Among the leprechaun hats dotting the streets of Ann Arbor Saturday afternoon, a somber group – dressed in all black and carrying black balloons and crosses – isolated itself from the celebration.
Hundreds of people took part in a “funeral march” through the city marking the fifth anniversary of the the war in Iraq. The march, sponsored by local anti-war group Michigan Peaceworks, began at St. Mary’s student parish and doubled in size as more demonstrators joined the procession.
The march moved down William Street to State Street and wound down Liberty Street before stopping at the Federal Building. Protesters marched to a drumbeat and chanted, “No more war, war no more” in a monotonous tone as they carried a brown coffin as a reference to what they referred to as the nation’s current war policy. As this was happening, the Ann Arbor-based band Mutual Kumquat sang a rendition of its song “Baghdad Morning” – a song that contains the chorus, “morning comes to Baghdad, but it cannot take away the pain.”
Some demonstrators also carried black crosses, peace signs, and two black balloons – one to hand to a pedestrian and one to release at the Federal Building. Some passersby stopped to watch the march from the sidewalk. Some shouted in support. Most onlookers just appeared confused.
One group of men walking down Liberty Street disagreed with the group’s message.
“I think they’re a little ridiculous,” said LSA freshman David Buccillli. “They chant ‘Fight for beer, not for war.’ I halfway support the war. It’s better to help out other countries.”
At the end of the march, the coffin was placed at the foot of the building representing the burial of the mindset of war over peaceful alternatives.
Michigan Peaceworks Executive Director Joel Eckel concluded the protest by encouraging marchers to continue to voice their opposition to the war.
“If you come here today to end the war today I admire your optimism, it takes work,” he said.
Marchers then released hundreds of black balloons into the cool gray sky. Some participants lingered, pounding on drums, banging tambourines and dancing in front of the building as the crowd dispersed.
Michigan Peaceworks, founded shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 to oppose a military response, has organized a demonstration each year on the anniversary of the war. Turnout has fluctuated over the past five years. This weekend’s rally was much smaller the one held in 2006, which drew more than 1,000 people to the Diag.
Tony Morgan, director of People Power, a non-profit organization based in Ypsilanti, said the march made it possible for people to come out and voice their opinions without fear and also meet like-minded people opposed to the war.
Michigan Peaceworks Vice President Bill Canning, who also serves as director of the University’s Recreational Sports department, said he was thankful for the support the anti-war effort has received from the Ann Arbor City Council and Congressman John Dingell.
“Nothing will end it unless we the people get out and tell the people it should end,” he said.