News: Together Against War

The anti-war movement isn't all youth

Jan 31, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Jim Albers

Cincinnatians marching in Washington D.C. against the war included (at far left) City Councilman David Crowley and (right) Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An estimated 250 Cincinnatians traveled here last weekend to send a loud and clear anti-war message to the federal government.

Before leaving for the demonstrations, hundreds gathered Jan. 26 for a rally at St. John's Unitarian Universalist Church in Clifton. The rally featured spoken word, street theater, music, visual and other art. The crowd roared with chants of peace and solidarity and laughed at humor-filled political satire.

The rally was organized by the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) of Over-the-Rhine, which also chartered a bus for the protest. Amidst all the chaos and noise at the rally, IJPC staffer Kristen Barker cites statistics showing frustration with the war in Iraq. Various polls show that 72 percent of U.S. soldiers, more than 70 percent of Iraqis and more than 60 percent of Americans want a withdrawal of U.S. forces.

"We want the president and Congress to end the war, to listen to all these people wanting a withdrawal," Barker says.

Many observers point out that families turned out in large numbers for the march. The same is true of the IJPC contingent.

More than 100 people left on two buses from St. John's. The bus organized by IJPC had mainly families and older peace activists, while the other bus contained a contingent of University of Cincinnati students.

The UC bus didn't have many seasoned veterans of the past or current anti-war movements, but those are what inspired various students to participate.

"I think a lot of people see our generation as apathetic and pathetic," says Nancy Paraskevopoulos of Clifton. "We're going to show the world what we're made of."

Speaking in a busy Bob Evans restaurant, Paraskevopoulos' comments draw skeptical remarks from others. Asked what marching will do, she says, "It will show the people abroad, in other countries, that Americans are unhappy with this war."

Vanessa Peck, a UC student from Madeira, understands Paraskevopoulos' point about world opinion. Peck has traveled to Europe twice, teaching English to French students. She has a triple major in international affairs, Spanish and French. She carries a sign in French, hoping to attract the French media.

In France, many see Americans as a united force in agreeing with the Bush administration on the war, Peck says. She wants to help dispel that myth and other stereotypes of Americans.

"We (students) are about to embark on a world where we are the next generation of leaders," she says. "It is an intrinsic value to students to make active decisions that shape our world."

While students and families ride here on buses, others from Cincinnati drive in caravans. The driving groups have more seasoned activist credentials.

While the march itself, containing a great deal of youth, turns out to be colorful, it's highly regulated and formulated. More than 100,000 protesters show up, but many don't chant. Police surround the entire parade route. One group, in particular, decides to spice things up; they turn a day of marching into a day of dancing, singing and duck-duck-goosing.

Susan Quarm-Magnotti, a third-year Mediterranean studies major at UC, extracts the positive from the lame.

"There's lots of fun," she says. "Real change occurs in people's communities. Protests inspire those who come to them and help them to build (movements) in their respective community."

Many see the protest as something for the future. Sarah Greene, a recent graduate of Northern Kentucky University, believes the march will lead to something more important.

"I'm assuming this march will be skewed and marginalized to suit the propaganda of the White House," she says. "But hopefully some of our citizens will be able to look past the propaganda to find their own inspirations from others speaking out." ©