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Walking in E. Cleveland, anti-war demonstrators question Bush's motives

Joseph L. Wagner
Plain Dealer Reporter

East Cleveland- This impoverished city sent a blunt message to President Bush yesterday.

"If you want a war, come to East Cleveland. We can show you a war," said Councilwoman Saratha Goggins, sending some 500 people protesting the possible invasion of Iraq to their feet cheering.

Goggins, Mayor Emmanuel Onunwar and others said the city is fighting drugs, crime and deteriorating schools, as well as housing and health problems. They invited Bush to apply his passion for war to domestic problems. Their message was that it makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to bomb Iraq, then rebuild it, when recession-wracked urban America desperately needs the cash.

The rally, held in Christ the King Catholic Church on Noble Road, at times seemed like a religious event, and at others, a Democratic National Convention. Labor union officials reamed the president for ignoring domestic concerns.

"This war is a fraud," said Chris Farran, president of Local 546M of the Graphic Communications International Union. Farran said Osama bin Laden "must be jumping with joy" at the thought of an invasion and what it would do to further incite terrorists.

"Do you want to send your children to Iraq to die?" asked former East Cleveland Councilman Nathaniel Martin.

"Bush, send my son home," pleaded Robert Hill of Cleveland Heights whose son, Brandon, is in an Army engineering company en route to Kuwait.

The protesters then marched a half-mile down Euclid Avenue to Shaw High School.

They battled a stinging-cold wind and driving snow, chanting themes like, "Hell no, I won't die for Texaco" as they marched past condemned housing, sidewalks strewn with broken glass, and boarded-up shops.

Realizing that other Americans were supporting Bush at a rally downtown, Greg Coleridge, spokesman for the Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition of Akron, said his coalition extends beyond the large numbers of blacks and labor participants seen at the anti-war rally in East Cleveland.

"The resistance today is greater than during the Vietnam War," he said.

2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.

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