Anti-war march lacks student presence

University District

Rainy demonstration coincides with ceremony honouring Canadian soldiers

One event praised Canada’s role in Afghanistan, the other condemned it.

On a rainy Saturday, about 100 anti-war protesters marched from Queen’s campus through downtown Kingston to express their disapproval of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan, an hour after the CFB Kingston garrison marched to City Hall to show support for Canadian troops.

The City of Kingston organized a Freedom of the City ceremony to show appreciation of and support for Canadian troops and their families.

The city granted Freedom of the City to the entire local garrison of CFB Kingston as part of Salute to the Troops Day celebrations.

To prevent any violent outburst between the two groups, Peace Kingston member Marijana Matovic said the police specifically told her to hold off Peace Kingston’s anti-war march until 11 a.m.

“Of course there are those who are in support of the troops,” Matovic said. “The police were very certain to ensure we would not clash.”

Sergeant Charles Boyles of the Kingston Police Crime Prevention Unit said the police recommended the events to be held at different times to prevent them from interfering with each other.

“We decided to have a half an hour shift to allow both groups to bring about their messages in a positive way without being disrupted by anyone. We never know who is going to show up to a parade or protest” he said. “People might

take advantage of the peace protest for their own gain. It is important

for them to get their messages across without being lost with conflicts

with other individuals or a traffic hazard.”

With umbrellas in one hand and anti-war placards in the other, march participants BLAH their voice heard in the Kingston community.

The march was organized by Peace Kingston, a local chapter of the Canadian Alliance of Peace.

Matovic said Canadians should take responsibility for Ottawa’s role in the war on terror, rather than blame solely the U.S.

“It is easy to criticize your neighbour, but in reality we are not much better than the Americans,” she told the . “We are ruining our credibility in the world.”

Don Rogers, Kingston resident and member of the Canadian Action Party, began the protest with a few remarks outside Stauffer Library.

“Canada is losing her international prestige,” he told fellow marchers and on-lookers. “We are losing our moral high ground and we are being used by George Bush in Afghanistan. It is our patriotic duty to express dissent.”

Participants of all ages braved the rain as they shouted chants such as, “Stephen Harper is not our man, he’s raging war in Afghanistan!” and “Feed the poor, not the war!” Others held placards that read “Canada launching democracy one bomb at a time,” and “How many dead for a pat on the head?” Passers-by looked on and some cars honked in support at the group as they shook tambourines and shouted chants.

“We support our troops by bringing them home,” said Geoff Smith, retired Queen’s professor. “We have to define and challenge the way Canada is. We have become part of the U.S. and we have to change that. We must stand tall for Canada--this does not mean standing tall for Stephen Harper.”

Smith’s first anti-war protest was in 1965 during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. In the spring of 1968 he was on the steering committee of the Macalester College antiwar coalition and traveled to Wisconsin, Mich. and Indiana during the Democratic Party primaries to oppose Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War.

Out of the approximately 100 participants at the march, only a handful represented the Queen’s student body.

Smith said he wasn’t surprised by the relatively small student turnout.

“You can’t even get them to the football game; you’re probably not going to get them to an anti-war march,” he said.

Aaron Haddad ArtSci ’08, said he was disappointed with the small turnout of students.

“I know it’s bad weather, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get an umbrella.” he said.

Jared Giesbrecht, a law student, said he thinks most students agree with the march’s aim.

“I think there is a great majority of students against what the troops are doing in Afghanistan”, he said. “Students just may not be comfortable voicing out their opinions this way.”

Captain Daniel Madryga, CFB Kingston, CFB Kingston base public affairs officer said he respects the protester’s right to voice their opinion.

“That’s what living in a democracy is all about,” he said. “I don’t think the anti-war march was taken as a slight against the soldiers here at CFB Kingston as much as it is against government policy.”

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