Armed with signs such as “No War for U.S. Empire” and “Welfare, not Warfare,” protesters with bullhorns flocked to the steps of the New Haven federal courthouse Wednesday evening to demand an end to the war in Afghanistan.
In an attempt to draw more public attention to the war, the protesters, who ranged from college students to gray-bearded men, gathered near the New Have Green to condemn President Barack Obama’s call Tuesday night for 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan. After marching around the Green for about five minutes, the protesters spoke outside the Church Street courthouse, calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. soldiers from the region.
“This is Obama’s war,” Todd Dewey, 37, a member of the International Socialist Organization, said in one of the speeches at the protest. “We can’t blame the previous administration anymore.”
Another protest, organized by more than 20 anti-war groups, including Connecticut United for Peace and Connecticut Students Against the War, occurred at the same time yesterday evening at the Federal Building in Hartford. New Haven protest planner and Bridgeport resident Chris Garaffa, 25, said he helped to coordinate the protests because he strongly believes the war should be brought to an immediate end.
“Obama’s making a speech at West Point, but there is so much popular protest against the war right now,” Garraffa said Tuesday. “The only solution is to actually pull troops out of Afghanistan.”
A dozen protesters interviewed in New Haven yesterday said they were there because they are against the human and economic toll the war has exacted on the nation.
In his speech at West Point on Tuesday, Obama outlined a two-year plan to place 30,000 troops in Afghanistan by next year, and said he will remove all troops from the region by 2011. The call for more troops came in response to a September request by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan , to stabilize the region. Obama explained on Tuesday that he did not “make this decision lightly” and that he wants to quell turmoil in the region, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Fred Schluntz, chief of staff for the Connecticut branch of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the protesters at the courthouse Tuesday “have too much time on their hands.”
“We should send 100,000 troops there, get the job done and then bring them home,” Schluntz said.
But some protesters said they do not think Obama will follow through with his deadline.
Greater New Haven Peace Council chair Henry Lowendorf, one of the protesters, said federal officials made similar promises during the Vietnam War years before it ended.
“[The year] 2011 is a smoke-and-mirrors deadline,” he said.
The conflict in Afghanistan began in October 2001, when the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom.