Times Reporter

January 28, 2007

Area residents join anti-war protesters in Washington

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON – Richard Renner, a New Philadelphia attorney, had no doubts about the value of the protest he joined in Saturday.

Renner, who joined thousands of marchers at a massive anti-war demonstration in Washington Saturday, said history shows that “when people stand up and protest, leaders do listen.”

“I think it’s exciting that people all over the world are mobilizing against this war,” he said.

Greg Coleridge, a peace activist from Akron, also believes the march will make a difference.

“We hope the message is sent to the administration and to Congress that this war needs to end sooner rather than later,” he said.

Renner and Coleridge were among some 150 people from northeast Ohio who came down in three buses for the march sponsored by United Peace and Justice, a coalition of anti-war groups.

Others came from Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and other states.

Carrying colorful signs expressing opposition to the Iraq war and President Bush, the protesters marched up the National Mall and around the Capitol under a brilliant blue sky.

The demonstration came days before the Senate plans to vote on one or more nonbinding resolutions expressing opposition to Bush’s plan to send 21,500 additional troops to supplement the approximately 130,000 currently in Iraq.

The added troops are part of a new strategy announced by the president earlier this month to help the Iraqi Army and police to clear and hold violent neighborhoods in Baghdad and nearby Anbar Province.

Many at the rally, including Renner and Coleridge, demanded an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq while acknowledging that it might worsen the situation there.

“No doubt there will be suffering and conflict, but there is suffering and conflict now,” Renner said.

Coleridge, who was wearing a pin saying “war is terror,” said he doesn’t know what would happen if U.S. forces withdraw.

“I don’t think anyone knows for sure,” he said.

A few demonstrators, worried that increased bloodshed would result, prefer a more gradual exit.

“I don’t want to see a complete collapse,” said Denis Huffman, a college professor from Marshall, Mich., who favors a gradual withdrawal even though he opposes the war.

Several lawmakers and celebrities spoke at a rally before the march.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., threatened to use the congressional power of the purse to cut off funding for the war.

Actress Jane Fonda, who became a target of fierce criticism after posing with North Vietnamese while protesting the Vietnam War, said she had avoided anti-war protests for years but “silence is no longer an option.”

“I’m so sad that we still have to do this, that we did not learn from Vietnam,” she said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, another speaker, drew applause after declaring, “We do not need more troops in Iraq. We need more money at home.”

United for Peace and Justice, sponsor of the march, favors an immediate withdrawal and calls on the United States to pay war reparations to the devastated nation.

The group also opposes U.S. action against Iran, which is accused by the United States and several European nations of developing nuclear weapons.

In Congress, almost every Democratic lawmaker opposes the surge of troops to Iraq, but few are calling for an immediate withdrawal.

Some Republicans also are opposed to an increase in troops. Others are prepared to go along with it as long as the president lays down firm markers of progress that the Iraqis must achieve to keep receiving U.S. aid.

Coleridge blames Democrats as well as Republicans for giving the administration “a blank check to go to war.”