Shouting, “Occupation is a crime in Iraq and Palestine!” hundreds of Connecticut residents marched down Grand Avenue in New Haven on Saturday in an effort to send their message to the Bush administration.
Connecticut United for Peace, an antiwar organization founded four years ago, gathered more than 1,000 signatures and obtained the support of more than 70 community groups for a statewide march and rally that voiced U.S. foreign policy concerns, calling primarily for an end to the war in Iraq.
Organizer Mazin Qumsiyeh said the march and rally aimed to raise public awareness about issues surrounding the war, justice for Palestine and redirecting money spent on foreign wars to domestic issues.
“We need to spend money on levees, not wars,” he said. “The goal of marching is to bring public attention to this catastrophe that our government is getting us into.”
The march brought together a diverse group of organizations, from mosques to immigrant rights groups. Michael Koncewicz, a member of the Central Connecticut State University Progressive Student Alliance, said he came to New Haven to march and unite with other individuals looking to enact change in their country’s policies.
“We realize we’re part of a statewide movement, and we’re trying to connect with other students,” he said.
But not all students were in favor of the protest.
Chris Day ’08, an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet, said attention should be focused on a realistic solution to the current situation rather than on past decisions. He said he thinks protests are not necessarily a constructive avenue for change.
“I personally feel that antiwar protests in general tend to demoralize our soldiers,” he said. “These protests tend to be hot spots for a more radical element, and I think they’re using them to further their agendas.”
Andrew Olson ’08, chairman of the Yale Political Union’s Party of the Right, also said antiwar demonstrations shift attention to extraneous goals and radicalize the issues. Olson said that while he opposes immediate withdrawal from Iraq, he would like to see a better defined exit strategy.
“I think it has turned into a political quagmire,” he said. “Looking at news coverage of demonstrations in Sydney and London, it struck me for the first time that this seems so much like Vietnam.”
The march began at 12:30 p.m., following a gathering with several speakers outside Fair Haven Middle School. More than 1,000 people gathered on the New Haven Green for a post-march rally that featured speakers from a variety of activist groups.
Colleen Keyes, speaking on behalf of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut during the rally, said Muslims should take part in such peaceful demonstrations to help counteract the violent stereotypes of their religion in America.
“Sometimes there is this sense of hopelessness, helplessness that we can’t do anything against this media machine,” Keyes said. “We are part of the system, we are part of the country, and we want to resist injustice nonviolently.”
Connecticut United for Peace organizers continued their “Antiwar Weekend” with a community public dinner on the Green following the rally. Activities today include a funeral procession in Norwich, Conn., in remembrance of the war’s third anniversary.