Twenty members of Students for Social Justice performed a mock funeral march on Tuesday in an effort to raise discussion and awareness of the casualties in the Iraq war.

“The event was put on to draw attention to the catastrophic loss of human life as the direct result of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq,” SSJ member and sophomore Jessica Bell-Masterson. “We mourn the loss of human life – not Iraqi or American – but the loss of humanity in general.”

The event began at Danforth Dining Hall, where marchers were greeted with curious onlookers. Marchers were dressed in black and walked in two lines holding empty coffins and white banners that read, “How Many More” and “Peace,” written in English and Arabic.

At the head of the line were two drummers playing a steady beat that symbolized the solemn mood of the demonstration. In the back, two masked marchers were dressed in business suits, wore American flags and displayed hands covered in red paint to symbolize blood.

“The masks represent the individuals, companies and politicians that profit from the war,” Bell-Masterson said. “We denationalized the issue by wearing all black.”

At Danforth, despite being filled with scores of people during its peak hour of operation, there was an unplanned silence as all eyes turned toward the demonstration and the only noises in the room came from the beating drums. The silence was interrupted by several students who applauded as the marchers exited the cafeteria.

Onlookers were moved by the event. “That was powerful,” sophomore Katie Schwertz said. “They definitely got the point across.”

The demonstration met similar reactions as they walked through Douglass Dining Center toward Wilson Commons. In Wilson Commons, curious bystanders looked over the balconies to watch the event.

“The march made a clear statement,” sophomore Huy Le said. “It’s a good thing students are making their voices heard.”

The tactic they used to display their message is known as Guerilla Theater and involves a theatrical dramatization of an issue in a public location. In the past, it has been used to promote issues on recycling, corporate corruption and different global issues.

The funeral procession continued through the Residential Quad, where students could be seen looking through their windows at the events occurring outside. The march concluded at the Community Living Center and was followed by a brief discussion led by members of SSJ.

SSJ promotes awareness and action concerning social issues on campus and around the world. Past events sponsored by the group include a peace vigil held last month to mark the 2000th American casualty in Iraq, as well as a trip to a rally in Washington, D.C. They also worked with members of Service Employees International Union to successfully negotiate a contract between union workers and the university.

“We came together as a group and made a great impact,” SSJ member and freshman Eliza Kaye said. “Even if people respond negatively, it will inspire discussion.”

However, the feeling of success was countered with the realities of the underlying issues that the demonstration portrayed.

“We have no misconceptions about the effect of demonstration and we don’t expect to end the war by having a funeral procession,” SSJ member and senior David Ladon said. “Our goal is to help to educate students so that they’ll be more critical of policy makers.”

Since the beginning of the war in March of 2003, there have been over 30,000 casualties, including 2,079 U.S. troops, according to CNN.

“While we are a progressive group, we believe that people in Washington are responsible no matter what their political party,” Ladon said. “It’s not just about this war, but it’s the war after that, or the following war that we’re trying to prevent.”

Fernandez can be reached at mfernandez@campustimes.org.



Gaza solidarity encampment: Live updates

The Campus Times is live tracking the Gaza solidarity encampment on Wilson Quad and the administrative response to it. Read our updates here.

Zumba in medicine, the unexpected crossover

Each year at URMC, a new cohort of unsuspecting pediatrics residents get a crash course. “There are no mistakes in Zumba,” Gellin says.

5 students banned from campus for Gaza solidarity encampment

UR has been banning community members from campus since November for on-campus protests, but the first bans for current students were issued this weekend.