Protesters try to encircle USAREUR headquarters
March 2, 2003
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Locking hands, hundreds of German anti-war protesters Saturday wrapped themselves around much of Campbell Barracks, headquarters for U.S. Army Europe and V Corps.
The human chain could not completely surround the base’s approximately 1¼-mile perimeter as some of the adjacent streets that wind though U.S. housing areas were kept off-limits to demonstrators.
The demonstration was one of several staged Saturday in Germany and elsewhere around the world.
At 2 p.m., more than 1,000 protesters began marching from Bismarckplatz, in Heidelberg’s center, south toward Campbell Barracks. Along the way, they shouted, blew whistles and gained strength. By the time they reached the headquaraters, their numbers reached 3,500, according to Harald Kurzer, a Heidelberg police spokesman.
The line of marchers temporarily halted public transportation as nearly 300 German police kept order, lining the streets and riding motorcycles around the crowds. There were no injuries or incidents reported to police, Kurzer said.
At the forefront of the parade, U.S. Army veteran Dave Blalock and fellow members of the Stop the War Brigade shouted chants reminiscent of military cadence calls.
“One, two, three, four … we don’t want your bloody war,” Blalock shouted, pumping one end of a large banner into the air.
“The Germans are against using the bases to support the war,” Blalock said. “We’re trying to get the word out to soldiers inside that the war is wrong.”
The anti-war brigade, made up of U.S. and foreign military veterans, has led several protests outside U.S. bases in Germany over the past month.
The demonstration brought out all ages. Gray-haired women marched beside children and baby strollers. While some anti-American sentiment surfaced, most demonstrators said their oppostion was focused on a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq and recent statements by President Bush.
Helga Knaute, 63, who protested deployment of Army Pershing missiles in the 1980s, said the pending war prompted her to again take to the streets.
“I’m so disgusted with Mr. Bush,” Knaute said. “Does he really think he will create democracy by bombing and killing?”
Dozens of other middle-aged and elderly Germans participated, recalling the protests of the 1960s. Helmut Staudt, 62, first joined the anti-war movement while studying in the States during Vietnam. He too criticized the Bush administration.
“Bush is uniting all the Arabs and the Muslim nations against America,” Staudt said. “It’s unbelievable.”
The demonstration weaved its way passed several unguarded U.S. housing units. A handful of military police were behind the fences and barricades on Campbell Barracks.
The Army had warned American soldiers and their families to steer clear of the base on Saturday, said Sandy Goss, a spokesman for the Installation Management Agency-Europe Region.
“We recognize their right to free speech and to protest,” Goss said. “At the same time, we advise our folks to avoid the demonstration.”
Still, many residents of Mark Twain Village, the U.S. housing area adjacent to Campbell Barracks, lined the street corners or watched from their windows. Several family members said they are concerned about the lack of guards at the unfenced community.
Stella Ristom, a German native married to a V Corps soldier, said the protest brought mixed feelings.
“The German protesters have to understand our point of view,” Ristom said.
“We don’t want our husbands to go to war. But they are in the Army. They’re doing what they are told to. It’s their duty.”
Meanwhile, in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, up to 2,000 people gathered to protest a possible war against Iraq.
Carrying banners with slogans such as “Stop Bush and save the world,” and “No blood for oil,” the protesters — mostly youth — gathered on the city’s main square.
Sinan Alic, the editor of the Front Slobode newspaper, recalled the horrors Bosnians experienced during the country’s 1992-1995 war. Such firsthand experience of war, he said, gave them the moral duty to join worldwide calls for peace.
“Bosnia has to scream now,” Alic said, addressing the crowd. “We have to express our position. We have to join the anti-war coalition.”
At the same time, Alic stressed that the protest was neither against the United States nor in favor of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein.
“Our resistance toward Bush’s war-machine is not an attack against America,” he said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.