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Silvio Paone, 12, was one of about 250 anti-war demonstrators marching through Gaeta, Italy, on Saturday.
Silvio Paone, 12, was one of about 250 anti-war demonstrators marching through Gaeta, Italy, on Saturday. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)
Silvio Paone, 12, was one of about 250 anti-war demonstrators marching through Gaeta, Italy, on Saturday.
Silvio Paone, 12, was one of about 250 anti-war demonstrators marching through Gaeta, Italy, on Saturday. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)
Davido Sfragano, 30, waves fellow demonstrators across an intersection during an anti-war march Saturday in Gaeta, Italy.
Davido Sfragano, 30, waves fellow demonstrators across an intersection during an anti-war march Saturday in Gaeta, Italy. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)
About 250 anti-war protesters demonstrate outside the military port in Gaeta, Italy. The 6th Fleet flagship the USS La Salle, normally ported there, is at sea.
About 250 anti-war protesters demonstrate outside the military port in Gaeta, Italy. The 6th Fleet flagship the USS La Salle, normally ported there, is at sea. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)

GAETA, Italy — The 250 people following a Cuban flag-draped truck down Gaeta’s streets to the beat of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” looked more like a highly organized Saturday afternoon stroll than the 1,000-strong anti-war protest envisioned by organizers.

But once outside Gaeta’s military port area near the southern Italian town’s historic center, the marchers settled in, chanting “Against NATO’s war” to protest both President Bush’s drive towards invading Iraq and any possible NATO involvement.

Most of the marchers said they weren’t protesting the American presence in Gaeta — the home port of the Navy’s 6th Fleet flagship, the USS La Salle — but rather the U.S. policy on Iraq.

“This [war] is in the interest of the American government, not the American people,” said a speaker representing one of the organizers. “The oil companies and the weapons companies have an interest.”

The march, organized by the Rome-based Rifondazione Comunista — Communist Refoundation Party — and other political groups from the Italian capital was peaceful. As a precaution, the U.S. military had paid for tow trucks to remove U.S.-plated vehicles from the protest route as a safety measure and recommended Americans avoid the area.

Not all the protesters came from Rome.

“We don’t want to make a war like this,” said Barbara Sartori, a resident of nearby Formia, as she taped a photograph of a U.S. bomb looming over an Iraqi with the caption “Don’t cut the rope” onto her daughter’s jacket.

“This is a war for petroleum, not a war for justice.”

Some of the flags and banners carried slogans and names of the political parties involved, but many simply read pace (peace) or detailed deaths caused by U.S. military actions.

A few protesters waved Palestinian flags, one dedicated to the town of Jenin, a West-Bank refugee camp where the Israeli government and Palestinians have clashed in the past.

Most people, however, were concentrating on potential war in the Gulf.

“We want peace, and for peace we don’t want war in Iraq,” said Fabbrizio Vitali, a member of the Green Party from Latina, a city near Rome. “We believe the solution is diplomacy.”

— Leah Bower is a news correspondent working out of the Naples, Italy, office.

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