Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opposing Sentiments Face off over Iraq War; Protesters Take Up Posts outside SeaWalk Pavilion

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Opposing Sentiments Face off over Iraq War; Protesters Take Up Posts outside SeaWalk Pavilion

Article excerpt

Byline: CAREN BURMEISTER

JACKSONVILLE BEACH - Several dozen people waved signs and chanted anti-war slogans last week at the SeaWalk Pavilion to protest President Bush's announcement he wants to send about 21,500 more American troops to squelch the increasing violence in Iraq.

They gathered about 5:30 p.m. Thursday and stood on the east side of First Street chanting "No more troops, No more troops" and holding signs stating "Stop Bush," "Impeach Bush" and "Won't We Ever Learn?"

Jacksonville Beach resident Mymie Oakleaf said she started organizing the protest during Bush's televised speech the night before.

"I couldn't listen," she said.

Oakleaf and some of the other protesters belong to MoveOn.org, a Web-based political action group that urged its members to organize emergency rallies to "Stop Iraq Escalation."

As their numbers grew, several people who support Bush's plan and heard a radio announcement about the rally appeared on the other side of First Street with signs and a large American flag.

Cars passed slowly between the two factions as some drivers honked their horns and thrust their hands out the window to show support.

Dave Schlessinger, a Navy veteran who held an American flag, asked one of the protesters if she supported the troops. She said she did.

"I believe if you support the troops, you support their mission," Schlessinger said.

He said the troops have an impossible task on their hands because they are being asked to fight a "politically correct war."

He looked across the street and shook his head.

"They're emboldening the terrorists," he said.

Vic Cirillo, a Vietnam veteran who helped Schlessinger hold the flag, questioned the protesters' demand to pull troops out of Iraq. Cirillo recalled the public pressure that influenced the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s, which allowed the communist Khmer Rouge to take over Cambodia and brought about the deaths of tens of thousands of Cambodians by execution, malnutrition and illness. …

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