Protesters mark start of 6th year in Iraq war

By Rachael Scarborough King and William Kaempffer, Register Staff
March 20, 2008

The gray, rainy weather matched the somber ambience at a commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war on the Guilford Green Wednesday. About 75 people sang songs and built a stone cairn to honor those who have died in this and other wars.

“It’s so encouraging to see so many people here tonight on this miserable evening,” state Rep. Patricia Widlitz, D-Guilford, said. “It’s almost the right mood because we’re reflecting on five years — five years that our young people have sacrificed not just for themselves, but for their families.”

Antiwar activists across the state and country gathered Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In Hartford, four people from New Haven and a Hamden resident were arrested for blocking a federal courthouse entrance as part of a protest there.

Those arrested were Jim Barron, 80, the Rev. Kathleen McTigue, and Mark and Keely Colville, a father and daughter, all of New Haven and Caroline Bridgeman-Rees, 80, of Hamden.

In the New Haven area, events took place in Guilford, New Haven, Woodbridge and Hamden.

In Guilford, First Selectman Carl Balestracci added to the cairn rocks from Omaha Beach in Normandy, one of the principal landing points in Europe on D-Day, and from the battlefield at Gettysburg.

“From where we are today, I think the most important thing we can do is to wage peace over the next decade, not just peace for the U.S., but peace for the world,” Balestracci said. “We have suffered through five years of a war that was started under questionable circumstances at best.”

The cairn, piles of rocks that participants gradually added to, was meant to symbolize the war’s fallen troops, who currently number almost 4,000. According to organizers, the idea came from a Scottish tradition in which a soldier leaving for war would place stones in a pile, and the survivors would retrieve their stones after the battle.

In New Haven, about 30 rain-soaked protesters stood on the steps of the federal courthouse on Church Street and decried the war.

Some were seasoned peace activists like Stephen Kobasa, of Colombia Action Connecticut, and Priscilla Lounds, of Answer Coalition. Others were newer to the cause.

Lounds denounced America’s “imperialistic policy” and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, some of whom she said make pledges to bring troops home, but continue to fund the war and are beholden to the corporate interests that have “made so much money in this war and which put them in office.”

“When Hillary Clinton or (Barack) Obama say they want to pull out of Iraq, they are lying,” she said through a loudspeaker.

Amistad High School students Iesha Walker, Jensen Davila, both 15, and Maurice Randall, 14, also held signs. They worry about lost lives, both Iraqi and American, they said, but also their own futures. As the war drags on, the possibility of a reinstated draft can’t be ignored. “If we keep going at the rate we’re going, we could end up going to war and we don’t want to,” Davila said.

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