WEST PALM BEACH, Florida -- Neon-colored peace signs, a giant poster with an American flag shedding tears, anti-war messages scribbled on black-and-white paper. They all conveyed the same message: No more war.
Keyes, with the South Florida Code Pink organization, was one of more than 400 people gathered at Tamarind Avenue and Okeechobee Boulevard on Saturday to protest the war in Iraq. Marchers walked from the corner near the Kravis Center of Performing Arts to Rosemary Avenue and back to the center.
The rally, organized by the Palm Beach County Peace and Justice Coalition, drew people of all backgrounds: the Raging Grannies wearing flower skirts and straw hats; the Code Pink women flashing hot pink feather boas and matching hats; Pax Christi members promoting peace and prayer; and students from local organizations flaunting purple hair and Mohawks.
"Every September we've been trying to hold something to bring peace to the forefront, and it is such a telling month," said organizer Elna Laun. "It's 9-11, the entry into Iraq and the administration always brings out some ad campaign to make us all afraid of the terrorists, which is essentially treating us like children."
Laun said activists were coming from as far as Key West and Fort Myers to join the demonstration.
"It's very important for ordinary citizens to send a peaceful message every day to our federal officials that we want them to focus on getting this war over with," said West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, who joined demonstrators in the short walk around the center. "I'm a product of the'60s and I remember when citizens literally stopped a war."
Keyes and other organizers at the rally said the response from people driving by was overwhelming, compared with past events. As traffic zoomed by, drivers honked at protesters.
"We really feel the difference," said Keyes, who often visits the "Boca Raton Peace Corner" at Glades Road and St. Andrews Boulevard. "It has grown by leaps and bounds."
A White House spokesman said the Bush administration does take notice of anti-war rallies and respects the right of American citizens to express their views.
"Maybe there are some goals that we share," said spokesman Tony Fratto. "If the goal is a peaceful Iraq, we certainly share that goal."
Fratto said: "The obligation that we have is to protect the country from attack and to go after terrorists who want to kill Americans and harm our interests."
Many at the protest said the war is aggravating anti-Americanism in the Middle East and depleting the U.S. military's resources.
"It was a fraudulent war," said Cheryl Kirby, who protests weekly at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in West Palm Beach. "We never should have gone in, and now we need to get out as soon as possible."
The march ended as the hundreds of activists crowded into the Kravis Center Cohen Pavilion for a short presentation by the Peace and Justice Coalition, a group of more than 20 organizations.
Before the group welcomed presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, the Raging Grannies sang renditions of Yankee Doodle Dandy and Old McDonald with political lyrics.
Kucinich, who says he wants to create a U.S. Department of Peace, was received by a loud roar from the crowd.
"I'm a thrilled with this response," said organizer Susan Mosely, of the coalition. "This rally shows what people really think."
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