Growing Gulf Protest Movement Recruits Military Resisters
Undated (AP) _ Hundreds of anti-war demonstrators rallied outside the Wisconsin state Capitol and dozens more activists were arrested in Seattle on Friday during protests against the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf.
″I am against all wars,″ former Army Reservist Stephanie Atkinson told protesters gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. ″I’m especially against this one. It’s imperialistic. There really is no good reason for them to be there.″
Ms. Atkinson, 23, said her former unit is now 20 miles from the Kuwait border. She said she was discharged under ″other than honorable conditions″ for her effort to get conscientious objector status.
In Seattle, about three dozen people were arrested when they blocked a main street in front of the U.S. Naval Reserve building. They were expected to be cited for interfering with traffic, police spokesman Mark Amundson said.
In Madison, Wis., about 350 people marched from the state Capitol to a federal building two blocks away while protesting President Bush’s response to Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
″The president has unleashed a war machine and propaganda campaign to silence the peace movement,″ Democratic Rep. David Clarenbach told the crowd. ″The parallels with the war in Vietnam are all to painful and obvious.″
Organizers of the demonstrations said soldiers and veterans across the nation are beginning to join students and liberal activists in protests against the deployement of U.S. troops in the Middle East.
″There’s a growing movement inside the armed forces″ against military action in the gulf, said Scott Cooper, a coordinator of the Committee Against a Vietnam War in the Middle East, which organized the ″speak-out″ attended by about 200 people at MIT.
Although most protesters are white and middle-class, minority communities oppose the military buildup since they are the ones who will be hardest hit, said Shakur Ali, a veteran who attended the MIT gathering. Ali said he served three tours of combat duty in Vietnam.
″A lot of minorities went over there not really knowing the horrors of war they might be facing. Before I went over (to Vietnam), I saw John Wayne. When you’re actually there, putting a body in the body bag, it’s not Hollywood,″ he said.
Colclough, a former student at St. Lawrence University, is awaiting a decision on his application for conscientious objector status. He wants a complete withdrawal of troops from the gulf.
″We have no right to be there,″ said Colclough, 21, of Saugerties, N.Y.
In the last two months, he said he’s seen attendance at anti-war rallies increase from mostly Vietnam veterans and former anti-Vietnam war activists to young people and parents of reservists called up for duty.
″I feel the government is way out of touch with the people on this. It’s being fought by the people, not for the people,″ he said.
At the University of California, Berkeley, Tahan Jones, a Marine reservist corporal who has applied for conscientious objector status, was scheduled to speak against U.S. intervention in the gulf.
On Monday, the Twin Cities area is scheduled to begin a week of protest, featuring Eric Larson, a Marine who has refused to be deployed, according to organizer Lynn Henderson of the Persian Gulf Crisis Committee.
In another protest, Coretta Scott King, wife of the slain civil rights leader, and Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leader Conference, said they were summoning a group of civil rights activists to the United Nations in New York on Monday.
Members of the National Coalition of Conscience are to meet at the United Nations Plaza on Monday, Human Rights Day to speak out against a UN resolution threatening force against Iraq, said a statement Lowery issued in Atlanta on Friday.
Such protests, organizers said, have been growing in size and number since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and subsequent deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia.
A New York-based anti-war coalition is readying plans for a major march on Washington Jan. 26, according to San Francisco-based activist Scott Mackler.
″This is the first time in modern history that one generation (of protesters) has emerged out of another,″ said Mackler. ″The young people being drafted to the Middle East are the product of parents who fought in the Vietnam War.″
Organizers are stressing unity among protesters and soldiers in the gulf.
″We’re the real supporters of the troops. We want to bring them home,″ said Henderson.
He said student protesters ″don’t want to give any concession to the argument we’re not supporting our troops.″