Despite low temperatures and blustery winds, an estimated 1,500 people marched the streets of Ann Arbor Saturday for peace between the United States and Iraq.
Carrying signs, shouting slogans and singing songs, marchers of the Peace March gathered at the Federal Building on the corner of Liberty Street and Fifth Avenue. The parade, sponsored by the Ann Arbor Committee for Peace and Anti-War Action!, proceeded through downtown Ann Arbor, ending in the Diag, where marchers formed a human peace sign. A group calling themselves “Radical Cheerleaders” energized the crowd with enthusiastic chants.
Rally coordinator and AACP member Phillis Engelbert said the march showed Ann Arbor’s support of the anti-war cause. “We’re lending our voice to the growing national consensus that this war is unjust,” she said. “We’re pleased to have a lot of people and a lot of good energy.”
But not everyone thought the rally was the best means of addressing conflict with Iraq. LSA senior James Justin Wilson, editor in chief of The Michigan Review, said, “We think it’s insulting to turn such a solemn event into something family-oriented.” Members of Young Americans for Freedom agreed, likening the rally to a Macy’s Day Parade.
But Engineering sophomore Maher Iskandar said the march was an act of solidarity with the Iraqi people. “Human rights will be lost if we go to war,” he said. He added that he feels Saddam Hussein is a dictator, but dealing with him at the expense of the Iraqi people is wrong.
Participants attending the rally held a broad spectrum of opinions. LSA sophomore Aesha Ahmad said she opposed the war due the potential loss of many lives. “Civilians should not be slaughtered for oil and the strengthening of the government,” she said.
The Radical Cheerleaders shouted slogans criticizing President Bush that included, “Now our economy is doing bad, so you’ll start a war just like your dad!”
Residential College sophomore Emily Bate, one of the Radical Cheerleaders, said war with Iraq would be a continuation of war against terror. “I’ve been protesting this war since it was a war with Afghanistan,” she said. “No one can possibly justify this war.”
Pro-war protesters justified the war with oil and humanitarian issues. YAF member Ruben Duran, a LSA junior, thought the war was necessary if it would make the Middle East a more stable place. He also emphasized the war was partly about oil. “If the oil is sold, the Iraqis can eat,” he said.
Wilson brought up the humanitarian aspect of a potential war, saying that Iraqi citizens are mistreated under Saddam’s regime. “How much is it going to take to prove that (Saddam) is an evil dictator?” he asked.
A rally directly followed the march. Speakers included Hiba Ghalib, an alum of Iraqi descent, who spoke on how difficult life is under the threat of war for members of her family still living in Iraq. She added that life in the United States is becoming more difficult for Iraqi-Americans. Her brother Bilal said, “My father remembers World War II and what happened to the Japanese. I don’t like being afraid to live in my country.”
Civil rights activist Joseph Dulin, principal at the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, also spoke. He described peace as an overarching goal of humanity, both domestically and in foreign affairs. “Peace is truly a brotherhood of mankind,” he said. “Peace is a struggle for human dignity.”
The protest was part of a national movement against war with Iraq. Protests will continue this Saturday in East Lansing and across the nation.