BANGOR - On a beautiful June day, anti-war activists from around
the state converged on the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building for
what one protester called a "very sad task."
At times drawing 200 people, Thursday's rally centered on a list of
U.S. war dead to draw attention to the growing list of casualties.
For each American name read, an Iraqi casualty's name was read. After
each name, a bell was rung.
The task was expected to last all day.
"Any day, every day is a day to say 'no' to war," said Sandy Yakovenko,
a protester from Tenants Harbor. "I start my day every day with that."
Participants stood, many holding anti-war placards and flags, in a
semicircle around pairs of name readers, listening to the long list of
dead soldiers and civilians. As of Thursday, they said, 1,728 American
soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the start of fighting in March
Between 22,000 and 25,000 Iraqis have been killed since then,
according to U.S. estimates, though it could be as high as 100,000.
The rally was kicked off by a short speech by organizer Dud Hendrick
of Deer Isle.
"The Downing Street memo proved beyond any doubt that the reasons
given for war were not based on faulty intelligence, but rather on
calculated, outright lies," said Hendrick, referring to a
much-publicized document containing minutes from a meeting held by
British Prime Minister Tony Blair in July 2002. The document
purportedly revealed that the Bush administration had had plans to
invade Iraq long before President Bush's final decision.
After the speech, protesters filed into the building, heading for U.S.
Sen. Susan Collins' Bangor office inside, where the list of names also
was to be read.
"We really want to focus on our senators," said Ilze Peterson, a
member of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine. "They are
key. We want them to be accountable for what's happening."
Before the rally, organizers were told that eight people would be
allowed in Collins' office. On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland
Security said only six would be allowed to enter.
Organizations sponsoring the rally included Veterans for Peace, the
Maine Council of Churches, the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern
Maine, Midcoast Peace and Justice, Island Peace and Justice, Peninsula
Peace and Justice, Peace Action Maine and Boothbay Region Peace and
Marian Fowler, a protester from Norcross, near Millinocket, stood to
the side of the readers, wearing a button on her chest showing an
"I wear it most days to remind me that I don't know if this child is
alive or dead or orphaned," Fowler said.
"I'm a retired middle school teacher," she said. "Many of my former
students have gone over to Iraq. I've grieved for them, and I've
worried. It's a terrible thing we've done."