We can stop the war thousands cry

PHILADELPHIA – Nearly 3,000 people gathered here Nov. 3 to march and rally against a war on Iraq. “We Must Stop the War! We Can Stop the War!,” shouted the crowd who carried mostly homemade signs. Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network (PRAWN), a coalition of veterans, women’s and peace groups, students, union members, religious congregations, senior citizens and others, organized the demonstration.

At the rally Dave Klein, president of Veterans For Peace (VFP), thanked the crowd for being patriotic and speaking out against “blatant U.S. aggression.” Klein called attention to the homeless Vietnam War veterans on the street. “Let’s not make more of them,” he said. John Grant, president of the local VFP, said wars are easy to start but difficult to end. “This is a totally imperialist grab for oil,” Grant said.

John Harllick from “Not In Our Name,” an organization of 400 families who lost relatives in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, said, “We don’t want the government hijacking our tragedy. We must stop this war.” Harllick’s father, a fireman, and his cousin both died in the World Trade Center.

Johanna Berrigan, who has visited Iraq three times, told the crowd that the Iraqi people understand it is the U.S. government and not the U.S. people waging war against them. “But many more Americans are needed to stop this war and save innocent people’s lives,” Berrigan said.

Gary Kapanowski, AFSCME District Council 47 representative, said his union is on the front line of social services in Philadelphia. “Where do you think money for war will come from?” Kapanowski asked. “Money for human needs not war!” He drew loud applause.

Nancy Carroll, a disabled grandmother of six, from Every Mother Is A Working Mother, said, “The money that’s going into war needs to go for welfare. Women and children in Philadelphia are suffering because of the welfare changes.” Other speakers spoke about changing U.S. foreign policy, the importance of educating our families, neighbors and co-workers and taking our moral responsibility to bring peace to the Middle East rather than chaos.

Shoppers and pedestrians stopped to watch, some coming out of the stores as marchers made their way to the Liberty Bell chanting, “Hell No! We won’t go. We won’t fight for Texaco.” Students carried huge skull puppets.

The march enticed whole families to participate. Linda Bryant and her two young daughters, 4 and 6 years old, joined the march. A college student made each child a small “No War!” sign. Bryant said her daughters asked to be in the “Peace Parade” and she was glad to do so.

An Arab American family with 4 small children, one in a stroller, marched and chanted. The father had come to Philadelphia to study. He told the World, “I don’t like Saddam Hussein, but war is not the answer because many people will die and suffer. Some people don’t know what war really is.”

The day before, Nov. 2, 300 students from Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Community College of Philadelphia, Haverford College and Swarthmore College staged a protest rally and stopped traffic. Eric Wayne, one of the students, said, “We are building a people’s movement for peace and justice.”

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@hotmail.com