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Five protest war in Iraq

July 23, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER/Staff Correspondent

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Standing behind the rhetoric of peace, Alison Melotti-Cormack of Chambersburg held a firm vigil with a sign that read, "Peace, a way of life."

Across the street, Bob Cooper of Chambersburg stood behind the rhetoric of accountability, with a sign that read, "Bush-Cheney are war criminals."

Melotti-Cormack, Cooper and three other residents of Chambersburg gathered Saturday at Memorial Square to promote peace and protest war at a rally hosted by the Franklin County Peace Network.

But their message was less than palatable for some.

"You're wrong, you're wrong," said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin McCreary, of the National Guard stationed in Johnstown, Pa.

No strangers to insults, the individuals come to the square monthly to spread their message in spite of local sentiment.

According to Harriett Diller of Chambersburg, the group fluctuates in size and usually stands along the street with signs bearing peace and anti-war rhetoric.

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More passive than active in their protest, the group does not call out to people, but looks for the reactions of those who pass.

As hundreds of residents drove and walked past the protesters, there were those who agreed and shouted "Peace." However, there also were those who opposed and declared that "if you don't support the war, you don't support the troops."

Diller said that the demonstrators mostly encounter negative reactions.

"When we first started, people were hateful," Diller said, adding that they would shout obscenities and insults at the group. Diller said how after time, she noticed that motorists and pedestrians crossing the square became more accepting, but at the same time, she noticed that many were indifferent.

"Now, they just ignore us," Diller said.

Yet, not everyone who comments to the group does so in passing. According to Melotti-Cormack, McCreary's reaction was the most persistent the group has encountered.

McCreary, who insisted that protesters were wrong, added, "I had a buddy who died over there and you, you're disrespecting him."

McCreary continued to insult the group for most of the demonstration, inciting an argument with the protesters.

"Iraq never attacked (the United States)," Nick Melotti of Chambersburg said to McCreary.

"I had a buddy shot at in Iraq before the war even started," McCreary said. "They attacked us. They attacked my friend."

Insisting that the Iraqi insurgency is a group of "Islamic fundamentalist fascists," McCreary continued to argue with protesters, stating that "25 million" Iraqis want the U.S. military presence on their soil.

"The bottom line is that we are winning," McCreary said. "If you don't support the war, you don't support the troops. And you're wrong."

Melotti-Cormack, who never engaged in direct dialogue with McCreary, attempted to address his comments.

"How can you say peace is wrong?" Melotti-Cormack said. "How can you say that asking our government to not kill more people is wrong?"

With no one to answer her questions, Melotti-Cormack said that many people cannot reconcile the senseless loss of their loved ones with their love of America and in response, grow angry.

"War clouds everything, including judgment," she said.

According to Diller, the group has stood vigil on the square since before the United States began fighting in Iraq in 2003. Despite the many discouraging aspects of the vigil, the protesters plan to continue until the wars are over.

"I'll be out here 'til the end," Cooper said. "As long as our troops are over there, I will be here."

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