Saying no

About 120 protesters gathered Saturday in front of the federal building on South Virginia Street to demand an end to the war in Iraq. Chanting, “Bring our troops home now,” holding signs protesting the war, including one that read, “Our greatest misfortunes come to us from ourselves,” and wearing clothing to emphasize the protest, including a T-shirt with the words “Who would Jesus bomb?” the protesters joined the groundswell of voices in similar rallies the same day throughout the world. Protesters numbered about 10,000 in London, more than 150,000 in Washington, D.C., and smaller numbers in Paris, Madrid, Seattle, San Francisco and other cities.Organized by Lisa Stiller and Laura Fillmore of the Reno Anti-War Coalition, this protest follows the vigils held throughout the Truckee Meadows and the country last month in support of Cindy Sheehan. A mother whose 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed last year in Iraq, Sheehan galvanized anti-war protests by demanding answers from President Bush, who refuses to meet with her to give her clear reasons for continuing the war effort. (Sheehan was arrested Monday at a protest in Washington, D.C.)

Polls, including one by the New York Times and CBS, show declining support for the war. In that survey, 44 percent of those polled support the war in Iraq, the lowest number since the war began in March 2003.

Truckee Meadows residents organized by the Reno Anti-War Coalition have been protesting the war in groups of one or two dozen for the past two years every Monday evening from 5:30 to 6 p.m. in front of the federal building. The protest Saturday drew 10 times as many, including Nevada Assemblymember Sheila Leslie. There were no counter protesters.

“We’re tired of it,” Stiller said. “By getting more and more people out each time we do this, I think that message gets across.”

In fact, it was the first antiwar rally for some people, including Sue Golish, Northern Nevada resident of 15 years. “Our leaders in Washington are not listening,” she explained has her reason for protesting on Saturday. “They don’t seem to have the courage to stand up to the Bush administration.”

Golish said she plans to attend future protests.

It was Asger Jorgensen’s second protest against the war. He’s a 45-year Truckee Meadows resident.

“I feel like I have to do something,” he said. “You feel so helpless. … At least you’re doing your part this way. … [T]his criminal we have for president, in my opinion—he’s lied to us. … This whole war was a lie. … It’s just all propaganda.”

The belief that the reasons for the war in Iraq are lies ran rampant at the protest. Rev. Chuck Durante, a Catholic priest who chairs the Light, Peace and Justice Commission for the diocese of Reno, compared President Bush to the naked emperor of the fairy tale.

“The emperor has many subjects,” Durante said as he opened Saturday’s protest, “and all have used the age-old trickery of flattery to blind and dumb the people into believing that we are the only empire that matters enough to hold justice and uphold democracy.”

Durante’s demand for the administration to end the “occupation” of Iraq was echoed by many throughout the day, including Rev. William Chrystal, whose son is fighting his 10th month in Iraq.

As a former military chaplain who presided at the memorial of one Nevada soldier killed in Iraq, Chrystal likened today’s situation to that faced by German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the Hitler regime. Bonhoeffer was asked how, as a pacifist, he could get involved in extreme anti-Hitler activities.

Chrystal said, “His answer: ‘When you see a drunk driving down the road, it’s not enough to bury his victims. You’ve got to get the wheel out of his hands.’ That’s why we’re here today. … We’ve got to get the wheel out of the drunk’s hands.”