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On area campuses, few protest war with Iraq

March 10, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

College campuses have traditionally provided stages for spirited peace movements, but the fires of protest have yet to heat up on most campuses in the Tri-State area - even as war with Iraq looms on the horizon.

A small group of students at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va., has staged the only organized protests against war in the Middle East.

War discussion forums have been held at other colleges and universities in Frederick County, Md., and Franklin County, Pa., but for the most part, students there have taken no vocal stand against the Bush administration's push for war with Iraq.

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The recent snowfall held the only evidence of a peace movement at Hagerstown Community College, where a young boy was seen carving the words, "No War No No No," in the snow, spokeswoman Heather Barnhart said.

In Frederick, at least one local student peace activist has come under attack for her anti-war views at a college where patriotic banners adorn the student center.

Possible war with Iraq has triggered opposition worldwide. Thousands of U.S. students joined the protest movement by walking out of class on March 5 to participate in the "Books Not Bombs" marches and rallies that were held to call attention to the cost of a war at the peril of education, health care and the economy, according the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition.

"Hey, Hey. Ho, Ho. We won't die for Texaco," war protesters chanted during a March 5 rally and march at Shepherd College. "Hey, Hey. Ho, Ho. Imperialist war has got to go."

About 30 students and a handful of other interested adults attended the rally, which was organized by the Shepherd Greens.

"Our crowd might be small, but it's definitely connected to a larger protest movement," said Doug Cooper, the only Shepherd faculty member who attended the rally. "I think the students here are really showing courage in a largely apathetic community."

Shepherd students Brent Rowley, Daniel Chiotos, Chris Scott, Nathan Bibbee and a few others formed the Greens last fall to promote progressive values, improve the quality of life on campus, and increase student involvement in the anti-war effort, they said.

The Greens - who also work with members of the fledgling anti-war group, West Virginia Peace, and the Amnesty International Upper Potomac Chapter to organize actions against war - plan to step-up their protest activity if the U.S. declares war on Iraq, members said.

Armed with megaphones and handmade anti-war posters, the protest leaders stood in the melting snow outside Shepherd's student center on March 5 and encouraged free speech - a right exercised by protesters and a few who protested their anti-war stance.

"Go home, Commies," one Shepherd student shouted as the marchers made their way up King Street to McMurran Hall.

"Shut up," muttered another passerby.

Student Nathaniel Scheer, 22, was among about a dozen rally participants who shared his views against war.

"War has never solved anything, and war for political gain is the greatest of all evils," Scheer said.

"War promotes terrorism," said student Zach Roberts, 21.

"I basically think it's an unprovoked act of aggression. We're punishing the Iraqi people for their leader," said Chris Scott, 19.

"I don't want to see anyone harmed. I hope one day we can all live in peace and harmony," said Bibbee, 19.

The billions needed to fund the war could be better used to fight world hunger and help balance social injustices, said Chiotos, 18.

"We now have the right to bomb anybody who disagrees with us enough to oppose us," he said. "It's basically been about making this country bigger and giving it a bigger stick."

Protesters such as student Scott Dolly spoke against killing innocent civilians.

"Fifty percent of the people are children and we're going to blow them up. You can't be more of a bully than that," said Dolly, 22.

Others condemned the effects of the economic sanctions that the United Nations imposed upon Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Hood College sophomore Andrea Gianopulos, 20, agreed that the sanctions have caused more harm than good.

"We're giving Saddam Hussein propaganda with all these sanctions," said Gianopulos, of Lancaster, Pa. "We're giving the Iraqis a reason to hate us."

Gianopulos wants to raise her voice against possible war with Iraq in unison with her fellow students on the Frederick campus - but few students seem to care or share her views, she said.

"I've seen a lot of apathy," said Gianopulos, who has been trying without success to launch an active student peace organization at Hood. "This school is apolitical. People vote and they feel like that's all they have to do. People just don't care."

No one has attended the "Students for Peace" organizational meetings she's scheduled on campus. Her anti-war posters have been ripped from bulletin boards. And replies to her e-mail solicitations for support have been less than encouraging, she said.

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