Rally on Green draws peace activists, speakers

Their reasons were numerous, but their conclusion was one: the United States must not go to war against Iraq.

Reacting to a Congressional vote backing U.S. military action in Iraq, a crowd of approximately 300 people assembled to rally for peace on the New Haven Green Sunday.

The rally featured anti-war songs as well as a variety of speakers who cautioned against war, including Connecticut state representatives, Yale Law School professor Harold Koh, and Yale University Chaplain Frederick Streets.

“For the United States to conduct pre-emptive military aggression against Iraq would be unwise and immoral,” Streets said. “Diplomatic means are definitely needed.”

While some argued in opposition to unauthorized, unilateral U.S. military action, Streets said waging war in general would be detrimental.

“Even with international approval, it would be a political decision because of the bully pulpit the U.S. occupies,” Streets said. “It’s partially about oil, and the economic interests.”

On the Yale campus, Streets said he hopes to see more anti-war student activism and involvement.

“There is greater awareness and action, but there needs to be more proactive dissent,” Streets said.

Keith Yarbrough, a New Haven resident, said he attended the rally because he supports the cause in conjunction with the Green Party. He said coming to the rally was important for him because it allowed his voice to be heard by the government.

“The goal of the rally is to show the government that a lot of people are against [the war],” Yarbrough said.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 attended the anti-war rally and disagreed with a U.S. military effort to wage war on Iraq.

“As a student who is a citizen, I don’t believe President Bush made a convincing argument for fighting the war,” Healey said. He added that because of the war, other pressing national matters would be neglected, such as “real economic security.”

Most people at the rally were from in and around the city, and Healey said the low student attendance was partly because of Parents’ Weekend and midterm exams. He said more such events are required to create awareness of the issue.

“It’s clear that it is only a starting point,” Healey said.

Ishaan Tharoor ’06 said that of the relatively few Yale students who did attend the rally, most were members of the Yale Peace Coalition.

“I find the apathy of a lot of Yale students very disconcerting,” Tharoor said.

He added, though, that a number of on-campus efforts of the Yale Peace Coalition garnered significant student interest.

“I think the white armband thing really caught on,” Tharoor said.

Saqib Bhatti ’04, also a member of the Yale Peace Coalition, said over 570 people signed the coalition’s petition contesting the war on Iraq. Bhatti said he was glad to see support for the coalition’s position.

“I think a pre-emptive military attack is simply a euphemism for unprovoked military aggression,” Bhatti said. “I think the links between Iraq and terrorism are tenuous.”

Apart from the rally, other public events are planned to protest war on Iraq. Bhatti said he encourages students to attend a protest in Washington, D.C. Oct. 26. Nearly 200,000 people are expected to attend.

In addition, the Yale Peace Coalition hopes to sponsor events that will help to rouse on-campus support for their cause. Bhatti said there is a faculty teach-in today and the coalition is organizing a teach-in for students in the next few weeks.

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