Weekly Peace Rally Celebrates Fourth Birthday

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Photographs courtesy of Albert Viola

(APN) ATLANTA — Peace activists and others opposed to Bush’s Invasion and Occupation of Iraq held a rally to mark their fourth year of continuous Friday noon protests at Colony Square, a downtown office park at Peachtree and 14th Streets.

The rally was preceded by an 18 hour veterans’ vigil, which began at 6pm on Thursday, ending at noon with the rally.

The event was sponsored by Atlanta Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda (GCPA), and the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC).

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Photograph courtesy of Albert Viola

The crowd of about 200 held signs such as “Honk for Peace” and “Bring the Troops Home Now,” as many passers-by gave a thumbs up and honked in support. Very few passing by gave the crowd the middle finger up salute or thumbs down, another indication of the shift of support against the Invasion.

“What do we have to show for the lives of 2,600 Americans, 200,000 plus Iraqi civilians, and $300 billion spent on the Iraq quagmire?” Reverend Timothy McDonald of the First Iconium Baptist Church, who moderated the press conference, asked.

“A deepening Civil War, thousands of grieving families, a ballooning national debt, increased terrorism, and loss of US credibility around the world,” McDonald said.

Photograph courtesy of Albert Viola

Photograph courtesy of Albert Viola

“We speak for the majority of Americans who oppose the war, 61% now. US Occupation is the problem, not the solution.  Attacks on US troops have soared. The longer US troops remain, the further Iraq will descend into chaos,” McDonald said.

“We came to this corner four years ago hoping to influence our Senator to vote against US preemptive military strikes on the people of Iraq,” Bobbie Paul, Executive Director of WAND, recounted.

“[Former US] Senator Zell Miller is gone, but we are still here. Stand for Peace reminds us we belong to each other and we are building a viable Peace and Justice Movement in this country,” Paul said.

Weekly war protests began at Colony Square on August 29, 2002, after former US Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) refused to meet with a peace delegation in his then-Colony Square office.

A petition against a possible US Invasion of Iraq, signed by thousands of his constituents, was delivered, while many attempts to get an appointment with US Sen. Miller were denied.

In November of 2002, five citizens decided to stay until they could get an appointment. They were arrested for refusing to leave their elected public servant’s office.

“We are the Peace Majority,” Ann Mauney, Coordinator of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, said.

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Photograph courtesy of Albert Viola

“Over the past four years people have come to see through this exploitation of fear, and to reject the hypocrisy of leaders who send other people’s children off to war and who enrich themselves while others lack the basics. They are no longer taken in by lies connecting Iraq with 9/11 and claiming war is making us safer,” Mauney said.

Atlanta Progressive News spoke with Vietnam Veteran John Zientowski on the Thursday evening as his 18 hour vigil began.

“I’m doing it in support of the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, to let them know people over here support them, and we don’t want them going back again,” Zientowski said.

“I know what they are feeling. I know what they are going through. Iraq is much worse than Vietnam. Once you landed in Vietnam, you knew you only had 365 days till you rode the freedom bird home. One year, one tour. I can’t imagine going back,” Zientowski, who served as a Combat Medic in Vietnam, said.

“We Americans must demand that Congress immediately cease funding this war. It is time to leave and finally bring our brave troops home from Iraq and give it back to the Iraqis. It is very arrogant of us to think we can fix it for them,” Zientowski said.

Zientowski stood at the rally site all night, with supporters dropping by throughout the evening and night.

At the noon rally, the following day, “I feel full of energy,” he remarked. “I feel we put a crack in the wall. Change is in the air.”

About the author:

Susan Keith is a Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. She may be reached at susan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.

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