U students head to D.C. to join anti-war protest

Students went to Washington with the Anti-War Organizing League and other local groups.

by JP Leider

Over the weekend, a small number of University students joined the hundreds of thousands who protested the Iraq war in Washington.

The protest is likely the largest since the war began in 2003.

Twelve members of the student group Anti-War Organizing League boarded one of the six Minnesota buses that departed for Washington on Friday morning.

Some current and former students also traveled to Washington with the Minnesota Democrat-Farmer-Labor party, Women Against Military Madness, St. Joan of Arc Church and the Anti-War Committee.

In addition to protesting the war and the current administration, organizers of the event also wanted to reignite discussion and action locally.

“Our goal is to motivate the people on the bus and re-energize the movement here,” said Tracy Molm, an organizer the Anti-War Committee.

Molm said although she doesn’t think the protest will bring about immediate change, it will definitely have a noticeable effect.

“It’s another nail in the coffin – the war isn’t going to end tomorrow,” she said.

AWOL officer James Bourque expressed similar sentiments after attending the protest.

Bourque, a political science junior who said he has five cousins over in Iraq, estimated that up to 750,000 people attended the protest.

“I don’t think they’ll change the policy immediately; I am not that naïve,” he said. “When 750,000 people come out to a protest, it changes the arena of debate, it changes culture and it pushes for social change.”

Bourque said the atmosphere was energetic, diverse and “pretty intense.”

“For a lot of the students, it was their first national demonstration, or even first protest,” he said. “So I guess it was kind of intimidating for them.”

Locally, not all students believe the protest was worthwhile.

University sophomore Marisa Ontko said President George W. Bush had been adamant about going to war almost since he took office, so the protest won’t change anything.

Ontko, a registered Democrat, said although these types of protests could be demoralizing to troops, it’s not like the Vietnam War, which the war in Iraq has recently been likened to.

“When people came back from Vietnam, vets were disrespected, even spit on,” she said. “But now we’re supporting our troops, just not what we’re doing over there.”

First-year student Zainah Shaker expressed concern Friday that the protest could produce unforeseen negative effects.

Shaker said she feared the protest could produce riots.

She also said the protest won’t resolve anything.

“The government is not going to change its mind because kids protest,” Shaker said.

Bourque said there was no apparent violence between protesters and the small amount of counterprotesters. He said a large security presence acted as a buffer between the two groups.