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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Students participate in Fayetteville peace march


March 19 marked the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In response to a war already costing 1,535 American lives, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans Against the War organized a peace demonstration at Fort Bragg “to make 2005 the last year of the occupation of Iraq,” according to “It was a powerful statement for those who have loved ones in the military to be in Fayetteville and make our opposition to the war and our love for the troops known,” said Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, in a phone interview with The Guilfordian. “We marched with veterans for peace, leading others in the peace and justice movement in what was the largest support our troops rally in a base town since the Vietnam War.”

The demonstration began with a march and ended in a four-hour forum with speakers and music. Speakers included Greensboro Civil Rights Activist Rev. Nelson Johnson, Kelly Dougherty, co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Muslim-American Public Affairs Council member Khalilah Sabra, Spanish journalist Maribel Permuy Lopez, and Lessin, among others.

Nearly 3,000 activists and 100 military families came to the demonstration. According to the Washington Post, there were 800 other demonstrations, protests in every state.

In Fayetteville, Michael Hoffman, a former Marine artilleryman during the invasion of Iraq and co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, got the most applause for his rousing speech describing how: “Two years ago today, many of us standing on this stage were ready to wage destruction on Iraq,” reports the Washington Post. “”We know that the only solution to the problem that we have created is to end the occupation now.”

One of the broader purposes of the march was to show support for the soldiers and understanding of the sacrifices of military families.

“There are all these stereotypes that exist from the anti-Vietnam War movement; the peace movement during that era didn’t do a good job making it clear that they supported the troops,” said sophomore Adam Waxman, member of the March 19th Mobilization Committee. “When troops get home, often times the government abandons them. They don’t have enough health care or opportunities for the wounded, and the peace movement during Vietnam didn’t say ‘you can come to us and we support you.’ Instead they reacted very negatively and emphasized civilian casualties and stuff the soldiers found offensive.”

Saturday’s movement was different, as it focused on supporting the troops by bringing them home.

“This is two years into the war in Iraq, and we have tremendous respect for soldiers, military families and veterans who oppose the war,” said Lessin. “I think that we who are military families and in the military and ex-military communities have been very welcome in the peace movement. I think that was something that was struggled with during the Vietnam years and has been done better this time around.”

Here at Guilford, a group of activists formed the March 19th Mobilizing Committee in order to bring a substantial portion of Guilford students to Fort Bragg.

“I think it’s great that we got a bus full of people, (but) it’s unfortunate that more didn’t come out,” said Committee member and sophomore Rachel Marx. “Perhaps we could have mobilized more people.”

“This is such an important event – people are dying – and some people just seemed apathetic to the whole situation,” Marx said.

“The most interesting part was that we got to see a lot of protesters who were straight-up normal folks – military families and veterans that were speaking on the war,” said Committee member and senior Cesar Weston. “Once I found out it was being sponsored by organizations and people that were parts of military families and veterans themselves, I knew it was something I wouldn’t mind supporting at all.”

Behind the rally there was a small counter-demonstration organized by the Free Republic.

However, the presence was small and had little effect on the activists:
“Counter-demonstrations never have any impact at all and the Free Republic is a joke to the left community,” said Marx. “But they have every right to come out an express themselves.”

“The one thing I heard when we were walking in was ‘8 million Iraqis holding up their middle fingers,'” said first-year Kelsey McMillan. “It seemed totally immature and they were so far away it didn’t really matter.”

Despite the small counter-protest, activists and speakers walked away with a clear message.

“I think it’s important that this be an illustration that there needs to be something done about Iraq; we all need to come together and recognize the fact that people come from all kinds of perspectives and that can’t resort to red-baiting,” said Marx.

“What we’re saying is that we have to end the occupation,” said Lessin. “There has to be tremendous recourses in the form of funds and money going to help with reconstruction, clean up of the depleted uranium and dealing with the damage that was caused. But we don’t think that help comes in the form of 150,000 troops with guns.

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