” said Gary Gillespie, program co-director for Baltimore American Friends Service Committee.
Other organizations are sending smaller contingents. The Frederick-based Peace Resource Center expects to send about 50 people in a car caravan, said Lillian Herz.
“We’re getting about five to seven calls a day,” said Herz. The anti-war movement is “growing and growing” she added.
Both the protest organizers and the counter-protesters expressed confidence that their people would remain nonviolent, while expressing concerns about the other side.
“I’m not worried so much about the rally, I’m concerned about the march” of peace protesters near the Marine barracks, where the groups will come into the closest contact, said Taylor. The peace activists “might try the old throwing-blood-on-the-wall shtick that they do.”
D.C. Police do not expect violence, said Sgt. Joe Gentile. Peace organizers have told the police that they “just want to be peaceful and do their thing,” he said.
Peace activists also worried that predictions for freezing temperatures could keep participants away.
“I think the weather’s going to make a big difference,” said Marliese Diaz, chair of the Baltimore branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Counter-protesters, though, were unconcerned about the forecast.
“We’re all-weather people,” said Taylor. “I just hope everyone wears plenty of warm clothing.”