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Antiwar vigils for the fallen

By Eric Ruder | November 4, 2005 | Page 11

SAN FRANCISCO--About 200 students at San Francisco State University (SFSU) rallied October 26 to protest military recruitment and the death of the 2,000th American soldier in Iraq.

The protest was an important step for free speech at SFSU, where administrators placed sanctions on Students Against War (SAW) and the International Socialist Organization (ISO) following a counter-recruitment demonstration March 9.

At the rally--held without amplified sound due to the restrictive rules of the university--speakers took up a range of issues, including the complicity of the university administration in the war, the tradition of student protest on our campus and the racism that permeates American policy. The protest coalition included SAW, MEChA, the General Union of Palestinian Students, the College Democrats, VOX (Voices for Sexual Freedom), the ISO and Speak Out.

In response, the administration forced students to surrender IDs at the door in exchange for entrance into the job fair where the U.S. Marine Corp was recruiting. At the height of the three-and-a-half hour protest, 30 antiwar students--including veterans--were lined up to ask the Marines questions, on topics ranging from the "don't ask don't tell" policy on gay rights to human rights, to sexual harassment and rape, to veterans' rights.

So in spite of the administration efforts, students were able to organize a successful event--and no one from SFSU was recruited that day.

-- In Boston, more than 2,000 people converged on the Boston Common on October 29 to hear Cindy Sheehan and an impressive sequence of speakers from groups including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and the Campus Antiwar Network. The rally was organized by a broad coalition made up of antiwar, student and community organizations.

"Keep pushing to have all the liars held accountable," Sheehan told the crowd. "Change has to start from the bottom up!"

As the rally began, a small group of Republican counter-protesters were surrounded and drowned out by Campus Antiwar Network activists. The rally then led into a boisterous march through the streets of downtown Boston despite a massive police presence. Along the march route protesters paused in front of the Tremont Street Baptist Church, whereantiwar demonstrators chanted in solidarity with gay rights protesters who were picketing a meeting of the right-wing group Focus on the Family.

As marchers returned to the Boston Common, they encountered a small group of neo-Nazis holding anti-Semitic and homophobic signs. A large contingent of antiwar demonstrators confronted the Nazis, who were immediately surrounded by police and escorted away, with angry demonstrators in pursuit.

-- In Washington, D.C., about 300 people joined Cindy Sheehan and other members of Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink and other groups in a vigil and "die-in" civil disobedience outside of the White House.

Almost 100 engaged in the "die-in" at the gates outside of the White House, leading to the arrest of more than two dozen. That same evening, about 125 protesters lined the Memorial Bridge connecting Virginia and D.C. with antiwar signs before marching to the White House to join the vigil.

-- In Rochester, N.Y., about 200 people met for a "2,000 Too Many" protest on October 29. Marchers met at the Federal Building carrying placards with the names of all the soldiers who have died in Iraq.

The protest was called by the citywide antiwar coalition Rochester Against War, and it drew members from the Campus Antiwar Network and Metro Justice. The crowd then marched through downtown.

-- In Madison, Wis., about 200 people gathered on the University of Wisconsin's Library Mall on October 26 and stood with candles to listen to a roll call of the names of the 46 Wisconsin soldiers who lost their lives in the war and occupation of Iraq. The crowd included activists from Troops Out Now, the group organized to gather names to support an antiwar referendum on the city's spring election ballot.

At last count, group coordinator Steve Burns said they had gathered 13,000 of the necessary 16,000 names and were confident of having all the names by the November 5 deadline. "The people who should be voting on the occupation of Iraq are really the people of Iraq," says Burns. "But since they can't it's up to Americans who can vote to speak up."

-- In New York City, about 200 people--a diverse crowd that included trade unionists, activists for Puerto Rican independence and members of the Green Party--gathered October 26 in front of the military recruiting station in Times Square for a vigil.

Kristin Anderson, Jonah Birch, John Coursey, Jeff DeToro, Robin Gee, Josh Karpoff, Bill Keach, Ken Love and Leia Petty contributed to this report.

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