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By Yvonne Siu '03
It's not often that Colby students gather with their fellow Maine residents to support a cause. In a scene that harkens back to the anti-Vietnam War rallies of the 1960s and 1970s, 30 Colby students joined 3,000 other protesters in Augusta to demonstrate against a potential war and the use of U.S. military force abroad.
This time the country in mind was Iraq.
Protesters gathered at an Augusta middle school and marched to the capital building.
"It was like all of Maine coming together," said Clark Stevens '03, of Yarmouth, Maine, one of the three Colby students who started the coalition, STOP WAR, which organized the trip from Colby. The goal of STOP WAR, which stands for Students and Staff Opposed to Pre-emptive War is to inform and rally students to the cause of opposing war against Iraq. The coalition's other founders, Emilia Tjernstrom '06, of Uppsala, Sweden, who was active in political and social movements in Europe, and Susan Ellsworth '03, of Simsbury, Conn., said students so far have been very receptive to the coalition, with 1,250 expressing interest and signing up for informational packets.
STOP WAR was formed as a related but separate entity to the much larger Colby student group Movement for Global Justice, which is associated with a range of advocacy issues from environmental protection and human rights to racism and police brutality.
This year the coalition is trying to raise awareness of reasons the U.S. should not attack Iraq as a way to increase U.S. security. "We believe that war is not the most productive way to solve the problem," Stevens said. "People associate attacking Iraq to the war on terrorism. But the war would only detract from the war on terrorism, and it would result in more oppression of the Middle Eastern people."
Among the reasons the coalition opposes war is that members believe war would lead Middle Eastern leaders to suppress their own populations without regard to human rights. "So, while [the U.S. is] justifying the war as a defense of democracy, in reality we will be acting against democracy," Stevens said.
On the coalition's agenda is a campus-wide walkout scheduled for 24 hours after a declaration of war. "It would ideally be part of a coalition of schools, and students as well as faculty would be encouraged to participate," Ellsworth said.
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