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Peace rally attracts varied crowd to Overlook Park

About 75 people gathered at Overlook Memorial Park on Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil to protest the war in Iraq, which began Wednesday night. The crowd, which ranged in age from toddlers to senior citizens and varied in form from dreadlocked twenty-somethings to middle-aged teachers and doctors, sang songs, chatted and held signs proclaiming their opposition to the war.

Hood River physician Linda DeSitter attended the vigil with her two daughters.

“My elder daughter and son are going to Mexico tomorrow to help in a poor village,” DeSitter said. “They’re helping kids and my government is killing kids and I feel obligated to do my part to try and stop it.” DeSitter’s daughters carried signs, one of which read, “Will work for peace.”

Jon Mulford, 65, of White Salmon attended the vigil with his wife, Sharon. When asked what brought him out Thursday night, Jon had a one-word answer.

“Bush,” he said. “Like many people, I feel that he has not made the case that Iraq is a threat to our national security, and also hasn’t made the case that Iraq is linked to terrorism in the U.S.” Mulford said the crisis “should have been resolved in the U.N.”

“I think this jeopardizes the efforts made for 60 years, since World War II, to achieve peace through diplomacy and international efforts,” he said. “(Bush) has set much of the world against us.”

Several people at the vigil carried signs that read, “Patriots for Peace.” Others carried U.S. flags. Protester Bob Williams said, “Love the troops, hate the war.”

War veterans took turns holding a sign that read, “Support our troops, bring them home safely.” Steve White, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, wore a button that said, “Talk, not troops.” White, of White Salmon, said he spent 2½ years in the Marines, then later became a Peace Corps volunteer.

“This is not right,” White said. “War is not the answer to anything. For all our intellectual prowess, we ought to be able to come up with peaceful solutions to things rather than be the big stick waggers.” White said he supported the troops.

“I’ve been there,” he said. “I feel sorry for our troops who are blindly following our misguided leaders.” White said he felt it was a “dark day” to be an American.

“This goes against everything we’re supposed to believe in,” he said.

One vigil-goer strummed a guitar and others played bongo drums as the crowd softly sang traditional peace songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

The vigil was quiet — the loudest moments happening twice during the hour-long event when motorists driving past yelled obscenities at the crowd.

There seemed to be unanimous agreement among the war protesters that Saddam Hussein is, as veteran White put it, “a madman.” But most felt that sufficient diplomatic measures to disarm Iraq had not been pursued.

John Bryan of Hood River said he was compelled to come to the vigil because of what he called “injustice.”

“It seems pretty obvious to me that we’ve made this leap into pre-emptive war,” he said. “It’s a whole new era for the U.S. — one I think is very dangerous.” Bryan, who has a 15-year-old son, said he was worried about his son having to go to war.

“But more important, this is a move that’s alienated us against the world,” he said. “It’s a scary time to be an American.”

A peace vigil will be held at Overlook Memorial Park for the next six nights beginning at 5 p.m. A peace parade will take place Saturday, March 29, from 1 to 3 p.m. starting at the park.

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