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January 11, 2003-Los Angeles Protest
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Sheen speaks against war, Jan 11, 2003

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Sun 12 Jan 2003

Actor Martin Sheen leads anti-war rally

AFP - US movie star Martin Sheen on Saturday led thousands of people in a rowdy protest march in Los Angeles against President George W Bush's plans for a possible war with Iraq.

Sheen, who plays a fictional US president on the hit television show The West Wing, called for Americans to fight for a peaceful approach to the Washington administration's crisis centring on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"A lot of people have been silenced for a long time but that is ending," he said.

"We are telling the world that we are patriotic Americans but we do not support going to war with Iraq.

"From this time forth, may all our thoughts and deeds be a non-violent response to violence," he told the cheering crowd.

Police sources said that up to 5,000 demonstrators chanting "no blood for oil" and "stop Bush now," took part in a protest march and a rally in front of government buildings in the west coast city's centre.

Sheen, a veteran anti-nuclear campaigner who was the main speaker at the rally, has been one of the most vociferous opponents in Hollywood to Washington's policy toward Iraq.

Sheen pushed the wheelchair of celebrated Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, whose story was featured in the movie Born on the Fourth of July, and who also spoke to the crowd.

"The government is leading us into a situation that can only hurt us as a nation," Kovic said.

The protest was noisy but peaceful with performances by musicians including Jackson Browne and Slash from the heavy rock group Guns 'N' Roses. No arrests were reported.

The protest, which had been billed as the largest anti-war protest in Los Angeles since the Vietnam War, is to be followed by a demonstration in San Francisco next weekend.

The demonstration came as the Bush administration steps up its military buildup in the Middle East in response to what officials said are Iraq's alleged efforts to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had ordered about 62,000 US troops to head for the Persian Gulf region in coming days, doubling the size of the force now arrayed on the periphery of Iraq, a senior US official said.

United Nations inspectors have said they have not found a "smoking gun" pointing to any outlawed Iraqi weapons programmes, but charge that Baghdad has not cooperated fully with weapons inspectors.

Last month, a group of Hollywood stars including Kim Basinger, Matt Damon, Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen were among scores of celebrities who called on the administration not to go to war with Iraq.

That followed a string of star-studded protests and petitions against a possible war signed by some of Hollywood's brightest stars.


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