March for peace draws hundreds

Posted: Sunday, October 27, 2002

About 350 people marched along Egan Drive near the Mendenhall Valley on Saturday morning to demonstrate against war with Iraq. Some carried signs reading "No more killing," "Not in our name," or held up bamboo poles with large origami birds representing peace.

The march coincided with international protests against U.S. efforts to lead a war against Iraq if Saddam Hussein does not comply with numerous United Nations resolutions to disarm, imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and lost the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

The protest also coincided with the first anniversary of President Bush's signing of the Patriot Act, a law that expanded the federal government's power to monitor people's communications and deport noncitizens with little review by judges.

Rick Bellagh, dressed as Uncle Sam on stilts, and Tia Anderson, garbed as Lady Liberty, roused the crowd before the march began in the parking lot of St. Paul's Catholic Church.

Uncle Sam, representing the government, said, "I need to know who you associate with. I need to know what books you check out. Lady Liberty, the Constitution is outdated since Sept. 11. What do you say?"

"We want liberty," Lady Liberty said.

"Foreigners mean us harm. Why should they get the same rights as citizens get," Uncle Sam said.

"We want freedom," Lady Liberty said, "we want peace," and the crowd took up the chant.

Patrick Neary carried a sign that read "Just peace."

"I don't believe pre-emption is a path that's supportive of good conditions on this planet," he said. "People need to respond to the international law, but taking the law into our own hands is not the path to peace."

Jenifer Shapland was marching "because I don't think making war on another country is a reasonable solution to world problems," she said.

"I don't think the U.S. need for oil is a good reason to bomb other countries. And I don't think the U.S. being the only superpower and being a bully on the block is a good position to be in."

Organizers were pleased that about 1 percent of Juneau's population marched Saturday. It can't be known whether they represent the opinion of most Juneau residents. About 50 people who oppose the war meet from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays at Northern Light United Church, and have attracted publicity.

Jim Ruotsala is one person who didn't march and who supports the Bush administration in its policy on Iraq and the Patriot Act.

"We should have gone into Baghdad (during the Gulf War) and removed Saddam Hussein from power and got them elections," he said in an interview. "It's a known fact he's got biological things for biological warfare, and if he won't cooperate on a weapons search, he definitely deserves to be put out of power."

Bush, when he signed the Patriot Act, said it was essential for "preventing more atrocities in the hands of the evil ones" and the law "respects the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution."

The marchers Saturday didn't buy that or his policy on Iraq.

"If you're silent or invisible, it implies you agree," said Cindy Boesser. "Today's the day to be visible."

Eric Fry can be reached at

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