Thursday, September 30, 2004

Wrong War, Wrong Time

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Hundreds of protesters, including some carrying flag-draped coffins, gathered outside the University of Miami campus before Thursday's debate between President Bush and Democratic candidate John Kerry.

Demonstrators carried 76 flag-draped miniature coffins, one for each soldier killed in Iraq this month, in a half-mile parade down U.S. 1 across the street a block from campus.

The protest went quiet as the soldiers' names were read aloud. Pallbearer Carol Klingbeio said she came because of "my conscience, my outrage and my fear for the planet."

Most protesters were Kerry supporters, some with signs reading: "What's to debate? Bush lied, fire him." But three pro-Bush students crashed the coffin march with a large Bush-Cheney sign.

"We were looking for other Bush supporters, but we couldn't find them," said 21-year-old Loren Baum.

Police presence was heavy, but no protesters were arrested on or off campus, police said.

Earlier, more than 300 people lined U.S. 1 for several blocks, waving pink signs that read, "The next pink slip might be yours."

The students, union members and unemployed workers protesting President Bush's economic policies chanted "Kerry, Kerry, Kerry" and "What do we want? Jobs."

Across the street, about a dozen students and staff held an impromptu rally supporting Bush. Many waved pro-Bush signs, including a bedsheet painted with the message "Cubans for Bush."

About 100 Cuban-Americans, who traditionally support Republicans, were protesting against Bush because of strict restrictions his administration has imposed on travel to Cuba.

"All these people never voted against Republicans before, but this particular issue is of such concern that even the ones who never voted at all want to vote against Bush," said Rosa Garmendia.

On campus, hundreds of students packed into the Rathskeller Plaza to watch the debate on a big-screen television. "The atmosphere in here is crazy," said freshman Anthony DiAntonio. "You wouldn't expect that from a crowd that typically doesn't vote."


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