Iraq vets lead Syracuse march

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Peace activists held a historic march and demonstration Sept. 29 here. Nearly 3,000 people participated in the protest called by the Fort Drum chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and hosted by the Syracuse Peace Council, Student Peace Action Network at Syracuse University and the 1199 health care workers union.

The demonstration drew peace activists from around the region, arriving by bus, car and train from Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and many smaller towns.

“We are in the heart and soul of America here,” said Steve Kramer, 1199 union executive vice president, to the assembled crowd. People from “midsize cities and towns have come together to say no more war.”

The antiwar movement is continuing to keep the pressure on the White House and Congress to draw this war to an end. The demonstration was part of building for the 11 regional demonstrations called by United for Peace and Justice for Oct. 27.

“The only thing we should leave in Iraq is money for reparations and rebuilding,” said Elliott Adams, president of Veterans for Peace and resident of Saratoga Springs. “Not only do we need to get out of Iraq, we need to stay out of Iran.”

He and a number of speakers along with signs in the crowd warned against Bush administration threats of aggression against Iran.

“There is a drumbeat coming out of Washington for a possible war with Iran,” said IVAW member and conscientious objector Mike Blake from Binghamton. “But we are not afraid. We are standing up. There will be no endless war.”

Active-duty soldiers who inspired and initiated the protest made the march’s character unique. Fort Drum, which is located an hour and a half north of here, has had more Iraq casualties than any other U.S. base, according to IVAW. Several active-duty soldiers and Iraq veterans marched in the veterans’ contingent that led the march through the streets, carrying the U.S. flag and VFP colors.

Carole Baum of the Syracuse Peace Council, a group with an 80-year history, explained to the World the size and diversity of the protest by saying it is all about supporting the resistance in the military. “We are the nearest large city to Fort Drum.” She hopes that the event will help solidify the collaboration among upstate peace groups, “creating a web of activism where before there were just dots.”

The protesters also made the connection between the war in Iraq and the crisis of U.S. cities and towns.

Tanika Jones of Syracuse Citizen Action spoke about the loss of jobs in the city and the decaying of social services like housing, education and health care. “With the massive amount of money being spent on the war in Iraq, imagine what we could be building right here in our community.” Jones also told the World, “I am from Syracuse and I have never seen anything like this demonstration. Ever.”

As one protester turned to see the march stretch back half a mile or more, he said, “Wow! Right here in Syracuse.”

Derrick Davey, whose son died in Iraq in 2005, summed it all up: “Supporting the troops means bringing them home. It’s that simple.”

ldellapiana @cpusa.org