America’s war against Iraq may be officially over, but that didn’t stop 75 Yale students and New Haven residents from marching Monday to protest America’s continued involvement in the Middle East.
Proceeding from the New Haven Federal Courthouse on Church Street and traversing the streets of New Haven and Yale’s campus, the March to Stop the War Machine included speeches, chants, and a testy confrontation with New Haven police. The march was organized by Yale undergraduates in collaboration with members of the Connecticut Peace Coalition, an organization that arranges weekly demonstrations.
While a march had been in the planning stages for weeks, America’s recent apparent takeover of the entire country of Iraq led to a redefinition of the march’s goals. Organizer Abhimanyu Sud ’03 said the focus has shifted to protesting the underlying causes that led to the current war in addition to the conflict itself.
“Though it may seem that the war is over, racism, imperialism and corporate domination are still the main motivating actions behind this war and all wars; they’re ever-present in everyday life,” Sud said. “There is an occupation going on and nobody is talking about it.”
Coordinators of the march also said they hoped to give members of the Yale and New Haven community, as Americans, a sense of accountability for the results of the war.
“The U.S. just invaded a country and killed over 1,000 civilians,” march organizer Aravinda Ananda ’05 said. “I believe that every single citizen is partially responsible for America’s foreign policy by not holding Bush accountable.”
The march’s first stop was underneath the Robert N. Giaimo Federal Building on Court Street. Several speakers, including Naasiha Siddiqui ’05, voiced their views on issues including the war, homelessness in New Haven and continued occupation of Iraq.
“As a U.S. taxpayer, I’d like to suggest an alternative to our military spending,” Siddiqui said. “Instead of spending $38 billion on the military in one month, let’s see 11 million lives saved worldwide from infectious diseases.”
Marchers then weaved their way back to Church Street to the sound of chants like “Human need, not corporate greed,” and “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want another war — 5, 6, 7, 8, stop the killing, stop the hate.”
The protesters gathered in front of the Fidelity Investments building on Church Street, where David Corson-Knowles ’03 spoke in protest of the role of corporate interests in the destruction and rebuilding of Iraq. Knowles said Fidelity and Chase Manhattan Bank, two companies with New Haven offices, supported the operations of Halliburton, former employer of Vice President Dick Cheney, in post-war Iraq.
Demonstrators then walked around Woolsey Hall to the plaza in front of Woodbridge Hall. Several short speeches were given condemning what they called Yale’s acceptance of military contracts and racism [in reference to recent campus hate crimes].
The protesters then moved past the Law School and Hall of Graduate Studies and eventually blocked traffic on Elm Street while chanting “We say no more. Bush, don’t start another war.”
New Haven police escorting the marchers then pushed them back to the sidewalk and out of the street. Police then approached Pete Gilbert ’03, a leader of the march, demanding that the marchers obey traffic laws.
“I’m giving you one warning, and one warning only,” said a police officer. “If you go into the street one more time or block an intersection, we will arrest all of you.”
Verrelli further threatened to single out Gilbert and arrest him before any of the other protesters. Gilbert then grabbed a microphone to address the audience.
“The New Haven Police Department has made a generous offer of warm bologna sandwiches and a concrete floor for anybody who steps into the street,” Gilbert said.
However, despite the police presence and relatively small turn-out of the march, organizers seemed pleased with the results.
“We disrupted business as usual, and imperialist war seems to be business as usual this year,” Gilbert said.