U.S. Students Protest Possible Iraq War
Thousands of students around the country walked out of class Wednesday to protest a war with Iraq, joining rallies that ranged from a few quiet demonstrators to crowds that erupted into shouting matches.
Manon Terrell, a 19-year-old sophomore, missed three classes to take part in a rally at Stanford University attended by about 300 people carrying signs bearing slogans such as, ``It’s the Middle East, not the Wild West.″
``This is a personal thing for me because my friends are going to fight this war,″ said Terrell, a civil engineering major. ``It’s not going to be Bush and his cronies in business suits on the front lines. They’re going to take people of color and poor people.″
It could not be determined Wednesday night how many students participated across the nation, and the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition had no immediate estimate. The group said earlier that tens of thousands of students at more than 350 high schools, colleges and universities had pledged to join.
``If we don’t come out, then our opinion isn’t heard by the White House, by anyone,″ said tenth-grader Bernard Mantel, 16, who gathered with classmates at Union Square in New York City.
Thousands of students also rallied for peace in Britain, Sweden, Spain, Australia and other countries. The U.S. protests were also geared to call attention to the effects of a war on education, health care and the economy.
Students attended by the hundreds at some campuses around the nation; at others, attendance was light. Some were met by groups calling for support of the Bush administration.
In Madison, Wis., organizers estimated 5,000 students rallied, though police put that figure at 2,000. In Milwaukee, 40 students lined the sidewalk in front of the Marquette University student union during an hour-long protest.
``It’s good to let people know students have a say in what happens in the world,″ said Abir Chaudhry, 19, who carried a sign at Marquette that read ``God Does Not Bless America Only.″
Dozens of Stanford professors endorsed the rally there, either by telling students there would be no penalties for leaving class or by canceling class. Nearby in Oakland, at least three people were arrested at a demonstration held downtown.
In Los Angeles, 18 demonstrators were arrested for blocking an intersection during an interfaith protest as several hundred people cheered. Hundreds of students at Santa Monica City College rallied and about 500 Venice High School students left class for a protest on the school’s front lawn, waving signs and chanting ``No more war, no more war.″
``As a 16-year-old student, I have little license to do anything but I reserve my right to be idealistic, to see the good in the future and to see the evil of war,″ said Margot Goldberg at a rally in Pittsburgh. High schoolers there cheered when one protester said they likely would be suspended for cutting class.
At the University at Buffalo in Amherst, N.Y., a group calling itself the Radical Cheerleaders led raucous anti-war chants. In Washington, peace activists clad in pink and bearing flowers held quiet rallies at the embassies of France, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and Chile to thank them for opposing a U.S. war with Iraq.
At San Antonio College, Melissa St. John, who favors an Iraq invasion, got into a nose-to-nose shouting match with a young man who argued no positive link has been made between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
St. John later said she doesn’t like the idea of war, but diplomatic efforts to rein in Saddam have failed. ``None of us like it, but it’s time,″ she said. ``Our country is under attack.″
Sporadic rain fell hundreds of protesters _ and a small number of Bush administration supporters holding a counter demonstration _ gathered at Penn State University. The protesters later presented the mayor with petitions asking the borough council to oppose war with Iraq and resist elements of the USA Patriot and the Homeland Security acts.
Two sisters, Kate and Allie Dunn, traveled to a New York City anti-war rally from suburban Westchester County to express their support of the Bush administration. ``Remember 9-11?″ asked a sign carried by 18-year-old Kate.
Farther north, around 100 people rallied at an Albany, N.Y., shopping mall to protest the arrest of 61-year-old man who wore a T-shirt that read ``Peace on Earth″ and ``Give Peace a Chance″ while he shopped two days earlier.
Another anti-war group, Not in Our Name, called on workers to call out sick and business owners to close up shop Wednesday to protest a war with Iraq. It could not immediately be determined whether any widespread sick-outs had occurred.
On the Net:
National Youth and Student Peace Coalition: http://www.nyspc.net
Not in Our Name: http://www.notinourname.net