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Anti-war activists join in Bangor for a ‘sad task’

Friday, June 24, 2005 – Bangor Daily News

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 2003.

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 Justice.

Marian Fowler, a protester from Norcross, near Millinocket, stood to the side of the readers, wearing a button on her chest showing an Iraqi child.

“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.”

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