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Millions of John Lennon fans, separated by continents, join silent tribute

By MARK MOONEY, United Press International

Millions of John Lennon fans, separated by continents, mountains and national boundaries, joined together silently in a tribute Sunday to the peace-loving man and his music.

By far the biggest crowd gathered at Central Park in New York. More than 100,000 people, including actress-activist Jane Fonda and Mayor Edward Koch, braved stinging cold to listen to recorded music and pray in silence at 2 p.m. EST.

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That vigil was marred by violence when two mourners were shot by an alleged marijuana peddler they told to leave the park, police said.

The two victims, John Loney and Philip Guiffre, both of Brooklyn, were not wounded seriously, police said. Their alleged assailant, Leonard Clark, 22, of the Bronx, was arrested for attempted murder, assault and possession of controlled substances.

Simultaneously, somber crowds in Philadelphia, Memphis, Tenn., Raleigh, N.C., Atlanta, Hartford, Conn., Concord, N.H., Cincinnati, Columbia, S.C., Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and numerous other communities across the nation fell silent for 10 minutes.

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In Morrison, Colo., some 4,500 people gathered at the Red Rocks Ampitheatre, where the Beatles made their only appearance in the Denver area during the mid-1960s. The mourners began showing up as early as 10 a.m. for the ceremony, which began at noon. After the period of silence, the audience members -- some weeping -- sang "Give Peace a Chance" while holding their hands above their heads and swaying to the music.

At the end of the silent vigil in Miami's Bicentennial Park, most of the 3,000 fans held up two-finger peace signs and the band played "Give Peace a Chance."

The vigil attended by more than 1,000 people at Kennedy Square in downtown Detroit came to a close with someone shouting, "He lives." The crowd cheered.

A high school football field was the scene of much mourning in Memphis. An Episcopal priest eulogized Lennon before a crowd of 3,500. Local musician Larry Rasperry drew applause when he told them, "Let's keep John Lennon's memory respectable. Let's be careful about buying Lennon memorabilia from people who are only out to make money."

Nearly 3,000 persons gathered on Cricket Hill in Chicago's Lincoln Park and crowded together 20 deep in a huge circle. Many carried signs that read, "Handguns kill people" and "All you need is love."

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They put down their signs and clutched flowers during the 10-minute memorial. After the silence, one man said the mood of the crowd changed "as if a great burden had been lifted from their shoulders."

Forty hard-core Lennon fans camped out in sleeping bags and pup tents on the frozen ground in New York's Central Park through Saturday night and into late Sunday.

About a dozen huddled together on the sidewalk outside the Lennons' apartment building, the Dakota, warming themselves with wine and candles, as the temperature dropped to 24 degrees.

Most chose to lean against barricades around the Central Park bandshell, hoping their early arrival would guarantee them the best view of the Lennon tribute.

"We came here because we figured we'd beat the rush, and to pay our respects," said James Eufemia, 29, of Yonkers. "We're frozen. We've been singing and drinking all night to keep warm."

Eufemia and three friends, all wearing several pairs of long underwear, said they bunched "like a pack of sardines" into a one-man tent pitched in the dead grass. The shivering trio arrived in the park at 9:30 p.m. EST Saturday to sit and wait while biting winds whipped the tent.

"We know John suffered a lot," said John Kelly, 25, holding a worn blanket around of his shoulders. "What we're doing here is suffering a little to pay our respects."

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Yarko Antonevych, 22, who hitched a ride from Toronto, arrived early Saturday evening for the park vigil. With only a sleeping bag to protect him from the bone-chilling cold, the long-haired fan said he stayed close to the fires lit in garbage cans.

"Coming together like this, listening to his music, makes the sorrow easier to bear," he said, rubbing his hands over the flames. Those clustered around him swigged from wine flasks or solemnly passed joints.

Though Central Park is renowned as a haven for muggers, Antonevych said none of them were afraid.

"We felt John's spirit was with us."

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