Sides Clash In Anti-War Demonstration

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For the second time this year, pro-military supporters crashed an anti-war protest in Reno, taunting peace activists and chanting "USA."

But unlike the March 22 peace rally, pro-troop supporters kept a distance and didn't stop Saturday's anti-war demonstration at the federal courthouse.

There were no reports of any physical violence or arrests.

"It's negative and aggressive energy (from pro-military supporters), but at least they're keeping a physical distance," said anti-war protest organizer John Hadder.

Federal police estimated that 100 anti-war protesters and 50 counter-demonstrators turned out at the rally against President Bush and his Iraq policy. Similar demonstrations were held across the country Saturday.

Two federal Protective Services officers, who asked not to be identified, said they talked to both sides before the demonstration and urged them to show mutual respect toward each other. They were the only officers at the rally.

One group of counter-demonstrators stood about 50 feet away during the protest, while a larger group stood across South Virginia Street.

In March, about 200 pro-military demonstrators crashed the anti-war protest, drowning out about 150 anti-war protesters' hymns and speeches with chants and taunting.

The atmosphere grew tense at times as several of the angriest backers of the Iraq war pressed face-to-face with peace activists, calling them "cowards," "traitors" and other names. There were no arrests.

On Saturday, pro-military supporters yelled out similar names and held placards reading "True Americans Support Their Troops" and "Peaceniks Are Dangerous People."

Some peace activists responded with peace signs and held placards reading "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" and "Dear President Bush: Where Are the Weapons of Mass Destruction?"

Norm Evans, 70, of Reno, said the United States should stay in Iraq until its finishes the job.

"Yes, we'll lose one or two soldiers a day, but that's the price of freedom," he said. "They (peace activists) live in a fantasy world. They think all the world would be OK if we pull out of Iraq."

Leslie Deleon, a Truckee Meadows Community College student, disagreed.

"The troops need to come back," she said. "We spend too much money in Iraq when we have critical needs in America." .