Approximately 300 local students and residents braved a snowy Ithaca morning and gathered downtown for a parade protesting a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq on Saturday.
The event, entitled “What Would You Do With $200 Billion Dollars?” sought to bring attention both to concerns about the war and spending alternatives for its estimated cost.
“Here is a tremendous potential for us to do good,” said Doug Krisch grad, one of the lead organizers of the parade. “Being the richest country in the world, we can be the most generous country in the world quite easily. We can really be leaders in a global community.”
“I think even just in Ithaca, locally, we can see the impact,” said marcher Amy Levine grad. “I mean the police department, the fire department and other social services are being cut. Their budgets are completely strapped. This is not just a broad national foreign policy issue, it’s something that impacts people very locally in their pocketbooks and how they live their daily lives.”
Protesters met at Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts and marched into central Ithaca to join a second group of participants before beginning the parade in full.
During the course of the parade, participants chanted political slogans that were led by Green Party Sheriff candidate Pete Meyers and accompanied by the beating of drums and cymbals.
The marchers, decorated with pins and white armbands, waved banners and hand-painted signs with phrases such as “No War for Oil” and “It’s a Globe, Not an Empire.” Some of them carried boxes marked with alternative spending options for funds that would be spent on the war in Iraq.
Ithaca resident and march participant Lenore Olmstead said, “The big concern I have is this rush to war where there isn’t any real reason; it seems like a manufactured reason. There’s nothing today going on in Iraq that wasn’t going on a year ago or two years ago. It seems like it’s being steam-rolled by our president and our government based on a lot of fear, but not a lot of facts.”
Side roads were closed off as the march made its way down Buffalo Street towards the Commons, attracting the attention of onlookers, some of whom joined the parade themselves.
“I think it’s positive, I think it’s good that people are getting out and saying how they feel,” said Ithaca College student and spectator Lauren Kipp. “I don’t really agree with [the war], I think there are other ways. I don’t think Bush is exhausting all his options and I think it’s pretty negative right now. I don’t think we need war.”
Upon arriving in the Commons the parade circled several times and concluded with a public speaking session in which participants were invited to address their concerns to those who had gathered. Speakers used the opportunity to both argue against an impending war with Iraq and bring attention to a wider range of social issues.
The protesters contended that the $200 billion it would take to invade Iraq could be better spent on health care, improved education, local services and funding for alternative energy research.
Speakers stressed that the high price tag of the conflict could have consequences at home as well as overseas. They warned that important services on which citizens depend could be cut.
Meyers addressed issues facing the nation’s poor. “We need to have something like a guaranteed annual minimum income that comes close to a living wage,” he said. “There’s no reason, in a country as wealthy as ours, that we should have this many people living in poverty, this many children that don’t have health care.”
The parade participants also included members from interest groups such as the Living Wage Coalition and the Cornell Antiwar Coalition. Some of those involved passed out antiwar and Green Party publications.
“A lot of people were involved in helping plan the event. It was a collaboration between a bunch of groups from Ithaca College, downtown and Cornell,” said Krisch.
The Cornell Antiwar Coalition will be holding a meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12th at 5:00 p.m. in Anabel Taylor Hall.
Archived article by Jeff Sickelco