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Protests go north

Among war protesters Saturday in Oak Harbor were Nan El-Sayed of Langley, right, and Ken Cado of Freeland, beside her.  - Jon Jensen
Among war protesters Saturday in Oak Harbor were Nan El-Sayed of Langley, right, and Ken Cado of Freeland, beside her.
— image credit: Jon Jensen

Anti-war protesters in Oak Harbor got plenty of honks and waves of support Saturday afternoon, and their presence sparked a counter-protest down the street.

The anti-war forces also got a lot of fingers stabbed at them in anger as they surrounded the busy intersection of Highway 20 and Whidbey Avenue for several hours.

Waving signs reading "No War in Iraq, "Impeach Bush!," "Thou shalt not kill -- God," "Oil supports terrorism," along with other messages, the protesters were an unusual sight in a city dubbed "Navy Town" by its mayor last year.

The reasons people gave for being part of the rally were as diverse as their signs.

Retired Navy petty officer George Pardington organized the protest, which drew more than 100 people. His signs read "No War in Iraq" and "Get Osama Not Hussein!," while his ballcap was imprinted with "Vietnam Veteran."

"I'm not anti-war or anti-military," said the Oak Harbor man. "I'm anti-bullyism. Bush is wasting time and money after he promised to get bin Laden."

Pardington, and others at the protest, said they were "surprised" at the support they were getting in Oak Harbor.

"Since announcing this (protest), I received a few negative phone calls and one adverse e-mail," Pardington said. "The person said I was an anti-American, anti-patriotic flag-burner."

The person didn't contact him again after he replied he was a 20-year Navy veteran.

Another protester, Peggy Burton of Coupeville, said she was "seeing great support in Oak Harbor." She said she wasn't trying to change people's minds or change the military. As a child, she lived through the Battle of Britain. As an adult, she said she knows what she is talking about when discussing war. Starting one is almost unthinkable to her.

"We need to take more time," she said. "I think the U.S. is so powerful we could be a vanguard to show the world how to live. People in the world love our country but they don't love our government."

By the time Nicole Langley of Clinton got to Oak Harbor, she had spent two hours protesting in Coupeville.

"We don't have the answers to solving our problems," Langley said. "But humans are so amazing, surely we can figure out something better than war."

Across the highway at a fast-food drive through, Daniel Hammond of Oak Harbor watched the protesters curiously.

"I've lived here my whole life," Hammond said. "I believe in freedom of speech and that they are doing what they believe in but I don't agree with them. We should have taken care of Hussein years ago."

A block down the street at SW Third Avenue, a small group of counter protesters received their share of support from passing motorists. They waved signs reading: "Warning: Commie liberals ahead," "I back my shipmates" and "Support the military."

This group wasn't organized, but they were not less fervent.

"I didn't see them (the protesters) with signs saying 'I love my country,' so I came out here,'" counter protester Joe Hawkins said. "I'm protesting those guys up there."

Several members of the group called out for violent action, pumping their arms in the air.

Richard Mann of Oak Harbor, a retired Air Force master sergeant, said he also supported military action.

"I got my aircrew wings here," Mann said. "I came out to support the troops and our country. I'm definitely not a pacifist."

At both intersections, people continued to wave signs for hours. Drivers continued to honk and wave; yell and taunt. Everyone was determined to let their opinions be seen and heard.

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