Antiwar Rally by Veterans for Peace Caps Convention

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Portland Press Herald

Antiwar Rally by Veterans for Peace Caps Convention

by
Melanie Creamer

A throng of flag-bearing Veterans for Peace are gathered around their banner as they march through the Old Port Sunday. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)

PORTLAND, Maine - The crowd, estimated at more than 300, gathered at Post Office Park
in Portland, where the Maine chapter of Veterans for Peace held a rally
to mark the organization's 25th anniversary.

The rally capped the
national Veterans for Peace annual convention and business meeting held
last week in Portland and themed "Lifting the Fog of War."

"It's
about connecting the war spending to the economic collapse," said Bruce
Gagnon, of Bath, who organized the march and rally. "We are spending $7
billion a month in Afghanistan. You can't spend that kind of money and
not have a negative impact on your economy.

"We want to use those
dollars for needs back home that aren't being met, like education,
health care, and social and mental health programs."

One of the
speakers was Gerry Condon, president of Greater Seattle Veterans for
Peace. He asked the crowd to support the military personnel who are
resisting the wars.

"Thousands of soldiers are AWOL at this time
in the United States and there are hundreds who have fled the U.S. to
other countries," Condon told the crowd. "We have over 200 war resisters
in Canada seeking sanctuary. The Canadians have done a great job taking
care of our war resisters. We need to do more."

Marcher's signs
included sentiments such as "Endless wars steal money needed at home in
Maine;" "Education not War;" and "How is the war economy working for
you?"

Woody Powell, of St. Louis, Mo., attended last week's
convention and was at the park during the rally. He served in the Air
Force during the Korean War.

"I am a veteran who has seen the
effects of war. I have learned something about the causes of war, and I
feel I can do something about ending war," Powell said. "War is a
disaster for our country, the economy and our human soul."

Matthew Welch, a teacher in Cape Elizabeth, attended the rally to show his support for the peace movement.

"It
saddens me that so few people seem to care about the last nine years
and the violence that has occurred," Welch said. "What the policies of
the United States say to populations and to students is that the real
way to solve the big problems is through war. We are realizing now that
after nine years in Iraq, they don't have a democracy. They don't have
an existing government, a police force, or a judicial system. They have
nothing and now we are leaving."

Some members of Cape Codders for
Peace and Justice also attended the rally. Beth Verani, a teacher at
Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School in Massachusetts, received the
peace group's Citizenship Award for Justice and Peace. She was
recognized for her efforts opposing the expansion of military
recruitment in high schools.

At a recent senior assembly, Verani
and another teacher held a small "End War" sign during the military
speeches. They were both put on administrative leave. Verani has
appealed her suspension.

"We are there to educate and teach about democracy and debate, and that is not the military's message."

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