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250 Rally at West Point for End of Afghan War

Khurram Saeed

Catherine Kraft of Glen Rock, N.J. joins a group of protesters in Highland Falls to voice their opposition to President Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan Dec. 1, 2009. (Vincent DiSalvio / The Journal News)

WEST POINT — More than 250
people held a candlelight vigil outside the U.S. Military Academy on
Tuesday night to protest President Barack Obama's decision to escalate
the 8-year-old war in Afghanistan.

protest was held shortly before Obama announced that the United States
would send 30,000 more troops to the South Asian nation to defeat the
Taliban and al-Qaida terrorist network.

anti-war demonstrators held an hourlong rally at Veterans Park in
Highland Falls, then marched about a half-mile down West Point Highway
to the military academy's Thayer Gate. Six protesters were charged with
disorderly conduct for blocking the road, Highland Falls Police Chief
Peter Miller said.

voted for Obama, I like Obama, but I think he trapped himself by trying
not to look weak,“ said Jim Budka, who lives in Suffern. ”As always,
(Obama) was probably listening to the generals too much. They always
think they can win all the wars.“

15 organizations, both national and regional, organized the protest.
More than 60 people from two local peace groups — WESPAC Foundation in
White Plains and the Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice —
listened to speeches, marched, chanted and sang in the cold.

of the many signs and slogans on display read ”We Need Healthcare Not
Warfare,“ ”The Audacity of War Crimes“ and ”Money for Jobs, Not War.“

people in the crowd said they had voted for Obama with the hope that he
would quickly end the war or, at the very least, not escalate the

couldn't believe that he would actually go ahead and do this and do it
with that level of troops,“ said WESPAC member Nick Mottern, who lives
in Hastings-on-Hudson. ”Do they feel betrayed? I'd say absolutely.“

only counterprotesters on hand were near Thayer Gate. Dennis Maloney of
Poughkeepsie was one of the six. Like the war protesters, Maloney was
critical of Obama — but for taking too long to send in reinforcements.
He said it was important to remain in Afghanistan to keep the United
States safe.

you consider the fact that that area of the world produced people who
killed 3,000 Americans in America, maybe it's about time we went over
there and stomped them out,“ said Maloney, who added that he was
representing the Gathering of Eagles, a national group dedicated to
supporting the troops.

resident Paul Deegan actively protested the Vietnam War in his youth
but had stayed on the sidelines when it came to Afghanistan — until

”I just
have a sense we are going into a very bad place now,“ Deegan said.
”Iraq was a very bad place and this just seems to be a continuation of
the same kinds of policies, and it's very disappointing that this
president has chosen to follow that path.“

Freeman carried one end of an American-flag-draped coffin-like display.
On its side was a sign that read ”929 U.S. military troops killed in

Freeman, who lives in Port Chester, said it was time for Obama to stop giving in to Republicans and the right wing.

will never like him,“ she said. ”He needs to get that through his head.
They will never, ever like him no matter what he does. He caves in to
them on everything. ... This is madness. We've got to stop it.“

Oliver of Stony Point said the country needed to get out Afghanistan
for many reasons: to bring the troops home, end Afghan suffering, use
the billions of dollars going to the military to rebuild infrastructure
at home, and create more jobs and provide universal health care.

just feel that our money needs to be spent here when our country is
falling apart,“ said Oliver, whose parents were World War II veterans.

the organizations that sponsored Tuesday night's candlelight peace
vigil were the WESPAC Foundation, the Rockland Coalition for Peace and
Justice, the Orange County Democratic Alliance, Peace Action of New
York State, World Can't Wait, Peace and Social Progress Now, the Hudson
Valley Activist Newsletter, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Troops Out
Now, ANSWER and Military Families Speak Out.

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