On March 28, a crowd of just under 1,000 made up of doctors, parents and students marched through the streets of rush hour Rochester chanting in unison “Healthcare not Warfare.” The protest, part of a schedule of anti-war rallies organized each Friday in front of the downtown Liberty Pole, focused on the large amount of federal funds consumed by the war with Iraq while millions of Americans suffer without the money for health insurance.

Community member David Bojanowski, who has attended several recent protests in Rochester as well as in Washington D.C., said that protesting is the only remaining form of democracy in the United States.

“President Bush is responding to the fear of terror with terror. What we are doing now is a form of international terrorism,” he said.

“The Bush administration has isolated itself and the U.S. and we are seeing a breakdown of democracy at a federal level. We don’t go along with the U.N., a form of international democracy – the senate is not allowed to vote against the war and isn’t practicing democracy most important during a military conflict? All politicians are keeping quiet so this is the only way we can practice.”

Patricia Mannix, a lifetime resident of Rochester, mother of four and grandmother of 11, belongs to a group called the Raging Grannies who demonstrate their disapproval of the current events musically.

“I’ve been protesting for 25 years. We protest against war by singing parodies of songs like ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,'” she said. “I think it’s wonderful to see students putting themselves on the line to unify the community against war. I hope to see that in the end, the troops come back and we use diplomacy to solve world problems. I worry so much because of Bush, because of his seeming indifference to life on both sides – and his appetite for power.”

Junior Juan Rodriguez said that the student responses to the war are less passionate than those during the Vietnam War.

“It’s a different world now. The government has made a strong effort to give us a specific view of the war,” he said. “What we are doing is making a difference, and we will do as much as we can to stop the war and change people’s minds. Most students are ambivalent. They listen to the news but they don’t ask questions.”

Sophomore Diana Santos is a protester and one of several members of UR’s Students for Social Justice who are fasting in rounds to show their opposition to the war.

“The reason I am fasting for peace is because I think the economic sanctions that the United States has imposed upon Iraq are unjust,” she said. “The only people these sanctions are affecting are innocent, men women and children. Innocent people are starving and dying everyday as a result.”

Rochester resident Neil Passe silently stood across the street from the Liberty Pole holding a framed picture of a young Marine officer as the protestors carried on.

“Everyone has the constitutional right to show their opinion and mine is to support the troops. My nephew, Jason, is in the Marine Corps and I don’t support the war. I hope no one supports war, but I have to support my nephew and his comrades,” he said. “I don’t want them to be killed but it is no different than being a cop or a fireman. You raise your right hand and give a pledge and that’s it.”

Several groups of high school students joined the protest. Some waved flags, others held signs including one which read, “How did our oil get under their soil?” and wore matching black anti-war armbands.

“I’m marching with the organization Metro Justice and the Fairport Peace Club,” Savannah Bennett, an 11th grader at Fairport High school said. “People need to stand up for what they believe in, we’re not getting both sides of the view with the media. Liberating Iraqis and bombing them is total hypocrisy. Most people are undecided on the issues, but there are a lot of people for peace,” she said.

Welzer can be reached at bwelzer@campustimes.org.

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