LOS ANGELES – Joining millions around the world on Feb. 15 over 100,000 marched and rallied here against President Bush’s war against Iraq.

The protest was the largest demonstration for peace in this city’s history; the march packed the streets of Hollywood with a broad range of Los Angelenos of every race, nationality, language and age. The march began at the famous intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and Vine, and ended a mile and a half away in front of the armed forces recruiting station at Sunset Blvd and La Brea.

At the front of the march were well-known celebrities including Martin Sheen, who was joined by half of the cast of the television show “The West Wing.”

Asked why he was marching, Sheen responded that protesters were “doing the only thing we can to face this horrific crisis. … None of us can stop this war, there is only one guy that can do that and he lives in the White House,” Sheen said.

Also marching were actors Rob Reiner, Angelica Huston, Christine Lahti, Mike Farrell, James Cromwell, Josh Lucas, Peter Sarsgaard, Laura Dern, Tyne Daly, Amy Brenneman, Wendie Malick and David Clennon.

“This is the greatest support we could ever give to our troops because what we are trying to do is protect them from going into harm’s way needlessly,” Reiner told the media. “There is no God-awful reason to go to war at this moment. There is no reason to rush into this war, and what we are trying to do is protect our troops from sending them into harm’s way.”

When protesters marched past the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, they were greeted by celebrity impersonators who were standing in front of the theater with their hands in a peace sign showing their support for the demonstration.

Labor had a large contingent in the march, including Miguel Contreras, executive financial secretary of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, the nation’s second largest labor council, representing 360 unions and more than 800,000 members. This was the first time that the federation was officially represented at any anti-war demonstration. Contreras made a very strong statement against Bush’s proposed war and pledged to ally the labor movement with the peace movement to stop the war drive.

Joining Contreras from labor was a large contingent of health care workers wearing medical uniforms from the Service Employees International Union Local 660 who marched demanding “health care not warfare,” and the president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles who blasted Bush for prioritizing funds for war over the educational needs of our nation’s children.

Peace activist Ron Kovic, a veteran of the Vietnam war portrayed in the film Born on the Fourth of July, touched the crowd when he asked them to hold hands and sing, “all we are saying is give peace a chance.”

During the rally, dozens of students from many Los Angeles high schools and campuses called for support of a March 5 national student strike. The youth had shown their determination to stop the war earlier by walking out of their schools in protest.

Anti-war protests were held in dozens of locations throughout Southern California including a rally of over 10,000 in San Diego, 6,000 in Santa Barbara and 2,000 in Orange County.

In another part of Los Angeles County, over 3,500 gathered at the beach in Santa Monica lining themselves on the sand in the shape of a dove and human face, based on Pablo Picasso’s “The Face of Peace.”

The author can be reached at evnalarcon@aol.com

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