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Carroll Cobble Courier (Brooklyn, NY)

'No More Iraq War,' Kids Cry - Youngsters Lead Peace Parade Through Brooklyn

Joe Maniscalco

A cadre of enthusiastic youngsters carrying homemade banners and balloons called for an end to the Iraq war this weekend in a kid-centric "peace parade" stretching from the playgrounds of Carroll Park to the arch at Grand Army Plaza."Money for schools, not for war," the children shouted from their Razor scooters and inline skates as they moved up Union Street. "Impeach Bush." 0404 02

Adults from Midwood to Park Slope including members of Brooklyn Parents for Peace, First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, the New York State Green Party and a drum corps called The Himalayas accompanied the kids, filling three-quarters of the block between Smith Street and 3rd Avenue at the outset of the march.

One Carroll Gardens mom said that her 10, 9 and seven-year-old children knew "quite a bit about the war" and that she was worried about what effect the conflict is having on them.

"They talk about it at school," she said. "They see it in the newspaper, they see it on TV. I don't know if they understand all the difficulties involved in it, but I think it's hard to portray war as good for kids."

At Sixth Avenue, onlookers outside the Union Market applauded and cheered on the children while moms on porches unfurled banners denouncing the Bush agenda.

Automobile horns and joggers flashing peace signs greeted the marchers at 7th Avenue.

By the time the procession reached 8th Avenue, the kids were shouting "Stop the war now, we want our money back."

Local dad Floris Verschoor walked behind his son, Nick, at the head of the parade and hoped his boy wouldn't enter his teen years with the war in Iraq still ranging.

"There's no reason for our troops to be over there," he said.

At Grand Army Plaza, the kids formed something of their own "mosh pit of peace" dancing with drummers and chanting "We need forests, not a Bush."

Iraq war veteran Fabian Bouthillette looked out over all the peace signs stenciled on helium balloons and kid-crafted slogans like "Iraqi Children Make Peace" and "War Is The Opposite Of Life," and addressed the crowd.

"I get choked up seeing all these kids," said Bouthillette, now a teacher in Manhattan. "Seeing these kids is energizing. It's all I need to keep going."

A member of Iraq War Veterans Against the War, Bouthillette said he was studying at the naval academy when war broke out and was later stationed on a destroyer in the Arabian Gulf where three of his shipmates were killed by suicide bombers.

"I'm sick of seeing yellow ribbons and 'support our troops' bumper stickers," he said. "They mean nothing. This idea that anti-war is anti-troops is completely backwards. Bush has been more detrimental to our Constitution that anything else."

The Iraq war veteran blasted the billions of U.S. dollars already poured into the conflict - 10 percent of which he charged could have been used to restore hurricane ravaged New Orleans.

One of the hardest things he's ever had to come to grips with, Bouthillette revealed was, "coming to believe" that George Bush - his commander-in-chief - had lied to him about the war.

Demonstrations like the one that occurred this weekend in Brooklyn make it easier for others service men and women like him to speak out, Bouthillette said.

City Councilmember David Yassky urged those opposed to the war to continue pressuring their elected officials in Washington, D.C. to stop it and bring the troops home.

"The war was a mistake from the beginning, and it is a fiasco now," he said. "Every American soldier sent from here on is a tragedy."

Assemblymember Joan Millman and City Councilmember Bill de Blasio also lent their support to the peace parade.

Reps. Yvette Clarke and Nydia Velazquez, however, faced a rough time addressing a crowd unhappy about their support of the latest supplemental spending bill that allocates more money for the war.

But the representatives maintained that the vote was necessary to avoid giving President Bush a "blank check" and empowering Republicans in Congress.

Still, chorus after chorus of "impeach Bush" went up from the crowd.

Gloria Mattera, co-chair of the New York State Green Party, said that Republicans would oppose Democrats no matter what so "Why not stand up for something that really has meaning?"

Fourteen Democrats did oppose this latest round of funding for the war, including New York Rep. Michael McNulty.

Brooklyn Parents for Peace co-founder Carolyn Eisenberg blamed "Republicans and moderate Democrats" like Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton for putting Democratic opponents of the war in a tough position.

"They believe it is good policy to threaten war with Iran," she said. "We don't need baby steps. We need giant steps to end this war."

Velazquez, who voted against the war as well as the PATRIOT Act, argued that for the first time since Bush took office Democrats have the "power of the gavel" and are providing oversight of the administration.

Eisenberg jeered Bush, saying that the president's insistence of war in Iraq was "delaying the time when that country can heal."

"Permanent war is not acceptable," she said.

Local mom and peace parade organizer Helen Selsdon closed out the event quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

©Courier-Life Publications 2007

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