View Full Version : Protesters stage rally against war

06-29-05, 06:56 PM
Protesters stage rally against war
By Julia Oliver
Staff writer
Fayetteville Online

As the nation's largest Army post prepared to host its commander in chief Tuesday, a little blue house in Haymount gathered protesters.

Bumper stickers on cars at the curb read "Impeach Bush" and "Bush lied. People died." A yellow banner in the yard read: "Bring them home now."

The 20 or so people milling around the Quaker House were former soldiers, parents and grandparents. They had no plans to watch President Bush's speech from Fort Bragg.

"I've heard it all before, and I didn't believe it the first 10 times," said Chuck Fager, who runs the Quaker House, an organization that helps conscientious objectors.

Instead of watching the president on national television Tuesday night, the protesters met downtown. Sheltered in the Market House from a steady rain, they were about 50 strong by rush hour. They carried signs, lit candles in the shape of a peace symbol and read the names of the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq.

The protesters came from Raleigh, Richmond and homes in Fayetteville. Many had military connections.

Stan Goff, who retired as a master sergeant from the Special Forces and has a 22-year-old son serving in Iraq, found Bush's visit to a military base offensive. He said Bush was manipulating the people who had suffered most in the war.

"He's going to come down here and use them as his personal stage props when they could be home with their families," Goff said.

Charlie Anderson, a former hospital corpsman in the Navy and now an organizer for Iraq Veterans against the War, agreed. He compared Tuesday's speech venue to Bush's announcement from the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003 that the war had ended.

Several drivers rounding the Market House circle honked and waved at the protesters. One laid on his horn and displayed his middle finger.

Around 6 p.m, about an hour into the vigil, a soldier approached the group and began arguing with some people holding signs.

Staff Sgt. Isaac Hubbard, who is 27, suggested that instead of protesting the war, they lobby against it in Congress. He said public disagreement with U.S. policy is often used as propaganda by insurgents.

"When we do stuff like this, it only fuels the problem even more," he said.

The argument was civil and ended peacefully.

"We're not here to question your character," Goff told Hubbard.

Fager said a man on his way home from a friend's funeral in Arlington National Cemetery also confronted the group. The man had heard about the protest on talk radio, Fager said, and told the protesters they were dishonoring soldiers.

Organizers said they chose a downtown venue for the vigil to avoid criticizing soldiers, whom they support. A recent Observer poll showed that half of Cumberland County residents found war protests insulting in a military town.

Anderson, who came from his home in Virginia Beach, Va., said Tuesday afternoon that he hoped to read the names of five soldiers in his unit who were killed in Iraq in March and April.

"All of them were good kids," he said.

"Their hearts were in the right places. They shouldn't have ever been sent there in the first place."

Staff writer Julia Oliver can be reached at oliverj@fayettevillenc.com or 323-4848, ext. 280.