CourierPostOnline

New Jerseyans Join Protest Against War

CourierPostOnline — Monday, October 29, 2007

By LAVINIA DeCASTRO
Courier-Post Staff

CAMDEN

Adverse weather doesn't keep American troops in Iraq from completing their missions and it didn't keep protesters here from rallying to bring them home.

About 150 people stood in the rain in front of the Walt Whitman Arts Center in Camden on Saturday morning to participate in an anti-war rally that started in South Jersey and ended in Philadelphia. It was part of a nationwide "Day of Mobilization to End the War in Iraq."

"We're not just sunshine peace lovers," said the Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action. "The troops in Iraq have it a lot harder than us."

Holding signs that read "Enough! Bring the troops home now!" and "Get out of Iraq" and "Not one more death dollar now," protesters hopped on the train in Trenton at roughly 9 a.m. and headed to Camden.

When the rain picked up, the crowd moved inside the arts center, where representatives of various community groups spoke.

"Bush's priorities are completely backward," said Jim Walsh, of New Jersey Citizen Action. "He's spending billions of dollars on the war and vetoing health care for children."

"Why are we spending so much money outside the United States?" asked Mary Cortes, of Camden. "We have saved countries, now it's time we save our own people."

As of Saturday, the war in Iraq has claimed the lives of 3,840 Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Next year, about 3,200 New Jersey soldiers are scheduled to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The deployment, which Maj. Gen. Glenn Rieth announced on Oct. 18, is the largest in New Jersey National Guard history, representing about half of the state's 6,200 soldiers.

"It was an illegal, immoral and unnecessary war from the start," Moore said. "We opposed it before it started and we oppose it now. They deceived us. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. Dick Cheney said he knew exactly where they were and they weren't there."

After the Camden rally, the group headed to Independence Mall in Philadelphia to join the peace festival there. The plan was to walk across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, but the heavy rain forced protesters to drive or take public transportation.

Cherry Hill High School East students Sarah Harris and John Harrell, both 17, were among the South Jersey residents who headed to the Philadelphia protest, one of several held nationwide on Saturday.

"We fully believe in this movement," Harris said.

"This war, it's always been wrong and I want it to end," added Harrell.

The war is the main reason Chris Altomari of Lawrenceville will no longer vote for Republicans.

"I used to vote for the issues, the party didn't matter," said Altomari, a registered Democrat. "I'm to the point now where I'm ready to pull that Democratic lever. I will not vote for a Republican."

Her cousin Jean Sorrells, of Upper Freehold, said she was so dissatisfied with President Bush's policy decisions she switched parties in 2004.

Vincent DeSantis, a soldier from Bristol, Pa., said what he saw in Iraq during the year he was there convinced him it's time to end the war.

"I see all that waste over there," said DeSantis, who returned in June. "The war out there is over. We need to leave. They have a military, a government, they have everything that they need now."

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