Publication:Johnson City Press; Date:Sep 23, 2007; Section:Front Page; Page Number:1A


Hundreds march in peace rally

• City demonstration draws support, opposition on route.

By REX BARBER Press Staff Writer rbarber@johnsoncitypress.com



    Hundreds of protesters marched to East Tennessee State University Saturday calling for an end to the war in Iraq.

    The group gathered in the Cherry Street parking lot and proceeded along West State of Franklin Road carrying signs displaying anti-war slogans. One group in the long line of marchers was lugging a large papier-mâché puppet of President Bush that was wearing a cowboy hat and holding a pistol in one hand and a bag of money in the other.

    Passersby

honked their horns at the protesters, prompting cheers and the beating of makeshift drums in response.

    The march ended at Borchuck Plaza in front of the Sherrod Library on the ETSU campus, where speeches and music could be heard.

    Joseph

Fitsamakis was one of the featured speakers and told the crowd of what he called the irony of 70 percent of the American public wanting an end to the war and no one in either party being able to do that.

    “We think that this war is one of the primary reasons why this country is being driven through the mud right now, economically, politically, ethically, morally,” he said. “That’s why we’re here.”

    Fitsamakis, representing Democracy Now Tri-Cities, said a meaningful debate about the war is not occurring.

    “When you have the majority of Americans that want the troops out of Iraq as soon as possible and you have none of the parties actually debating it seriously then there’s no serious discussion,” he said.

    The argument that a complete withdrawal of American forces from Iraq would lead to chaos in the country is unmerited, Fitsamakis said.

    “The United States troops are isolated,” Fitsamakis said. “They only operate in segregated green zone areas. They rarely go out of their green zone. Whenever they do go out they get bombed and they have to rush as quickly as possible to get from point A to B. So basically the United States troops is just another militia in Iraq right now; whether they leave or stay makes no difference to the future of Iraq.”

    Jason Hurd served as a medic in Iraq with Troop F of the 278th Regimental Combat Team from November 2004 to November 2005. Hurd said he spoke at Saturday’s rally because he has seen firsthand the effects the U.S. presence has on Iraqi civilians.

    “Even though we have good intentions of being over there, all in all we are causing a great amount of suffering and the Iraqi people see us as one of the main contributors to the suffering,” he said.

    Hurd said the options for the U.S. in Iraq, such as the troop surge, a withdrawal by timetable or an immediate withdrawal, are not very helpful.

    “The fact of the matter is it’s just not that simple,” he said. “Nobody is taking a broader, multifaceted approach to the problems in Iraq. The one time that we tried to — the Iraq study group that got completely ignored — they were supposed to be the
definitive report on what’s going on in Iraq and it got swept underneath the rug.”

    Although some passersby showed their displeasure with the protesters, there were no confrontations.

    Hurd said the rally should not be considered as an attack on American troops — the activists just want them home.

    “Obviously, I am one of the troops,” he said. “And I am here and the rest of these people, if you ask every single one of them, they will tell you they absolutely support our American troops. They don’t want to see them harmed, killed. They don’t want to see them hurt.”


A young activist displays his message.



The Saturday peace rally to end the war in Iraq began in the Cherry Street parking lot and went to Borchuck Plaza at East Tennessee State University.



A young girl displays the American flag.



A protester gets her message across.



Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press A motorcycle rider carries a sign that reads, “Veterans against this protest support our troops.”