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Group protests Bush, war
Demonstrators say there are options other than fighting
By Alex Muller
About 25 demonstrators gathered at the Allen Street Gates yesterday afternoon to protest the fifth-year anniversary of President Bush's election into the presidency.
Members from the State College Peace Center and the Central Pennsylvania chapter of Veterans For Peace participated in the national movement called "The World Can't Wait -- Drive Out the Bush Regime" by holding signs with Bush's face behind prison bars sporting the slogan "Impeach Them All" and asking local passers-by to join in their protest.
"We can't fix the problems in Iraq with more war, military and killing," said Mary Vollero, an art instructor at Penn State's Dubois Campus. "All the money we are spending on keeping our military in Iraq we could donate to support Iraqis and help them support themselves."
Vollero, who helped organize the demonstration, said she wasn't always a staunch liberal, but was moved to act when she sat down to watch C-SPAN two-and-a-half years ago and saw Congress give Bush the OK to go to war.
"I could not believe my eyes," she said. "There are alternatives -- we don't have to do this by killing more people."
Ron Matason, a member of Veterans For Peace, said he wasn't protesting because Bush is a Republican, but because he strongly opposes war.
"I can't find a right pigeon hole to be in -- I'm an independent," he said. "War should not be the first option in national diplomacy."
Matason and Vollero said they participate in regular Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evening vigils for victims of the war in Iraq, but decided to use the national movement as an opportunity to voice their opinions.
"I'm doing this for other veterans and men and women who are in Iraq now," Matason said. "I'm doing this for the active-duty Marine who thanked me at our vigil last week, and for the people who normally don't get a chance to speak out."
But not everyone at the demonstration was there to protest the Bush administration. Bill Blair (nondegree-education) is attending Penn State because of the GI Bill.
Blair said he joined the military after seeing Bush's speech following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and fought in Iraq from April 2003 to April 2004.
While he didn't agree with the demonstration, he said it was the protestors' "American right" to criticize the president.
"I don't think [Bush] did anything wrong going into Iraq," he said. "I think people make him a scapegoat."
Blair said he also disagreed with the protestors who claimed Iraqis didn't want American soldiers in their country.
"My first day in the country, thousands of kids and adults ran up to us, just happy that we were there," he said.
Blair said he couldn't see U.S. troops evacuating Iraq in the near future.
"I don't think we'll be out for a long time," he said. "We can't leave because we can't show failure and weakness."
PHOTO: Kathryn MacNeil
Paul Simpson, of State College, front left, participates in a demonstration against President Bush in front of the Allen Street Gates. Yesterday afternoon's protest was meant to mark the five-year anniversary of Bush's election to the presidency.