140 gather in Market Square, Exeter to speak out against war
By Emily Aronson
PORTSMOUTH - More than 100 people gathered in Market Square on Wednesday to show their support for Cindy.
Although they had never met her, supporters seemed to be on a first-name basis with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who has been camped outside President Bush’s Texas ranch to protest the war.
"She’s talking straight," said former state Sen. Burt Cohen. "Her son was killed, and she wants to know why."
The Market Square gathering was just one of 1,627 vigils held nationwide for Sheehan Wednesday night. The coast-to-coast event was organized by MoveOn.org and Democracy for America after Sheehan asked supporters to conduct their own vigils calling for an end to the war in Iraq.
In Exeter, about 40 people gathered in front of Town Hall for a similar vigil. The group included Navy veteran Tony Woody, whose son is getting ready to return to Iraq with the military for a second time.
"Peace is the answer," said Woody, "not war."
In Portsmouth, the crowd streamed down the sidewalk in front of North Church waving peace signs and carry handmade posters that read, "We’re with Cindy."
Amy Antonucci, who helped organize the vigil through Seacoast Peace Response, said it was amazing how Sheehan’s one-woman protest has become a nationwide phenomenon.
David Diamond said he thought the attention Sheehan has gained shows that support for the war is waning.
"It’s a real turning point," he said.
Judy Matthews said her attendance at the vigil was her first formal protest against the war. Something about Sheehan’s story made her want to come out, she explained.
"I think she’s a catalyst for a voice for other people to express how they feel about the war," Matthews said.
Sheehan "has made the war real," said Cynthia Muse of Rye.
"She shows what the war means for real people and their lives," Muse said.
Susan Turner of Portsmouth said the vigils wouldn’t be necessary if President Bush would just meet with Sheehan in person, which was the goal of her trip to Texas.
"This is so stupid," said Turner. "He should just talk to her."
A man named Mark from Portsmouth seemed to be the only one in the crowd who didn’t agree with Sheehan. He called her protest "a disservice to the country." Mark, who would not give his last name, said the war was necessary to fight terrorism.
Liz Chretien contributed to this story.
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Copyright © 2005 Seacoast Online.
PHOTO IN LINK:
Mary Alissa Hebden, 6, of Eliot, Maine, participates in a vigil with her sister Kaitlyn, 10, mother Kathy and grandmother Betty McDonald in Market Square on Wednesday.
Photo by Jackie Ricciardi