Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company
The Boston Globe

April 11, 2004, Sunday ,THIRD EDITION



By Michael Levenson, Globe Correspondent

Loudly and unabashedly backing a sentiment that few of their countrymen might
share, about 200 protesters marched in downtown Boston yesterday, calling for
"victory for the Iraqi resistance" and the withdrawal of US troops from the
Middle East.

Spurred by the fierce fighting in Iraq last week, veteran activists,
students, and others descended on the tourist-packed plaza outside the Park
Street MBTA station with signs, banners, and a message of solidarity with the
Iraqi insurgents battling US troops in Baghdad and parts of Southern and Central

While lunchtime passersby gawked and argued with a few of the protesters,
the activists said they hoped the fighting stoked by the Shi'ite cleric Moqtada
al-Sadr would help drive out US troops and end a war they consider illegal,
unjust, and part of a campaign of colonial domination by a White House beholden
to corporate interests.

"All over Iraq, Shi'a and Sunni alike are struggling, are resisting, against
the butchers who are occupying them," shouted Marta Rodriguez, an activist
affiliated with the New England Committee to Defend Palestine. "And what we saw
on Thursday is truly a sight to behold: thousands of beautiful Iraqi people
breaking through the blockades of the murderous US troops, to give help to the
people of Fallujah."

Rodriguez drew cheers of support from the circle of protesters when she
boomed through a megaphone, "Long live the Iraqi resistance!"

Susan McLucas, a 55-year-old Somerville resident who teaches cycling, likened
the upsurge in fighting this week to the Tet offensive launched by the North
Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong in January 1968.

"If we had any sense, we would know they don't want us there," McLucas said.
"Because why the hell would they want us there?"

Other protesters asked how Bostonians would react if a foreign army invaded
the United States.

"This is a message that's probably controversial to many," said a young
protester who identified himself as a Palestinian named Jawad, referring to a
sign around his neck urging "Victory for the Iraqi Resistance." "But under
international law, it's not only legal, it's also the duty of the people to
reject occupation, to fight occupation, and this is what the Iraqi people are

Peter Cook, who helped organize the protest, said the goal was not to stoke
bloodshed in Iraq, but to support the right of Iraqis to resist the US-led
coalition, in hopes that their efforts will end the war.

Since insurgents loyal to al-Sadr re-ignited fighting last week, at least 47
US soldiers have been killed, more than in any week since the end of major
combat operations in May 2003. The Iraqi toll has also surged, with at least 460
deaths, more than half of them in Fallujah. The protesters said yesterday those
deaths had been ignored by the US media.

"We don't want to see any more Iraqis die as a result of this occupation. We
don't want to see more US troops die as a result of this occupation," Cook said.
"Those troops have no interest whatsoever in being over there. They belong back
over here."

Cook said 300 protesters attended the rally. Boston Police estimated the
crowd at 125 to 150 people. Like many antiwar protests, the crowd was a mix of
young and old, promoting a hodgepodge of causes in addition to Iraq: calling for
an end to US aid to Israel, the release of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,
and freedom for the prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

A New York-based group called ANSWER, or Act Now to Stop War and End Racism,
organized the protest in Boston, along with demonstrations in 49 other cities
across the nation this weekend.

On the fringes of the protesters' circle, where tourists and subway commuters
squeezed past the group, Roy Niemi, 65, a retired Teamsters official visiting
from Duluth, Minn., said he disagreed with the demonstrators, even though he
does not support President Bush.

"I think it's detrimental to our war effort," Niemi said, surveying the
protest from behind sunglasses. "This is detrimental to our troops over there
and it just helps inflame more resistance."

With her daughter, Mairead, 5, by her side, Maureen Skehan, a Roslindale
woman who works with the homeless, said she had been confronted at a similar
demonstration Friday by a man whose best friend died in combat in Iraq.

When the man objected to a sign urging victory for the Iraqi resistance, it
led "to a whole discussion about war and occupation," Skehan said.

"The Vietnamese people won," she said she told the man. "But it took millions
of dead Vietnamese, 50,000 dead US soldiers, an antiwar movement, and all kinds
of crises here in the US to stop it. We don't want to wait that long."