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The Durango Herald (Colorado)

Iraq War Ignites Dueling Protests

Pro, Anti-War Factions Voice Opposing Views

Chuck Slothower

0519 07Call it a war. A war of words, a war of signs. The debate on the war - the one in Iraq - boiled in downtown Durango on Friday.

On the west sidewalk of Main Avenue, high school age war supporters waved American flags and shouted pro-Bush slogans. A portable CD player spun Toby Keith's pro-war anthem, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue."

Cody Shank, 15, yelled "I love George W. Bush" to a passing car. Teri Young, 16, shouted "I love him more."

Signs carried by the pro-war crowd, which numbered 17 shortly after 5 p.m., urged drivers to support the troops. The flag-bedecked group smartly lined Main Avenue.

Across the street on the east side of the 1100 block, anti-war protesters cultivated a carnival atmosphere. Three young women played Hacky Sack while holding signs. Two other protesters played acoustic guitar, while another pounded on bongo drums.

Their hair was longer, some of it twisted in dreadlocks. A young man sported shaved hair with leopard spots. Jeans were looser.

Three protesters held a banner that read "Invasion, torture, lies. Is this America?" The anti-war crowd numbered 31 shortly after 5 p.m.

The colorful and noisy protest and counter-protest made the war debate unavoidable to Durango residents driving to restaurants or shopping. Four years into the invasion and occupation of Iraq, neither side wanted to back down.

The anti-war demonstrators have showed every Friday evening for years. In recent weeks, the pro-war crowd settled in across the street.


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0519 05 1On Friday, both sides cheered honking cars - it wasn't always clear which side the driver had intended to encourage. Some cars, though, waved American flags. The pro-war side earned a thumbs-up thrust from the window of a dark blue Dodge Ram pickup.

Minutes later, a woman pedaled by the anti-war side on a bicycle, forming a peace sign with her fingers while dinging a bell with her other hand.

Each side was eager to have its say.

"I don't support the war," said Aaron Byrd, 18, the aforementioned spotted protester. "It's a war based on lies."

Byrd said the presence of the pro-war crowd galvanized him to protest. "I saw those guys, and I saw these guys," he said. "And I decided I'd rather be on this side."

The pro-war crowd emphasized supporting the troops. "We came out here to support our troops, support our country and support Bush, our president," said Young. Of her opposites, she said, "It's rude for them to go against our country."

Everett Manson, 16, said "I believe in supporting our troops." Of the anti-war crowd across the street, he said, "I believe some of them may be (supporting the troops), but I'd guess some of them are against the troops."

Byrd was succinct when asked how he would respond to those who say anti-war protesters don't support the troops. "I support the troops. They're people just like us. No difference," he said.

Next Friday, in all likelihood, American troops will remain in Iraq. The anti-war protesters will protest. The pro-war protesters will protest.

© 2007 The Durango Herald

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