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Upstate New York against the war

October 5, 2007 | Page 15

BRIAN LENZO reports on the largest antiwar march in upstate New York since Vietnam.

SYRACUSE, N.Y.--More than 2,500 people marched here on September 29 to call for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Billed as "Soldiers and Civilians Speak Out!" the march was led by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), along with a rowdy contingent of more than 200 students from the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN). As the march snaked through Syracuse University campus, students waved from their dorm windows, and some joined the march.

Iraq vets Michael Blake and Phil Aliff gave stirring speeches about resistance inside the U.S. military; CAN's Ken Love delivered a "Post-Petraeus Report"; Ashley Smith from the International Socialist Organization demanded we build an alternative to the spineless politicians in Washington; and Dahlia Wasfi, an Iraqi doctor who has family living in Iraq, reminded the crowd of the devastation being wrought on Iraq.

This march was the largest in upstate New York since the Vietnam War, bringing together soldiers, students, labor and community antiwar groups in a way that hasn't been seen enough in the U.S. movement.

Groups like Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, the Green Party and Service Employees International Union 1199 came together to demand immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, funding for vets when they return home, reparations for the Iraqi people and funding for health care.

Initiated by the Fort Drum chapter of IVAW, organizing for the march involved 10 cities and many individuals. Activists planned the day of events over a two-month stretch, through weekly conference calls, a Web site hosted by the Syracuse Peace Council and a face-to-face meeting at Rochester's Antiwar Storefront.

The event began as a local effort by antiwar soldiers at Fort Drum who wanted to build chapters of IVAW throughout upstate New York, but quickly grew to include the entire upstate antiwar community.

The result was mobilization from all parts of New York state. Following the march, numerous networking meetings were held for soldiers and vets, students and youth, and city organizations to solidify the links made while organizing and discuss what the next steps for the movement.

Protester Joanna Love put it best: "I am so proud of everyone's sons and daughters who are taking up the fight. I think this march will have a great effect on people, but we need to get louder and louder until we stop these war criminals!"

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