"You hate America. I hate you," the husky male voice on the telephone said. "You peaceniks are scum. You deserve whatever bad happens to you, just like the punks at Kent State deserved to be shot."
The anonymous message clicked in at 8:58 a.m., Feb. 5, on the voice mail machine at the Los Angeles Alliance for Survival, a peace group active in organizing non-violent resistance to the Persian Gulf war.Five days later, a group of war protesters in Nevada City, Calif., also ran into disagreement, but it was more civil.
As the protesters hoisted anti-war banners in a park near a freeway entrance, a caravan of automobiles, dump trucks and logging trucks drove by with banners supporting the war effort.
"They gave us a thumbs down, and we honked and waved at them," said Nevada City Councilman Dave Tobiassen, who organized the caravan. "No animosity toward those people."
The hate mail on the Los Angeles recording machine and the low-key confrontation in Nevada City represent two faces of the uneasy relationship between supporters and opponents of the war against Iraq.
Feeling runs high on both sides but has not yet been acted out with the intensity of the Vietnam era, which reached its peak when four students at Kent State University were shot to death by National Guardsmen on May 4, 1970.
"I am impressed with the civility of people on all sides. Perhaps it is one of the blessings of the Vietnam War experience," said the Rev. David Bunje, pastor of the Nevada City United Methodist Church and a veteran of the anti-war movement.
"I think most of the demonstrations, unlike the demonstrations in Vietnam, have been peaceful," said Lloyd Brown, head of Young America's Foundation in Arlington, Va., which helps organize campus demonstrations in support of the war.
All has not been sweetness and light, however.
At Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif., shortly after the war broke out, anti-war students scuffled with pro-war student athletes and arrests were made.
At a march in Washington on Jan. 26, there was some shoving between the groups but march monitors usually separated them by forming human chains.
"At a couple of peace demonstrations, there have been hecklers from the other side and some of our people have responded verbally to that, and so it ends up being a shouting match," said Carla Wallace, a peace movement organizer in Louisville, Ky. "We are counseling our folks not to respond to hecklers."
Bruce Cagnon, an organizer in Orlando, Fla., said "We are teaching what it means to be non-violent. We are teaching them how to respond when counterdemonstrators come out and scream in their faces."
Dale Vitale, an anti-war leader in Reading, Pa., said supporters of the war showed up at a vigil held two days after the war broke out and "there was some taunting going on, but some of the people who organized that said to their folks, too, `We don't want to do this.' "
A peace demonstrator set himself on fire with paint thinner and burned to death Monday in an apparent protest against the Persian Gulf war, police in Amherst, Mass., said.
Stunned bystanders rushed to the man's aid and tried to smother the flames with coats and a blanket moments after he set himself afire, authorities said. A police officer sprayed the burning man moments later with a fire extingusher.
The victim left a Massachusetts driver's license tapped to a sign reading "Peace," which was found near his body, but police refused to release the name until relatives could be notified.