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Rebuilding Iraq

Hundreds march, ride, rally for peace

By John Donnelly, Globe Staff, 3/16/2003

    Rebuilding Iraq

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 TEXT

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CAMBRIDGE -- Evoking Paul Revere's famous ride, hundreds of people chanted antiwar slogans and waved signs along Massachusetts Avenue from Dorchester to Lexington Green yesterday to protest the country's move toward war with Iraq in one of several protests held around the state.

Nearly 100 high school students from 15 communities marched 2 miles to a peace rally at Cambridge Common, while 85 bicyclists from the group "Bikes Not Bombs" made the 35-mile round-trip trek from Boston to Lexington.

Along Massachusetts Avenue, an estimated 800 people banged on drums and urged motorists to "honk for peace" at 14 intersections from Dorchester to Roxbury to the Fenway and across the Charles River through Cambridge, Arlington, and Lexington.

Eric Hall, a 56-year-old grandfather from Dorchester, said the country is moving toward war with far too little discussion. He said he rode the 35 miles on his bike as an attempt to draw attention to the issue.

"I feel powerless. It seems like everybody I know is opposed to it, yet it's happening," said Hall, who works for the US Environmental Protection Agency. "What troubles me is the massive number of people who haven't connected with this yet, and that's why this is being allowed to happen -- because they're oblivious to it."

The antiwar activities in and around Boston coincided with protests scheduled in Amherst, Fall River, Swansea, and Westport. In Washington, D.C., protesters gathered at the Washington Monument for a march toward the White House. Around the world, tens of thousands attended rallies from London to Moscow to Cairo to Seoul to Tokyo.

President Bush and his advisers have reacted to antiwar protests by saying that the United States must do what is right. They say their judgment will be validated when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is removed and Iraqis are under democratic rule.

In Boston yesterday, Molly Lanzarotta and her husband brought their two sons to a peace vigil at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston Street, where they stood for an hour before hopping in their green Saturn and driving to Lexington Center, waving and honking at fellow protesters along the route.

Lanzarotta, 39, who lives in Brookline and works as an editor at Brandeis University, said she wanted to teach her sons, ages 9 and 12, the importance of democratic participation. Those who want peace need to "sound the alarm" against Bush's rush to war, she said, just as Paul Revere warned of the arrival of British soldiers during his famous ride to Lexington in 1775.

"This is about protecting our troops," Lanzarotta said. "We don't believe we've heard good enough reasons yet for them to go off to war and die."

Beth Halpern stood near the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston Street waving a sign that said, "War is not the answer."

"I believe it is an unjust war, and the US really shouldn't go it alone," said Halpern, 22, of Boston. "If we do, we are going to increase the hatred and the anti-American sentiment."

No arrests of protesters were reported, and police in Boston, Cambridge, Arlington, and Lexington said the protests caused nothing more than minor traffic and pedestrian disruptions.

More protests are planned today, including a silent candlelight vigil led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa that organizers hope to start in New Zealand and repeat in more than 1,000 cities across every time zone at 7 p.m. More than 100 vigils are planned at churches, town commons, and town halls around Massachusetts, including dozens of locations in Roxbury, South Boston, Newton, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville.

In Worcester, about 60 people attended a workshop at the College of the Holy Cross yesterday on conscientious objection to the military draft. The workshop was designed for students to learn more about conscientious objection on religious grounds.

In Amherst yesterday, 30 veterans marched through the downtown to voice their opposition to war with Iraq. About 100 people attended a rally at Amherst Common near the spot where 30-year-old Gregory Levey burned himself to death in 1991 in an apparent protest against the war in the Persian Gulf.

Gordon Fletcher-Howell, 55, a former Marine who served two years in Vietnam and then joined demonstrations protesting the war after his return, said the United States had wasted an "incredible reservoir" of post-Sept. 11 international goodwill by "acting like a bully" and failing to build a wider coalition against Iraq.

"Many of us, myself included, could support a war under the right conditions, but one of the conditions for a just war is that it be the last resort, and we're not at a last resort yet," said Fletcher-Howell, who addressed the Amherst rally. "I'm a patriot and I don't bash America, but this isn't a game. People are going to die."

Jennifer Horan stood in Harvard Square for hours yesterday, watching the protesters chant "Whose war? Their war! Whose peace? Our peace!" and checking out the various peace signs, such as the one shaped like a missile that said, "Stop the new arms race." Another said, "Earth to Bush: No Iraq War."

Horan, 42, of Belmont, said she opposes war with Iraq because it would cost a lot of money that could be spent on education or boosting the economy or a hundred other more productive uses.

But Horan, who has visited Iraq four times with various peace organizations, said there's another, more personal reason, too: Two American activists she knows are still in Baghdad, where they've been bringing food and toys to Iraqi children since 1996.

"I can put some names and faces to the people who are actually going to be under these bombs that are about to rain down," she said.





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