BRUNSWICK, Maine — The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels aviation team roars across the nation, year after year, from crowd to crowd, titillating families and the public with acrobatics in the sky. This year, the “Great State of Maine Air Show” expanded its draw.

Some 350 antiwar activists, including the prominent peace activist Kathy Kelly, were on hand Sept. 10 at the main gate of the Brunswick Naval Air Station to protest the Iraq war and militarism. They joined an estimated 150,000 people who watched the two-day event from inside the base.

Maine Veterans for Peace, supported by a dozen or so other peace groups, organized a two-mile march from downtown Brunswick out to the naval air base. The marchers carried colorful banners, signs, puppets or paper doves with wings that flapped. At the main gate of the naval base, they joined 30 people who spent the night there on a vigil.

At the head of the march were white banners that depicted coffins, each one labeled with the name of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. Several large flowing banners said, “Real angels do not drop bombs.” The statewide mainstream media gave the demonstration wide coverage.

Doug Rawlings, president of Veterans for Peace, welcomed the gathering.

Dexter Kamilewicz of Orrs Island, Maine, told about his son Ben who is serving in Iraq with the Vermont National Guard. Ben’s parents shudder when he tells them about 12-20 hour days, house-to-house searches in Ramadi and narrow escapes from death. Some of Ben’s comrades are now serving their second and third tours of duty in Iraq. Their National Guard vehicles have scant armor and are mechanically over the hill, he said.

According to Kamilewicz, Ben “falters and talks, hardly being able to articulate what they [his fellow soldiers] feel. Knee-deep sewage runs in the roads of the Sunni triangle … no consistent water or electricity. There’s no local economy for the Iraqi citizens to earn money to feed their children. The Iraqis see nothing but hate … nothing but hate and disgust for Americans for destroying their lives.”

Kamilewicz urged a big turnout for the Sept. 24 march in Washington “to bring the troops home now.” Ben always asks him, he said, to “keep on working to get us out of here.”

The U.S. military uses the Blue Angel shows to bolster recruitment, says Veterans for Peace. They lend an apparent reality to television images and video games that portray killing at a distance as easy and bloodless, enlivened by noise and speed. Organizers had hoped that a well-publicized protest might bestow upon the Blue Angels an aura of controversy, thereby provoking citizens to question the war.

Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness was the featured speaker. In an impassioned, wide-ranging talk, she inveighed against U.S. imperialism. The United States “pioneered the refusal to be colonial subjects of a faraway power, one that wants to take away your resources, and take your sovereignty. And a revolution occurred. It was very similar in many ways to the refusal on the part of the Iraqi people to be colonial subjects of the United States today.”

“We don’t want empire,” she said. She advocated tax resistance as one form of opposing the war machine. “We’ve got to let these war-makers know that we don’t want to collaborate. It’s a moral imperative. Withdraw your support, the one thing they want from us.”