An eclectic group of about 90 people gathered on the New Haven Green Sunday for a candlelight peace vigil to commemorate the United Nations-sanctioned International Day of Peace. Toting posters and paper doves, the participants marched around the green, receiving honks of support from cars as they passed.
Although strictly just an international peace vigil, most attendees expressed a hope that the White House would take notice of the mounting opposition to the United States-led occupation of Iraq.
“We’re joining the millions of others around the world,” said Alfred Marder, chairman of the City of New Haven Peace Commission and one of the organizers of the vigil. “The purpose is also to express our outrage at what has taken place in Iraq, and to demand that the U.N. become the central authority there.”
Activists from near and far joined Marder in the march around the green. Christa Basel and Klaus Kretschmann held a sign that said they hailed from Marseburg, a small town in eastern Germany. The two, who spoke virtually no English, were in New Haven as a part of the Friendship Force, a group interested in fostering international exchange and camaraderie.
Also present were representatives of the Connecticut Coalition for Peace and Justice, who held a flag that read, “Connecticut United Against War.”
“I’m just standing up to say we’d like to end all the occupations everywhere,” said Kyle Haven, a member of the Hartford-based coalition. “I don’t think the roadmap to peace is going to work.”
Despite turnout from across the state and beyond, the vigil failed to draw many new adherents. Although the event began near the Yale campus at Elm and Temple streets, Saqib Bhatti ’04 was one of the few undergraduate participants.
“I’m here because there is a sense that the war is over, but we have to keep in mind that that soldiers are dying every day,” Bhatti said. “The U.S. needs to turn control over to the U.N.”
On Sept. 28, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution for an International Day of Peace to be celebrated annually on Sept. 21. The resolution calls for global ceasefire and nonviolence, inviting all member states and organizations to participate actively by educating communities worldwide.
Marder and others said they hoped that those tenets would become more than an annual celebration. For now though, Marder said he is content to continue the fight for peace through vigils and demonstrations.
“We feel frankly that the American people are becoming more and more suspicious about the motives of the war,” Marder said. “It’s not futile. Just as it was huge in February and March, it will become huge again.”
Marder encouraged others present to participate in a demonstration at the Hartford Hilton, where Vice President Dick Cheney will be speaking.
“I’m sure he will add to his lies,” said Marder.