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Syracuse anti-war protestors take to road
The Daily Orange - Opinion
In a crowd of what some speculate to be more than 300,000, five Syracuse-area strangers came together with one goal in mind - to bring the United States troops home now.
These five protestors, each representing a different walk of life, were among the nearly 100 people from around Syracuse that boarded a bus early Saturday morning to make the seven-hour journey to Washington, D.C.
The two buses, which were organized by the Syracuse Peace Council, were made up of a mix of elderly and middle-aged citizens alike, but there were also a small number of college students as well. Most of these students came from Hamilton College in Clinton.
For some, this protest was another chance to speak out against a government policy that they disagreed with. For most, however, this was their first time to criticize an administration that has undergone an increasing amount of public scrutiny, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"I feel like I should do whatever I can to bring this madness to a halt," said Robert Molineaux, a retired accountant at the United Nations from Williamstown.
The 72-year-old Molineaux has been attending protests since the Vietnam era. He was in New York City for the protest against the Iraq war right before it started in March of 2003.
He referred to the Downing Street Memo, a document written by a British intelligence official before the war started that detailed President George W. Bush's intentions to go to war with Iraq on the premise of the presence of weapons of mass destruction when, the document said, Bush knew that none had existed in Iraq.
"(The Downing Street Memo) really nailed it down black and white. It indicates the Blair government is equally as good at lying to their people as the Bush administration is," Molineaux said.
The protest featured a number of speakers, including Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a slain U.S. soldier who has gained notoriety after she camped outside the Bush vacation ranch demanding U.S. troops return home.
Conversely, Katie Barrett, a 45-year-old part-time bartender from Marcellus, said an Iraqi civil war is likely regardless of a U.S. presence.
While this was Barrett's first protest, it was not the first time she has publicly disapproved of the Bush administration. Last Election Day, she held anti-Bush signs near a polling place.
"I support (our troops); I don't support our government," said Barrett. By understaffing and improperly equipping the military, "the Bush administration is not supporting our troops."
Joe Korniczky was one of the only Syracuse University students on either bus. Korniczky went to Washington, D.C. in large part to support his good friend, who will soon leave for active duty in Kuwait. His friend joined the army to get money for college but has not gotten the chance to go. If the march works, Korniczky said, his friend will be able to come home.
The protest "will send a huge message to everybody in and around the White House," said Korniczky, a freshman enrolled in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. A demonstration, he said, is better than writing a letter because you can throw out a letter but, "you can't throw out a hundred thousand people in your face."
Despite the apparent inconvenience of spending about twice as much time on a bus as they did at the protest, Michael Salamone said he thinks it's worth it.
"I don't want to see anyone's children die. I have four sons; I'd hate to see any of them have to fight," Salamone said.
Some may dismiss protestors' cries of immediately removing U.S. troops as unrealistic, but several on the bus acknowledged Saturday that it would likely take time.
"Maybe it will get people motivated," Barrett said.
She compared the event as an avenue to build the amount of public pressure, similar to what contributed to removing troops from Vietnam.
Similarly, Salamone said the protest is an example of a spreading dissent and said it is one piece of a puzzle to extracting troops.
"All these things add together," he said.
"The stakes are much higher than one man's character," said Khuram Hussain, a second-year graduate student in SU's School of Education.
"This kind of civic action is as important as voting and paying taxes," Hussain said.
Hussain, who came with his wife, said the root of the crowd's anger is the perception of President Bush as being "doggedly stubborn and tremendously incompetent." While he admitted he didn't know how accurate those qualities are, they were apparent to him.