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Peace group holds 24-hour vigil

March 31, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The gathering was small, but the messages were strong.

A group of local residents opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq held a 24-hour vigil for peace in front of McMurran Hall on the Shepherd College campus over the weekend.

The vigil started at 7 p.m. Saturday and was to conclude at 7 p.m. Sunday, organizers said.

Small groups of people kept the vigil going through the night, including an older couple who was there from 2 to 3 a.m., said Michael Harman, who was keeping things rolling Sunday afternoon.

Harman called the decision by the United States to attack Iraq a "tragedy" that will only get worse.

Harman said world leaders need to realize that conflict is no way to resolve differences between nations.

With issues like rapidly expanding forms of communication bringing the world population closer together, leaders must realize that war can be a tinderbox for trouble, said Harman, a Harpers Ferry, W.Va., resident who attends Shepherd.

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Harman said he is opposed to the air assault on Iraq because although military officials can guide bombs to their targets with precision, the debris from the explosions is not controllable and leads to "indiscriminate killing."

Harman said he thinks the United States will prevail in the war, but the situation will grow more complex once U.S. occupation starts. He said the recent start of suicide bombings in Iraq is a sign of the tough times ahead.

"This will be a mess, a very bad mess," Harman said.

Cooper Childers was troubled over the U.S. invasion, too.

Childers was skeptical of the chances of being able to establish a democratic society in Iraq.

"You can't just force it on someone," said Childers, also a student at Shepherd College.

Harman, his wife, Sharon Helman, and Childers stood along the sidewalk in front of McMurran Hall. A sign calling attention to the vigil was propped up on a wall and Harman held a lit candle inside a cup as snow fell.

The demonstration was held by WVPeace, a coalition of peace and justice groups in the Eastern Panhandle.

About 200 local residents participated in an anti-war demonstration two weeks ago and since then, there have been various peace vigils in town, Harman said.

Harman said he believes opposition to the war in Iraq gets a lot of attention in Shepherdstown because it is a liberal community. It also gets a lot of attention because there are a lot of highly educated people in Shepherdstown "who care about things like peace," Harman said.

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