Rally on Green calls for understanding, ‘stern justice’

As the country gears for war, many people are less than eager to adopt a violent stance against the terrorist attackers and the nations that harbor them.

On Saturday afternoon, about 70 students and activists from the New Haven area met on the corner of Broadway and Elm streets to participate in a Connecticut Peace Coalition vigil and rally against war. A number of speakers gave their reasons for not wanting to go to war.

Rally members held up signs with pacifist messages, including “War is the ultimate terror,” “Vengeance dishonors our heroes,” and “Violence begets violence.”

But not all the participants were solemn. The crowd chuckled as two clowns crossed the street holding a banner that read, “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”

In the middle of the rally, people broke into a chant of “No U.S. bombs.” Many drivers honked their car horns in support as they drove by.

Speakers at the rally examined America’s foreign policy from different perspectives, some placing partial blame for the attacks on the United States’ intervention abroad in internal conflicts and its pro-globalization policies.

“We do mourn the victims of the attacks, but as we mourn that, we also mourn the people in Iraq who have suffered under the U.S. sanctions,” said Stan Nishimura, event host and a member of the Connecticut Peace Coalition. “These sanctions have been going on for the last 11 years, and they kill up to 5,000 children per month due to lack of medicine and due to poor sanitary conditions, which are a result of the Persian Gulf War of 1991.”

Johanna Gutas, a member of the Connecticut Peace Coalition, cited a statistic that Americans comprise four percent of the world’s population and consume approximately 40 percent of its resources.

“Is it any wonder that the hatred of the United States is so high?” Gutas asked of the crowd. “Unless we change the worldview, I’m concerned that [last Tuesday’s] tragedy will be only a down payment on the retribution yet to come.”

Many of the speakers were also critical of the federal government’s response to the attacks. Joan Cavanagh of the Connecticut Peace Coalition decried the ongoing war propaganda, which she said began immediately after the attacks occurred.

“The United States government is attempting to exploit people’s grief and anger over these tragic events to whip up support for a massive military buildup throughout the world,” Cavanagh said.

Marge Vancleef, also of the Connecticut Peace Coalition, said the phrasing of President George Bush’s statements “wanted dead or alive” and “you are either for us or against us” were “cheap bullying.”

At the same time, she recognized that Bush’s attitude reflects that of the majority of Americans.

“It’s hard to take George Bush seriously, but we’ll have to take him seriously because he does represent a large movement in this country,” Vancleef said.

Stan Heller, a member of the Middle East Crisis Committee, advocated a middle path, encouraging the American people to be furious with the terrorists but to allow the government to deal with them intelligently, using international law.

“I think our motto should be ‘stern justice,'” Heller said. “Capture and hunt down the killers, but protect the innocent. No world war. No crusade.”

The rally was immediately followed by a march down to the New Haven Green and back around Chapel Street.

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