For the more than 400 feet pounding the cold pavement of Mulberry Street, destined for Old Town Square, the bongo heard in the background acted as a metronome. Activists of Strength Through Peace waved signs at oncoming traffic on their march as a bugler performed “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
“Yes! Bring the war home!” shouted one woman hanging out her car window as she tooted her horn. The exhilarated crowd cheered in response to the enthusiast.
This was no ordinary Saturday walk through Fort Collins for the more than 200 people who gathered on Howes Street to march to Old Town. Those who gathered marked the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion in Iraq with a passionate but peaceful protest.
“We’re here today because three years ago we let fear trump our decision making,” said rally emcee Linae Warden to start off the festivities once reaching Old Town Square.
The protest began at the Geller Center, 629 S. Howes St., where protestors gathered on the lawn to create signs and boxes to carry to Old Town. To the beat of a bongo drum, the group began its march to Old Town Square carrying signs reading “Bush an international terrorist,” “Bring the troops home!” and “Healthcare not warfare!”
Traveling down from Glacier View to wave a sign in the march, Dave Doft found it essential to make a statement about the war as a marine and Vietnam War veteran.
“I see the same thing happening again,” Doft said. “We went there on a lie, as we did in Vietnam. How would Bush know? He wasn’t there, he was hiding in the National Guard.”
Upon entering Old Town Square to the melodic sounds of two awaiting guitarists, those carrying boxes were asked to line up and state what the boxes represent.
“This box is for my son in Iraq who can’t understand why his government lied to him,” said one activist.
Others stated their boxes represented the national deficit or healthcare they believe is lacking because national funding is going to the war.
“These boxes are symbolic of the costs and missed opportunities,” said rally organizer Don Flick. “And they are immense.”
Kevin Cross, convener of Strength Through Peace, stepped up to the microphone to officially begin the rally with a petition. The petition called to action important aspects of the war that rally participants believed politicians are ignoring.
“In Northern Colorado we have three Congressional delegates who have done nothing to end this misguided war in Iraq,” Cross said. “Salazar said mistakes have been made in invading Iraq, but continues to sign bills to fund the war.”
Cross circulated the petition through the crowd that called for immediate and speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and will be submitted to Sen. Ken Salazar.
“We need to start bringing the troops home and keep bringing them home until they are all back here,” Cross said.
The rally followed with several speeches including keynote speaker John Kefalas, tax coordinator for the Colorado Progressive Coalition.
“It’s time to carry out our progressive plan of freedom, democracy and justice,” Kefalas shouted to the crowd. “Our mission is far from accomplished, it’s time to change the course of action.”
A major issue for many of the protestors included national funding and debt of the war in Iraq. Kefalas spoke of the money being used in Iraq as unnecessary and better suited for other investments.
“Imagine how we can invest this money into our communities for schools and healthcare systems,” he said.
However, the protest did not go on without contradiction. Marching to Old Town Square directly in front of the protest group was another band of sign wavers asking for support of U.S. troops. These people waved American flags and Bush support signs in opposition to the anti-war group.
“I have a son over there doing his job and sends me pictures with Iraqi men and women who support the U.S.,” said one member of the contradictory protestors, who asked to be unnamed because of past experiences with hate mail and phone calls. “The glorious thing about our constitution is that we have a right to be out here, just like they do.”
Hallie Woods can be reached at email@example.com