An anti-war parade in downtown Hood River on Saturday held almost a festive air with live music and colorful signboards — except for the serious message that both the lyrics and words portrayed.
“No Blood for Oil,” “Vengeance is Not Justice,” “Beware of Fundamentalists with Weapons,” and “Bush is Using Weapons of Mass Destruction” were some of the central themes depicted at the demonstration which was organized by the Columbia River Fellowship for Peace.
“I’m a patriot, that’s why I’m here,” said Kathy Janz of Tygh Valley. “Being a patriot is speaking out if you think the government is doing something that is wrong.”
In some aspects, the afternoon assembly of about 85 people at Overlook Memorial Park was reminiscent of similar rallies in the ‘60s, including music from John Lennon and Bob Dylan — and even a tie-dye t-shirt or two. But, unlike the Vietnam era, the theme in 2003 was loud and clear that the protesters, while opposing President George W. Bush and his decision to invade Iraq, were supportive of the young men and women in the Armed Forces.
“We support our troops and pray for their safe return but we don’t trust the judgment, motives or honesty of those leaders who have sent them to Iraq,” said Frank Thiess of Hood River.
Although law enforcement officials had feared a clash between the anti-war demonstrators and members of a “support your troops” rally that had been held from noon to 1 p.m. in the same location, there were no problems. Police Chief Tony Dirks said organizers of the peace parade met with him on Friday and decided to set the time of their event back by one hour, until 2 p.m., to avoid any possible confrontation.
“We would have been ready to respond to any problems but it was not necessary and we hope all future events go as well,” said Dirks.
At the March 29 gathering, Hood River resident Susan Crowley read from “A Resolution in Support of Our Troops” that outlined the position of the anti-war demonstrators. That formal statement saluted the military men and women for their willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the nation, but demanded their immediate return from a “pre-emptive, unilateral” war that was being fought “without international support.” In addition, the government was urged to adopt a foreign policy that “achieves victory through diplomacy” rather than “resorting to war as the first option to resolve disputes.”
“Avoiding and ending unnecessary combat in Iraq is the best way to support our troops and ensure their safe and speedy return home,” said Crowley in conclusion.
John Lepke of Hood River took a more militant stand in his opposition to the war. Lepke carried an upside down flag to show that the country was in “severe and profound” distress and referred to the troops as “human nukes.”
During an open mike session, audience members stepped forward to share “Poems for Peace,” and some of these expressed grief for the death of innocent Iraqi civilians at the hands of the United States military.
Mosier resident Daniel Dancer brought a live “Peace Pigeon” that was carried by his 8-year-old son, Nicholas, to promote the theme that “War Is Not the Answer.”
“I think we just want our government to stop the killing unless national security is involved, we’d like our troops brought home safely,” said Dennis Anderson of Gresham.
Deanna Sewell, also of Gresham, said she also agreed that the war in Iraq was unfounded, especially because no link could be proven that the Middle Eastern country had participated in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.
“I don’t think the administration has made a case for why the soldiers are there,” said Sewell.
Following the opportunity for citizens to publicly speak out about their grievances with the war, the protesters began a drum cadence and paraded on a loop through downtown streets.