Demostration draws war detractors and supporters

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(Host) A group of Vermonters opposed to a war with Iraq urged Governor Jim Douglas this afternoon to back their efforts. The meeting culminated a day of anti-war activities in Montpelier.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Roughly 100 Vermonters representing various peace coalitions came to the Statehouse on Friday to encourage lawmakers to pass a resolution that calls for greater diplomatic efforts to resolve the current conflict with Iraq.

Just as the peace rally was getting ready to start, a group of approximately 50 lawmakers stood on the steps of the Statehouse and sang God Bless America. Representative Sylvia Kennedy (R-Chelsea) and Representative Kurt Wright (R-Burlington) gave the group some last minute instructions:

(Kennedy) “What we’re here for is to support our troops who are in place and ready to go.”
(Wright) “People protesting have a right to protest and we have a right to be out here supporting the county the troops and the president. Here we go-“
(Sound of lawmakers singing God Bless America.)

(Kinzel) When the song was over, the peace rally began. Several speakers urged the Legislature to view a possible war with Iraq as a state issue because the war will siphon tens of billions of dollars away from important domestic concerns. Music was also a key element of the protest rally:

(Sound of singing at the rally) “Last night I had the strangest dream, I had never dreamed before, I dreamed the world had all agreed, to put an end to war. Thank you very much” (Sound of crowd applauding.)

(Kinzel) Following the rally, four representatives from the peace coalition met with Governor Jim Douglas. Peter Alexander of Brattleboro told the governor that he feels it’s wrong for the United States to take preemptive military action against Iraq:

(Alexander) “And we are taking an extremely dangerous step and instead of protecting ourselves, I think we’re putting ourselves very much more in harm’s way by inciting the wrath and the righteous indignation of a lot of people in a lot of nations, who know that it’s morally and ethically wrong for us to take that step.”

(Kinzel) Douglas said he appreciated the group’s point of view but he made it clear that he’ll support the president if a decision is made to go to war with Iraq:

(Douglas) “I hope it’s resolved peacefully and through the negotiating process. But in the end, personally I don’t believe we can allow someone like Saddam Hussein to maintain the regime that he’s leading, amassing weapons of mass destruction that could be used against us.”

(Kinzel) Coalition members asked Douglas to block the deployment of Vermont National Guard troops to the Middle East, but the governor says he doesn’t have the authority to take that action.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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