Standing in front of a 60-foot wall inscribed with the names of all the soldiers who have died in Iraq, more than 80 people gathered on the New Haven Green Saturday in an antiwar protest.
Various activist groups gathered to criticize the amount of money and lives spent on a war that they believe is unjust. Volunteers read some of the names of an estimated 1,500 soldiers and 100,000 Iraqi civilians who have died during the war, Maggie Testa, a member of the International Socialist Organization, said.
The wall depicted each soldier’s name, picture and country of origin, and provided a brief description of how he or she died. Soldiers from Connecticut were highlighted in red.
Testa said the rally was in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.
“He stood for social equality and was against Vietnam,” Testa said. “We are here to support his ideas in solidarity.”
The antiwar rally was organized by Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, a statewide interfaith group of religious leaders who promote nonviolence. Several other organizations attended the rally, including the Greater New Haven Peace Council, the Connecticut Peace Coalition, the International Socialist Organization in New Haven, and the Communist Party.
The Rev. Kathleen McTigue of the Unitarian Society of New Haven, said America must follow King’s example and speak out against the needless deaths of so many young Americans and Iraqi civilians.
“Our generation needs to heed Dr. King’s words today,” McTigue said. “We must raise our voices against the growing slaughter and destruction in Iraq.”
The rally included a reading of King’s 1967 sermon against the Vietnam War and a new campaign to publicize a GI Rights Hotline, which trains clergy to counsel military personnel about their rights and to discourage enlistment in the military.
The Rev. Allie Perry, of Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, said the group is protesting the Bush administration, not the men and women serving in the armed forces.
“Responsibility for the U.S. war crimes in Iraq doesn’t lie with the soldiers who have been called to serve,” Perry said. “The responsibility lies with the high government officials who gave the orders in this illegal and immoral war.”
During the rally, religious leaders circulated A Call to Resist, a statement opposing the war in Iraq, and organizers encouraged everyone to distribute the statements in their own communities.
Samuel Prince, a New Haven resident who attended the rally, said the war is a reflection of many people’s attitudes today.
“[The War in Iraq] really tells us about the state of the world, that we would sacrifice others for our own personal goals,” Prince said. “It is very selfish, and it’s just not right.”
The Greater New Haven Peace Council will be organizing another vigil on Jan. 20 on the New Haven Green across from the public library to protest Bush’s inauguration, and some members are planning to go to Washington D.C. to protest there.