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Protesters gather to call for end to Iraq war

Raleigh News and Observer

FAYETTEVILLE -- As President Bush renewed his case for war among hundreds of soldiers at Fort Bragg, a detachment of about 50 war protesters in Fayetteville urged a turn toward peace.
"I love my country," said Hillary Fisher, 34, the owner of the Modern Times clothing store in Chapel Hill and a first-time war protester.

"I can't believe what's happening, so I was compelled to come out," she said. "President Bush owes us answers. And he owes us an end date. The fact that there's no end date concerns me."

Fisher and others at the peace vigil at Fayetteville's antebellum Market House, a central landmark in this military city, read aloud the names of the more than 1,700 U.S. troops killed so far in Iraq.

"Each name I read, I was thinking, that's a person," Fisher said. "It's somebody's son or daughter or husband or wife. The point is to remember them."

Gary Cunha, 43, a Fuquay-Varina social worker and former Marine who counsels military veterans, said the vigil was only his second war protest.

"It's to ease my conscience that I express my views about the war," he said. "It's my civic duty."

Cunha, who had a mock American flag with corporate logos in the star field slung over his left shoulder, said it's time for Bush to answer pointed questions.

"Why are we there?" he asked. "How long will we be there? When are we leaving?"

In the middle of the open-air Market House's floor, luminarias were arranged in a peace sign about 8 feet across.

Gerilyn Hubbe, 16, a rising junior at Raleigh Charter High School, rang a Buhddist bell as names of the war dead were read.

Many protesters held signs, aiming them at passing cars or the dozen journalists there.

"Support The Troops: Bring Them Home Now!" one sign said. "12 More Years? No! Out Now," said another. "Honk for Peace," said one sign a teenage girl held aloft, and some drivers at the traffic circle around the Market House did.

Others cursed, and at least one gave a vulgar gesture.

Army Staff Sgt. Isaac Hubbard, 27, strode into the Market House and challenged the protesters' aims and means.

"Doing this only fuels those guys to get more energy, strap on C-4 and go blow up a bus," the psychological operations specialist told several protesters. "When I'm on the ground over there handing out fliers to the citizens of Iraq, this is the kind of picture they show us. It fuels insurgents."

"We're not here to question your character," protester Stan Goff of Raleigh, 53, a former Special Forces soldier at Fort Bragg, told Hubbard. "We're here to question the character of the president."

Meanwhile, at a war protest in Durham, 13 protesters stood in a light rain in front of the VA Medical Center to show support for the troops but their opposition to continued occupation of Iraq.

With spirits buoyed by polls showing dwindling support for the war and the recent publicity about the Downing Street memo, the peace ralliers hoisted signs and waved to honking motorists.

"I wish all the people who are opposed to the war would make their voices heard," said Celia Hartnett, a social worker from Cary. "They don't need to go to demonstrations. They don't have to do anything dramatic. But the legislators need to hear their voices. It's not just one or two old hippies against the war."

(Staff writer Anne Blythe contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Matthew Eisley can be reached at 829-4538 or
Staff writer Anne Blythe contributed to this report.



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